Edmonton Journal | Apr. 27, 2002 | Eugene Harasymiw
No support for WWII prosecutions

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No support for prosecution of alleged WWII war criminals

Re: "Lacking Conviction: Ottawa's record on extraditing or convicting the war criminals in our midst is abysmal", Edmonton Journal, April 21, 2002.

While Canadians support prosecution of persons accused of modern day war crimes allegedly committed in foreign countries, the same is not true in relation to the federal Justice Department's Second World War "war crimes" program.

The Southam News article [by Juliet O'Neill] should have made that distinction.

The article would have served the interests of accurate and truthful reporting as well by getting a few facts straight:

  • The Deschenes Commission did not "find 774 alleged war criminals in Canada", but had drawn up a list of suspects, of which only 20 warranted action.

  • Criminal prosecution of suspects was not abandoned by the government because of the Finta case, but because the government had lost all 4 of the cases it felt it had the best chance of winning using criminal proceedings, in all cases because of absence of evidence of wrongdoing -- switching then to the "easier" denaturalization and deportation route.

  • Cases do not, as the story claims, involve efforts to deport "elderly former Nazis", since in all 9 cases heard before Federal Court judges, in not one was the accused found to have been a Nazi.

  • In relation to the assertion that these trials concern "prosecuting people whose crimes took place far away and long ago," she [Juliet O'Neill] ignores the fundamental principle of Canadian law that no one is guilty of an offence unless they are found to have committed one by a competent court.

    The words of Clayton Ruby, written in relation to the Ontario government's selective prosecution approach, are equally applicable to the federal government's denaturalization and deportation policy: "We as a society are determined to avoid convicting the innocent, and to that end, we require an exacting standard of proof that is not required in everyday life, but is close to absolute certainty. This is not some peripheral, minor issue in a criminal trial. In the end, the choice is stark: either we provide fair trials to those accused of crime ... or we arbitrarily select some people for less-than-fundamental justice because it suits the attorney-general of the day."

    Eugene Harasymiw,
    Civil Liberties Standing Committee,
    Alberta Ukrainian Self-Reliance League,