CIMM 033 | Feb. 14, 2003 | Eugene Harasymiw
Transcript of Harasymiw presentation

Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration hearings
on Bill C-18, the proposed Citizenship of Canada Act

NUMBER 033    |    2nd SESSION   |    37th PARLIAMENT
Friday, February 14, 2003

[Excerpted below is the verbal presentation of Eugene Harasymiw on the issue of revocation of citizenship, also known as the denaturalization and deportation process]

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price (Compton—Stanstead, Lib.)): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We're off and running again.

We're very pleased to have our first witnesses before us. I guess you want to talk about Bill C-18. We would also like to hear your thoughts on this new proposal -- it's not even a bill yet -- for a Canadian ID card.

Thank you very much for coming. Please proceed, and then we'll have some questions after.


The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Eugene Harasymiw, welcome to our travelling road show. As you know, we're here to get input from Canadians right across the country. We have another group travelling right now in the east, the other half of the committee, doing the same thing. So we're looking forward to your submission on these items. Please proceed. Even though the others are out there, they're listening.


Mr. Eugene Harasymiw (Chair, Standing Committee, Civil Liberties, Ukrainian Self-Reliance League of Canada): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

The organization I represent is the Ukrainian Self-Reliance League of Canada, an organization that was formed as far back as 1927. Its principal objectives are set out in the detailed submission that was sent in in mid-January. I'm very grateful to Mr. Farrell that this document was translated into the other official language.

While the Ukrainian Self-Reliance League supports efforts of the state to deal effectively with any citizen who can be found to have engaged in criminal activity outside Canada prior to his entry here, such dealing must be conducted only in the proper forum, never by violating the individual's civil liberties and never on a selective basis. Bill C-18, as presently written, invites all these undesirable, unconscionable, and unnecessary consequences.

Our organization will leave the critique of many civil liberties violations found primarily in clause 17 to other intervenors who are or profess to be civil libertarians. Having read some of the transcripts, I understand that there's been a fair amount of criticism along those lines, so we're not going to touch those at the present time. I am, of course, referring to those matters that primarily deal with the court hearing evidence in the absence of the accused, the court not being bound by legal and technical rules of evidence. I'm very surprised I'm even reading this, but let the civil libertarian experts tackle that.

The root of the problem posed by Bill C-18 lies in the use in clauses 16 and 17 of the vehicle of stripping a person of their Canadian citizenship and then deporting them based on allegations that the individual acquired that citizenship by false representation, fraud, and knowingly concealing material circumstances. By and of themselves, false representation, fraud, and knowingly concealing material circumstances may be useful touchstones in certain limited circumstances. However, it is absolutely inappropriate where the accusations involve criminal activity and where no other proceedings related to that alleged criminality have been taken. The worst example, quite obviously, is found in the government's record since 1995 in dealing with citizens who have been charged with illegally obtaining their citizenship by supposedly hiding war criminality; and that refers to acts that supposedly occurred 60 years ago.

In short, our objection is the use of citizenship proceedings in clauses 16 and 17 as a substitute or a surrogate for criminal proceedings in the proper forum, that is, a criminal court of law. Only when the individual has been found guilty of criminal activity based on the onus placed on the state of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt should the matter then proceed to deal with the person's citizenship. This is covered in our recommendations 2, 4, and 5.

The application of the grounds of false representation, fraud, or knowingly concealing material circumstances ostensibly to deal with allegations of war criminality from 1995 to the present has exposed serious shortcomings in the nine cases decided so far, which our organization has studied very carefully. What this process, as abundantly set out in our formal submission, has done is the following. It has created two-tiered citizenship. It has removed the due process rights of its victims. It's based most of its so-called evidence on KGB-supplied mendacity. It has perverted the maxim dealing with the validity of official acts -- I will be pleased to explain that. It's stretched the concept of collaboration to suit present-day lobby-inspired demands. It has unlawfully utilized the insupportable notion of complicity -- you don't find that word anywhere in the legislation, but it's used. It's invited flagrant misuse or misapplication of the rules of evidence. It has perpetrated the notion of guilt by association, which has no place in Canada's justice system. And it has toyed with the concept of materiality to the detriment of the accused.

In summary, any time that the government uses a process against its citizens like that proposed to be continued in clauses 16 and 17 primarily of Bill C-18, it represents a triumph for those who oppose transparency, integrity, and the principles of a free and democratic society. The institutionalization of the process of citizenship revocation found in Bill C-18 without regard to its destructive impact can only result in minimizing the humanity of a targeted segment of its citizens. Such legislation must be vigorously opposed. The Ukrainian Self-Reliance League of Canada will not sit by and watch Canadians of Ukrainian descent, or anyone else for that matter, continue to be demonized and savaged by an un-Canadian process. It is incumbent on this standing committee to impress upon Parliament that frontier justice must not be allowed to drive any legislation and that politics must never again be allowed to wear the mask of justice.

I'm prepared for questions.


The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you very much.


Mr. Andrew Telegdi: Thank you very much.

Your group has probably the most organized, thoughtful analysis of the present legislation, and of course, you are able to comment very ably on the proposed legislation.

One of the reasons we have the Charter of Rights is to deal with past injustices and recognize where we have been -- we don't want to go there again. I think it's important for the committee to know that right now the Ukrainian Canadian Congress is partaking in project roll call, trying to identify the remaining people of Ukrainian ancestry who were interned during the First World War. Your community has been fighting that injustice ever since. The history of the treatment of Canadians of Ukrainian background over the years has really been a black eye in our history, and I wonder if you could make some comments on that, because you have felt the injustice.

Mr. Eugene Harasymiw: I'm very pleased the honourable member has brought this up. Certainly, we perceive, and we believe justly so, that there's been a continuation of an injustice. We're not suggesting for a moment that the Canadian justice system went off the wheels for the first time with the internment during the First World War and after, 1914 to 1920. There's a lot of debate about when the wheels of justice did come off the rails. It's possible that it could have occurred as long ago as the trial of Louis Riel.

In any event, there is no doubt it is extremely painful to review the comments that are found in academic circles. When they look at this issue of injustices handed out to groups, they always seem to mention the Japanese and German, rightly so, and these other instances that are mentioned in that wonderful resolution you read earlier this morning. But they simply will not go back to 1914 to 1920 and see the gross injustice of taking over 8,500 men, women, and children and throwing them into 24 concentration camps. That's a term I don't apologize for. It's a term used by the government. So the answer to your question and your comment is that it is painful.

This particular process, which started in 1985 with the Desch´┐Żnes commission -- under a previous administration, of course, to make that clear, a non-Liberal administration--and culminated in 1995 with the totally arbitrary adoption of denaturalization and deportation by former justice minister Rock, is not just a Ukrainian issue, it is a Canadian issue.


Mr. Andrew Telegdi: I think it's a minority issue, if you will.

One of the challenges we have in a multicultural society is making sure we appreciate the background of our citizens, where they come from, and know each other's stories. But this demonization of a particular ethnic group, what does it do to the kids trying to be knowledgeable about what their legacy is? Are they proud of it? Does it make it a problem? Does it make it a problem to continue the heritage that they're looked upon as being targeted?

Mr. Eugene Harasymiw: Over the years I've been called a lot of things, but I've never been called a sociologist, and that's really a sociological question, but I will try to answer it anyway, despite the fact that I don't have the qualifications.

There's no doubt that the younger generation, as it comes up through the ranks, has serious doubts about its worth, its value. It has doubts about pursuing a very rich cultural heritage, because of things like the internment and, more recently, the denaturalization and deportation fiasco. It has had a major impact. We're very pleased to have one young person here who has braved the elements and so on and is interested in this, but that person is in a minority.

Mr. Andrew Telegdi: The Canadian population has approximately 1.1 million of Ukrainian background, and a similar situation exists with people of German background, some 2.7 million. Add those numbers together, and we're at 4 million. And add on to that other ethnic groups. It gets to be a real problem for the psyche of the nation. That's a side effect of legislation like this, legislation where we try to demonize particular portions of our population in a very unfair process.

Thank you very much, because you have done a whole lot of work on this, and I would recommend that committee members visit the website, because it's very extensive.


Mr. Eugene Harasymiw: Thank you.

The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you very much.

To follow up on Andrew's line, we can go back many generations and look at every ethic group that came over. I look at my background, the Scottish people who came over. They were all bandits and robbers, and they were shoved off into the corners, got the worst piece of lands possible, and were told to survive. And they did. It's happened all through our history, unfortunately.

Mr. Eugene Harasymiw: I can certainly appreciate and relate to that. The difference is that your group is not targeted and is not sacrificed by the so-called justice system. The attempt is being made to use the citizenship and immigration area to deal with something that belongs totally out of that area. Of course, that's one of the main thrusts of our submission. You already have legislation -- it's been mentioned here by other people. If the government is so concerned about so-called war criminals from 60 years ago, there's a Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, sections 6 and 8. It's retroactive. Use that. Why can't they face these people? The answer Mr. Chairman, is that they don't have the evidence and that the exercise has nothing to do with justice, it has everything to do with politics.

The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you.


Mrs. Lynne Yelich: I really appreciate your presentation. It gives a lot of understanding of just how and why this bill affects you. I'm very impressed with it. I have met with some of the people from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and I'm very impressed.

I think the Citizenship Act is coming to the point where perhaps some of the sections should be just wiped out. Do you think there any place in our Citizenship Act for any of those clauses in any sort of language at all, clauses 16 to 18 in particular, though it looks like there could be a few more? From travelling and hearing the witnesses, I think we could concentrate more on immigration, take care of all these problems through immigration, and if it fell through the cracks, it fell through the cracks. As Andrew says many times, we have a judicial system to handle people who are what we're trying to stop in this bill in clauses 16 to 18. So I would just like you to tell me, do you think there is any room for any of those clauses in any form at all in this bill?

Mr. Eugene Harasymiw: It is only the infinite politeness of, let's say, western Canadians that has prevented us from saying, just scrap most of those clauses. It's just been a polite attitude, a cautious attitude. I would say, at the least, clauses 16, 17, and 18 must be excised from the proposed bill and must be thoroughly reviewed. We're not saying, for example, false representation, fraud, and knowingly concealing circumstances could never be used. Certainly, they could be, where an individual came to Canada, for example, with an absolutely false identification: he says he's person A, when really he's person B. But for heaven's sake, where an individual is charged with what are called heinous crimes against humanity, the least you could do is afford the individual a fair shake. So the answer is that clauses 16, 17, and 18 need major surgery.

Mr. Andrew Telegdi: Nobody's advocating that we cannot at the end of the day revoke citizenship, but if you are going to revoke citizenship, it should be done on the basis of fraud, the charge should be substantial. Realistically, when you listen to paranoia, there may be some basis to it, but if somebody came to this country to partake in a cell and we can prove that, citizenship should be revoked, but it should be revoked by a charge of fraud, with the presumption of innocence, the way we handle the criminal justice system. I think on that we agree, and I believe that's the position the Ukrainian Congress has taken.


Mr. Eugene Harasymiw: I don't speak for the Ukrainian Congress, but in a nutshell, there is no reason we can see to sacrifice due process of law at the altar of someone's insistence on some kind of political agenda.

The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): We have heard some witnesses say, scrap the bill totally. You have touched on quite a few parts of it. Do you think the bill is salvagable?

Mr. Eugene Harasymiw: We haven't looked at the entire bill and given it a word-for-word analysis, because of the preoccupation with what is now happening. You have nine cases decided so far on this particular issue of the use of false representation, fraud, and knowlingly concealing material circumstances, and there are three more that have been heard where the decisions are to be coming out. What we're saying is, before we do this word-for-word, clause-by-clause analysis, let's do what we can to stop this totally outrageous process.

I might add this as a parting thought. I want this committee to think carefully about our end note 3, and there was an appendix. You don't have it here, but I have the Internet press release. It relates to a story Citizenship and Immigration has not denied, that our government so far has allowed 81 former terrorists into this country and is allowing 20 or 22 in a year, ostensibly on the grounds that they don't pose a security threat. They don't represent a security threat? What about an 88-year-old man who's dying of cancer and is forced to peel potatoes in some kind of camp? You think he's a security threat?

The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you.

Before you do leave, I have a couple of quick questions.

As you probably heard, I asked the others about the idea of a national ID card. I would like to know what your thoughts are. If you don't want to give any thoughts now, we would love to have a written submission, if you would like to present that later.

Then I have a question of my own that I have asked a couple of people, off the subject really. What would your thoughts be on the idea of inviting people who have been here a good period of time to become citizens? A lot of the time people just sort of forget about it, it gets put aside, they don't bother. Do you think it might be an idea for the government to invite people to become citizens who have been, let's say, sitting on the shelf for a while?

Mr. Eugene Harasymiw: I would have to know a little bit more about these people who have been sitting on the shelf. I don't quite understand who they would be. Can you identify them?

The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Landed immigrants who have been here with full intention of staying here forever. Quite often, they come to the country and get busy, they have no intention of going out, but they don't bother to apply for Canadian citizenship, and right now we don't invite them to become citizens.

Mr. Eugene Harasymiw: I think that actually is on top of what we are discussing here. With the exception of this process we are talking about, it seems to be the Canadian way to open our doors and to be friendly and receptive to other groups. Of course, that raises the issue of the background of these individuals, and our submission is simply this. You don't deal with these kinds of problems by passing laws, by passing regulations, you deal with them through enforcement, through putting in more resources. For example, Bill C-36, a year or so ago, was a knee-jerk reaction to a situation stemming from 9/11. The answer, as so many other exalted groups pointed out, lies in the enforcement area and who you're letting into this country. Is the government putting some more resources in to make sure we don't have terrorists coming in here and that our security is looked after in the same fashion as so-called war criminals or people who perpetrated genocide? You don't deal with it by passing a law, you deal with it by going to the border and grappling with it there.


The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Thank you very much.

Mr. Eugene Harasymiw: You're welcome. Thank you very much.

The Acting Chair (Mr. David Price): Now we'll take a break.