Peter Goldring, MP Edmonton Centre-East, INFORMER

50 Years of
Upstanding Citizenship
Erased 'On Balance'

Imagine that you are a teenager in Afghanistan, under the Taliban regime. The Taliban needs fighters and so comes to your village and coercively recruits you and a number of your friends. You are forced to join the Taliban. Fortunately, you do not serve in areas where atrocities are committed. After the Taliban is defeated and in disarray, you apply to immigrate to Canada. Here are two scenarios to consider:

Scenario 1
The immigration officer asks you whether you were a member of the Taliban. You have two choices. You can say that you were with the Taliban, which will likely terminate your immigration application. After all, who will believe that you were not part of atrocities, and who is going to be around to support your story in any event? Or you can lie and get into Canada based on your lie, and hopefully spend the rest of your life in peaceful and gainful employment.

Scenario 2
The same as Scenario 1, except that the immigration officer doesn't ask you about Taliban membership. For some reason, perhaps due to the number of people waiting behind you, this particular question doesn't get asked. You get into Canada based on an assessment of your overall circumstances, independent of your involvement with the Taliban. After all, you weren't asked and you didn't say.

A half a century later, when you are well into your retirement, you are identified as a member of the notorious Taliban that had committed atrocities in Afghanistan. You have a hearing before a court and the judge is convinced that you didn't participate in any atrocities. The judge, though, determines, on the balance of probabilities ("more likely than not") that you did lie, since normal immigration practice would have been to ask about Taliban membership. Without proof or evidence, the judge rejects the possibility that you were not asked the question.

In the case against 78 year-old Wasyl Odynsky, that's exactly what did happen. It was established to the satisfaction of a Canadian court that Mr. Odynsky, a teenager from Ukraine, was forced into service by, and attempted to escape from, an SS Auxiliary during World War II, and furthermore, that Mr. Odynsky did not commit any war crimes. Mr. Odynsky has spent the past five years and virtually all of his savings trying to defend his name and avoid deportation. He even paid 50% of the costs of more than a dozen Canadian court personnel to travel to Ukraine to collect evidence about his wartime circumstances.

Every Canadian accused of being a war criminal should be brought to trial in a Canadian court of law to receive due process and be given the full benefit of reasonable doubt on all matters. The case against Mr. Odynsky found 'on balance', but without any evidence, that he must have lied well over 50 years ago at the time of his immigration application. The finding is based on the judge's view that Mr. Odynsky must have been asked by an immigration officer about his wartime activities; however, no witnesses or records exist to substantiate such an accusation. While Citizenship, livelihood and reputation are all at stake, surprisingly little allowance is given for the possibility that Mr. Odynsky is telling the truth. Under the Citizenship Act, Mr. Odynsky has no avenue of court appeal rights as would a normal independent judicial process.

The decision to implement the deportation order now rests with the Liberal Federal Cabinet, which, having spent over a million dollars on this case alone, has delayed any action to date, even though the judge's decision was made a year ago. In my opinion, since Mr. Odynsky has been exonerated in Canada of any involvement in war crimes, justice is not served by deporting a 78 year-old, on balance, for an issue of unproven allegations over 50 years ago.

As if revoking a Canadian's citizenship for unsubstantiated reasons based on a judge's guess 50 years after the fact is not enough, the Liberal Cabinet is now holding political court on the matter. The Liberals must recognize the potential ramifications, let alone the disturbing optics of this as being the height of political dispatch.

Would this precedent-setting Cabinet decision negatively impact on the spouse and children of all immigrants 50 years after the fact? Could the spouse and children be deported and lose their citizenships too?

While the Liberals unconscionably play with Mr. Odynsky's life, they threaten all immigrants who, rightly so, never would have believed that they should keep all their official records, records to prove their original immigration statements in case the government lost theirs. Meanwhile, the Liberals miss the most obvious statement of fact - Mr. Odynsky has been a model citizen all these years.

Does 50 years of upstanding citizenship not account for a lot? Has Mr. Odynsky not earned through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protection from tormenting prosecution? Certainly, 50 years of hard honourable work should qualify him for full rights under the Constitution. What do you think?

Those living in Alberta can call Anne McLellan and tell her what you think. She was Justice Minister during a lengthy period of Mr. Odynsky's prosecution, (12304 - 107 Avenue NW, Edmonton, AB, T5M 1Z1, (780) 495-3122, Fax: (780) 495-2598, [email protected] ) or, you can call the current Minister of Justice, Martin Cauchon at (613) 992-4621, Fax: (613) 990-7255, [email protected] .

All Canadians should receive a fair trial in a court of law with full equality in the appeal process and not have their citizenship subject to a political decision at a Liberal Cabinet table behind closed doors.

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Peter Goldring MP, House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
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ISSUE #97R - AUG 2002

Peter Goldring, Member of Parliament Edmonton Centre-East,
9111 - 118 Ave
Edmonton, AB T5B 0T9
Tel: (780) 495-3261
Fax: (780) 495-5142
Email: [email protected]