Toronto Globe and Mail | May 12, 2001

A sorry tale of two MPs

By Edward Greenspon [[email protected]]

Let's start by getting the names Andrew Telegdi and Tom Wappel out of the same sentence. Mr. Telegdi is an easily agitated but seemingly sincere member of Parliament who lost all sense of proportion in inexplicably comparing Canadian deportation proceedings to Nazi Germany. Mr. Wappel is a strutting disgrace to the very concept of elected representative, a man who won his Liberal nomination many years ago on the back of a special interest group and still apparently hasn't learned anything about the public interest.

Mr. Telegdi reflects a strong current of opinion within his Kitchener-Waterloo community, although his inflammatory and hurtful comments obscured the very argument he makes against the process by which a naturalized Canadian can be stripped of citizenship. Mr. Wappel's offence rests on no underlying point of principle; he's gone out of his way not to represent his constituents, at least those on his black list.

[.... Wappel's crucifixion deleted ....]

Now for Mr. Telegdi, a so-called "citizen of choice" from Hungary, who apparently lost his marbles in carrying on his long-term campaign against the process involved in revoking citizenship. The case at the centre of Mr. Telegdi's outburst concerns a constituent named Helmut Oberlander, who was found by a Federal Court judge to have failed to inform immigration officials upon entering Canada in the 1950s that he had worked as an interpreter for a notorious Nazi death squad. Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan is moving to boot him out of Canada.

Among the things that rankle Mr. Telegdi is the fact that the final determination in this matter rests not with the courts, but with the federal cabinet, which meets in secret and is not trained in legal decision-making.

His feelings run so deep on this issue that he resigned his post last year as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration -- a rare action of principle in Ottawa, whatever you think of his position. His argument is, at the least, legitimate. In fact, Ms. Caplan has implicitly recognized the star-chamber nature of the process in agreeing to share her cabinet submission with Mr. Oberlander's lawyer and granting him an opportunity to present a written rebuttal.

Like Mr. Wappel, Mr. Telegdi apologized this week. No excuse exists for his Nazi comparison, nor any justification for the way he dragged in the Canadian Jewish Congress. That said, this MP stood in the House of Commons and admitted the error of his remarks. He continued, as is his right, to attack the underlying principle of political review.

Part of Mr. Telegdi's argument is that elected officials can't be trusted to keep politics out of such serious decisions. Mr. Wappel sort of proves the point.