The Betrayal of W. Odynsky

Odynsky family asks for support | Ukrainian News; Mar. 24 - Apr. 03, 2001
Toronto man found innocent of war crimes, but can still be deported
By Marco Levytsky [[email protected]]

The Odynsky family is asking the Ukrainian community to write Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament not to strip Wasyl Odynsky of his citizenship because he was found not guilty of any war crimes by Judge Andrew MacKay in a decision issued on March 10.

"It is our hope that Immigration and Citizenship Minister Elinor Caplan will drop the matter which she has the jurisdiction and right to do, especially given the conclusions of the judge, however we wish that members of the community would write ministers and MPs to express their support for commencing with no further action against my father and other respondents like him who are innocent of any war crimes," Odynsky's daughter Olya Odynsky Grod told Ukrainian News.

"If ever there was a time for Canadians to be vocal it is now. This miscarriage of justice must stop now. Today it is Odynsky - if we do not take action, it could be someone you know tomorrow," she added.

In his ruling, Justice MacKay noted "there was no evidence at the trial that Mr. Odynsky participated personally in any incident involving mistreatment of prisoners or of any other person during his service."

Furthermore, Justice MacKay found that "there is no doubt that Odynsky's service was not voluntary." The judge also urged the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Elinor Caplan, to consider that Odynsky has also been a good citizen since he arrived in Canada, more than 50 years ago, as testified to by members of his church and community.

Nevertheless, the judge ruled that Caplan may still ask for Odynsky's deportation.

"While those factors may be relevant to any discretion the Minister or the Governor in Council may exercise, they are not relevant in this proceeding," referring to the rules under which respondents charged under the government's policy of Denaturalization and Deportation (D & D) may be deported by Cabinet.

"This Court finds, on a balance of probabilities in considering certain key factual issues, that the defendant, Wasyl Odynsky, was admitted to Canada for permanent residence in July 1949 on the basis of a visa obtained by reason of false representations by him or by his knowingly concealing material circumstances. Subsequently he obtained citizenship in 1955 when, having been admitted to Canada, on that basis, he is deemed, pursuant to s-s. 10(2) of the Act, to have acquired citizenship by false representation or knowingly concealing material circumstances.

"As a result this Court now issues the declaration requested by the Minister in this action, that is, The defendant, Wasyl Odynsky, obtained citizenship in Canada by false representation or by knowingly concealing material circumstances within the meaning of s-s. 18(1)(b) of the Citizenship Act."

"When the judge's findings finally arrived, we were not shocked. We were bitterly disappointed," says Odynsky Grod.

The Odynsky case began on Aug. 26, 1997, with the RCMP paying a surprise visit to Wasyl and Maria Odynsky in their home. One month later, a letter arrived from then Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lucienne Robillard, saying that Wasyl Odynsky had failed to divulge to Canadian immigration and citizenship officials his "collaboration with German authorities and engagement in activities connected with forced labour camps during the period 1943-1944, as a guard at the Trawniki Training Camp and later at the Poniatowa Camp in Poland. There were no charges of personal involvement in any war crime or atrocity. Odynsky was given 30 days to decide whether he would leave the country voluntarily or take the matter to a civil hearing in court.

"The press was brutal," says Olya. "They called him an alleged war criminal. These were very dark and frightening days for our whole family.

It was not until mid January 1998 that the government finally produced their statement of findings in which Odynsky was not charged with any individual war crime. The hearings were completed by the Summer of 1999. However, the decision was postponed 13 times since then.

When the decision came on March 2, it "was released to the press at 4:00 p.m. and a reporter from the Globe and Mail was knocking on my parents' door a few minutes later. Their headline screamed 'Judge Won t Block Deportation of Ex Nazi'. The Toronto Star headlined with 'Ex Nazi Lied to Live Here, Judge Rules', said Olya.

"How could they write this given the judge's findings?" she added.

But the family is very pleased with the first part of these conclusions "especially as the judge found them based on fact," says Olya.

"We could not have proven this part of the case without the financial contribution of so many kind people. We could not have gone to Ukraine to interview and present the very key witnesses and we could not have afforded the extensive research in Ukraine, Germany and Canada. This report, which Justice MacKay has prepared, will sit as a document for future scholars. It clearly demonstrates the no win situation of the Ukrainian people during the Second World War. It is the first formal look and analysis of the forced conscription of young men from Ivano Frankivsk in 1943. It clearly states that the historical experts produced by the government 'had no evidence'. We are also grateful to all who came forward to testify and to those who did testify. To every organization and individual who helped in any way, we offer our heartfelt gratitude.

"We are very disappointed that Justice MacKay feels that in 1949, in post war Europe, every person was screened and that the system in place was more likely than not to have been perfect. We are disappointed that we could not persuade him that it was otherwise," she added.

Odynsky Grod notes that in 1995, when then Justice Minister Alan Rock introduced the Denaturalization and Deportation option he clearly stated that "the government will only proceed with cases where there is proven criminal wrongdoing".

"We feel strongly that based on the Judge's finding's Elinor Caplan should not pursue any further action against my father. Why revoke his citizenship? Why deport him? The risk of being deported under these findings, is a far greater punishment than being found guilty for most criminal offences.

"Today my father is a 77-year-old man, in ill health and financially devastated. How I wish this fight was over. But it is not. Many people have written to me offering their assistance by writing letters to their MPs and cabinet ministers and through financial support. On behalf of the Odynsky family, I thank them and any others who may wish to do the same," she said.