Ottawa Citizen | May 09, 2001

Telegdi apologizes for remarks comparing government policy to Nazis

OTTAWA (CP) - Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi apologized Wednesday for comments he made comparing government policy on revoking citizenship to methods used by Nazi Germany. After meeting with Prime Minister Jean Chretien and the Liberal caucus, the Kitchener-Waterloo MP made a statement in the House of Commons.

"I had no intention to imply or suggest that our country or our judiciary is in any way to be compared with Nazis or Stalinism," he said.

"I meant no offence to any group or individual. If my lack of clarity caused hurt or discomfort to them, I apologize."

The controversy started last week when Telegdi raised his long-standing objection to government policy under which the cabinet decides whether somebody should be stripped of citizenship as a first step to deportation. The MP steadfastly maintains such decisions should be dealt with by the courts.

Leaving it in the arbitrary hands of politicians, Telegdi said at the time, "smacks of a totalitarian regime" such as those of Hitler and Stalin.

He was speaking in relation to the case of a constituent, Helmut Oberlander of Waterloo.

It would be "fundamentally unjust" if Ottawa deported Oberlander over a court decision which he cannot appeal, Telegdi argued.

Last year, a Federal Court judge found there was no evidence that Oberlander, 77, committed war crimes. However, Justice Andrew MacKay ruled Oberlander did fail to disclose to immigration officials his role as an interpreter with an infamous Nazi death squad in the Second World War.

On that basis, Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan is recommending cabinet strip Oberlander of his citizenship.

It is not known when cabinet will make its decision, although Oberlander was given 30 days last Thursday to make a final submission.

Telegdi noted in the House that he is a Hungarian immigrant and that his parents, a Roman Catholic and a Jew, both suffered terribly under Nazi regimes.

"I loathe everything those regimes stand for," he said.

� The Canadian Press, 2001