Kitchener-Waterloo Record | Wednesday August 1, 2001
Jeff Outhit

Jewish Congress wants Oberlander deported quickly

Ottawa is being urged to deport Helmut Oberlander within months, now that the federal cabinet has decided to revoke his citizenship.

"Justice has now been rendered," said Bernie Farber, executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Ontario region.

"We have urged the Canadian government to deal with this as speedily as possible, given the fact that it's taken so long to get this far."

After a six-year legal and political battle, the retired Waterloo developer is to lose his citizenship for failing to disclose his role as an interpreter with a Nazi death squad during the Second World War.

Federal politicians decided in secret last month to revoke his citizenship but refuse to acknowledge it, citing Oberlander's privacy rights.

The cabinet decision, revealed yesterday by The Record, is being met with applause and despair.

Paul Tuerr, vice-president of the German-Canadian Congress, wonders if Ottawa is too ashamed of its decision to defend it publicly.

"The way the government behaves is very strange. The public deserves to know," he said.

The German-Canadian association, which has strongly supported Oberlander, has yet to draft its response.

But Tuerr is personally dismayed by the cabinet decision, which comes after the Federal Court found no evidence that Oberlander, 77, committed war crimes.

"It's intolerable," said Tuerr. "This is unbelievable. It's inhuman.

"The judge found Mr. Oberlander not guilty of any crime. As Canadians, we don't accept this kind of justice," Tuerr said.

A judge found instead that Oberlander lied about his membership in a unit that killed at least 23,000 civilians, mostly Jews, in occupied Ukraine between 1941 and 1943.

Kitchener-Waterloo MP Andrew Telegdi, a member of the Liberal caucus, calls it a sad day for naturalized citizens.

Telegdi, who has received no notice from cabinet and expects none, contends it should be the courts, not politicians, that revoke citizenship, with full rights of appeal.

"This is anything but transparent," he said. "It's an incredibly flawed process, and it doesn't allow for any accountability.

"You get a minister (Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan) who is bound and determined to revoke citizenship. She gets to be there when that process is taking place. The person whose citizenship is at stake isn't allowed to have representation at the hearing.

"We have no records come out from cabinet. It's covered by cabinet secrecy. It's a very flawed process."

Farber hopes Oberlander can be removed from Canada by early next year after exhausting his expected challenges, including a judicial review of government actions.

The Canadian Jewish Congress is urging quick deportation to send a message that Canada is no haven for war criminals or people who participate in groups that commit war crimes, Farber said.

He's confident the government's conduct against Oberlander will survive a judicial review.

He also figures Oberlander will fail to block deportation unless he pleads on humanitarian grounds that he is deathly ill and cannot travel.

"This does not appear to be the case with Mr. Oberlander," Farber said.

Liberal Kitchener Centre MP Karen Redman declined comment, pending public confirmation of cabinet's decision. Redman had urged cabinet to grant clemency and take no action against Oberlander.