Andrew Telegdi, M.P.




For immediate release to all outlets.                                                     Date: May 8, 2001



Andrew Telegdi, M.P. for Kitchener Waterloo

On May 6, 2001 the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) issued a press release in reaction to a misleading headline appearing in The Kitchener-Waterloo Record on May 5, 2001. The press release calls upon me to retract a statement attributed to me in the headline.

It is highly offensive to be lectured about citizenship and threatened with expulsion from the Liberal caucus by the CJC. I did not say "Canada like a Nazi regime." Those are not my words, nor do they reflect my beliefs. What I have said is that a liberal democratic state such as Canada should never remove citizenship lightly. That is what Hitler did to Jews, Gypsies and many others. That is what Stalin did to millions. All totalitarian regimes have engaged in these practices.

Canada is a democratic country, definitely NOT totalitarian. But sadly, the citizenship rights of many innocent Ukrainian, German and Japanese Canadians were abused during our wars, when suspicion overcame common sense and justice. Those steps were taken by politicians making use of laws that allowed them to do so. And now the CJC insists it is the federal Cabinet and not independent courts that ought to make the decision to deport Helmut Oberlander.

The CJC has made numerous public statements in support of deportation without the right to appeal the findings of ONE Federal Court judge. As the distinguished retired judge Roger Salhany has made clear, that ONE Federal Court judge is far from infallible. After reviewing the evidence presented at the Oberlander hearing before Mr. Justice MacKay, former Justice Salhany concluded that "the finding of the learned judge is not supported by the evidence."

My position does not pertain to the outcome of a single case. Unlike the CJC, which wants Oberlander deported summarily, I have not rushed to judgment. I have stated that I am not competent – nor is the federal Cabinet – to arbitrate between differing judicial opinions and that the judgment should be left to the courts of appeal, where there is judicial accountability.

The CJC persistently ignore the fact that B’nai Brith Canada, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and almost all of the multicultural organizations support my position: that the denial of due process is wrong. In fact, no witness appearing before the Parliamentary Committee that studied the Act agreed with the CJC’s views.

Of course, I deplore the sensational headline in Saturday’s Record. Of course, I do not wish to offend the Jewish people, with many of whom I have discussed my position. Many have understood and support my demand that due process be recognized.

I know the value of citizenship because I have had the experience of losing it. My parents lost theirs. Its removal must not depend upon politicians or a single judge. It should be removed with great care and with all the protections of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

During a visit to Wilmot Township on May 18, 2000, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien stated: "There is one thing key in the life of a nation, it is to make sure the rights of the citizens are protected by the court in our land and not subjected to the capricious elected." 

In July of 2000, Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld of the U.S. Court of Appeals wrote an opinion that rings as true for Canadians as for his own people: "Citizenship … is among our most valuable rights. For many of us, it is all that protects our life, liberty and property from arbitrary deprivation. The world is full of miserable governments that protect none of these rights."

My stepfather fled Romania because he was Jewish and his civic rights were not respected. I learned about the Holocaust as a child, from my parents and from living in a camp for Jewish refugees. We fled Hungary after the Soviet tanks stormed into Budapest. We chose Canada, could not wait to become citizens and our history made us treasure that citizenship as much as life itself. After all, the deprivation of citizenship is a course that totalitarians often take before deprivation of life.

I learned the meaning of totalitarianism as a child under a brutal Communist dictatorship with its denunciations and show trials, disappearances into Siberian gulags or worse of people who dared to speak out. I learned it when we escaped through snow-covered mine fields in the dead of night. I shall never forget.

I am accused by the CJC – based on the Record’s headline – of saying that Canada is "like a Nazi regime." I never made that comment and do not hold such a belief. I was not contacted and asked whether I had made the comment. As in the case of citizenship removal, the CJC has applied a lower standard of proof than most Canadians accept.

I will not be diverted or intimidated from fighting an unfair process of citizenship revocation that exists in Canada today. I am a parliamentarian, not to defend the status quo, but to fight for a just society. For me, my citizenship comes before my party.

For further information on citizenship revocation see:

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