Diff'rent strokes

Toronto Sun [[email protected]] | May 17, 2001

Diff'rent strokes | Peter Worthington [[email protected]]

Liberal MPs are linked only by controversy

It's unfortunate two Liberal MPs have been linked in controversy when, in fact, one is beyond redemption and the other unfairly accused.

I refer to Tom Wappel, MP for Scarborough Southwest since 1988, and Andrew Telegdi, MP for Kitchener-Waterloo since 1993. Wappel is, by many accounts, something of a jerk - even before his terse refusal to help a blind World War II constituent, Jim Baxter, with his wartime pension concerns because Baxter voted for someone else in the last election.

As for Telegdi, his opposition to possible deportation of Ukrainian-born Helmut Oberlander and Wasyl Odynsky without any right of appeal, resulted in his being quoted in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record as saying Canada was similar to Nazi Germany.

Outrage flared like a prairie fire, with Hungarian-born Telegdi's explanations scarce heard amid the uproar.

I've little to add to the Wappel case, which everyone rightly condemns, except to note how unconcerned the PM seems about it.

Although Wappel's so-called letter of apology was anything but, the PM said it closed the matter. Chretien's attitude is as disgraceful as Wappel's.

As for Telegdi, a week before the K-W Record report appeared, I quoted Telegdi's concern about the Oberlander and Odynsky cases. Revoking citizenship without appeal caused Telegdi to resign as parliamentary secretary to Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan. She has the power to deport the two who, as teenagers in Nazi-occupied Ukraine, were compelled to join Nazi auxiliaries.

(I erroneously reported Telegdi's father had endured Soviet and Nazi camps, when in fact he hadn't - but had survived Nazi and Soviet oppression.)

What Telegdi makes abundantly clear is that denying an individual the right to appeal the Immigration minister's revocation of citizenship and deportation order, is disquietingly similar to what Nazis did to Jews in Germany en route to the Holocaust.

Telegdi does not, and never has, compared Canada to Nazi Germany. But he does say the right to appeal loss of citizenship is something the Nazis denied to Jews.

"I make no judgment of the facts presented in the cases of Oberlander or Odynsky," says Telegdi. "Nor do I dispute what the judge found. What I'm upset at is the process - a process that denies a citizen the right of appeal before losing citizenship or being deported. Even B'nai B'rith supports an appeal process."

Before the last election - called prematurely and unnecessarily by the PM - a motion was before Parliament to have an appeal process for deportation cases like Odynsky's and Oberlander's.

Odynsky's case especially is a travesty since evidence showed he was a perimeter guard with no direct dealings with prisoners. Even opposition MPs understand Telegdi's concerns.

The whole issue of deporting people who were forced to work for the Nazis as youths in occupied Ukraine and elsewhere, and who don't fit the category of war criminals, is harder and harder to defend 56 years after the end of World War II.

Real war criminals are now mostly dead, or saved by time and age - something Israel seems to accept in certain cases, such as that of Solomon Morel, a Polish Jew who commanded a camp in Poland (Swietochlowice) for German prisoners from February to November in 1945. It is alleged that Morel personally beat, tortured and killed 1,538 inmates who had no links to Nazi crimes or atrocities.

After the war, Morel supervised various labour camps as an officer of Poland's Internal Security. Questions abound about him.

Morel's case erupted in 1992 when Israel refused to extradite him to Poland to stand trial for war crimes, on grounds the statute of limitations had run out. One doesn't need much imagination to see how that decision would incense Canada's Ukrainian community.

Morel's is a fascinating but little-known case - first aired in 1993 on CBS' 60 Minutes. Apparently, Morel's family was liquidated by Nazis. How he, a Jew, not only survived the Nazi occupation of Poland but its liquidation policy is uncertain. His case is explored in a book by journalist/author John Sack [[email protected]] (An Eye for an Eye - Basic books), himself a Jew, who told 60 Minutes that Morel "wanted to do to the Germans what they did to him," and didn't distinguish between men, women, children, or even Poles.

It makes one wonder at the apparent vendetta against the likes of Odynsky and Oberlander.