Irrational Act

Toronto Sun | June 7, 2001

Irrational Act | Peter Worthington

Naturalized citizens should not be deported without appeal

On Tuesday, Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan's former parliamentary secretary introduced a private member's bill to enable Canadians stripped of citizenship the right to appeal.

Andrew Telegdi, Liberal MP for Kitchener-Waterloo, resigned as Caplan's parliamentary secretary last year to protest the new Citizenship Act that allows naturalized citizens to be deported without appeal.

This is the most controversial part of the Act, aimed at those who "in all probability" lied or withheld information in applications to become Canadians.

The prime target is those who might be war criminals, or who collaborated in crimes against humanity during World War II.

Telegdi, who was born in Hungary and whose father escaped Nazi and communist oppression, agrees some should be deported, but is adamant that no Canadian should be stripped of citizenship and deported without due process of appeal.

As it stands, if a federal judge rules a person has lied or not disclosed key information upon entering Canada, that person can be deported without appeal.

Caplan opposes any appeal, because it might cause delays.

Some 150 witnesses and groups have testified before the immigration committee. B'nai B'rith, supports an appeal process, as does the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), the Quebec and Ontario Bar Associations and a wide range of ethnic groups living in Canada.

The Canadian Jewish Congress was one of the few witnesses to support no-appeal deportation. The CJC fears an appeal process would "open the door to a new constitutional challenge that could chill action on Nazi war crimes cases." Two people the CJC wants deported are Helmut Oberlander, 77, and Wasyl Odynsky, 75, who as Ukrainian teens were forced to work for Nazi auxiliaries.

Postwar immigration records have mostly been destroyed, so the "probability" factor is key.

Eleven RCMP visa control officers processed thousands of refugees in 1948, but were mainly alert for communists, not Ukrainians conscripted by the Germans. That tends to be overlooked today, when Nazis are again the focus.

Telegdi's amendment has all-party support, and merely states that a Federal Court decision "may" go to the Court of Appeal, and from there to the Supreme Court.

MP John Herron (Fundy Royal), the Tory Immigration critic, wrote in the Star that the act is "seriously flawed" in that "permanent residents can be deported without any appeal."

He quoted Liberal immigration committee chairman Joe Fontana: "When (the Alliance) start to sound more Liberal than we do, I get a little concerned."

In 1985, the Supreme Court made it clear Canada should have no law that deprives individuals of a fair hearing and due process.

The new Citizenship Act can't strip those born here of citizenship - only immigrants.

Herron says it's unacceptable if those who've lived here "for 20 or 30 years are not treated as those born here."

Alan Borovoy, of the CCLA, wrote: "It should require more than a mere balance of probabilities to deprive any persons of the rights and remedies that would otherwise be theirs."

By defending the rights of Oberlander and Odynsky, both of whom have raised families in Canada for 50 years, Telegdi is simply arguing both should be allowed to appeal. The Federal Court found neither had committed crimes - just that they "probably" didn't tell the whole truth as refugees.

With the World War II generation fading fast, it's understandable why the CJC is impatient. But surely, it doesn't want mistakes made.

Deporting citizens without appeal smacks of a philosophy that thinks it's better an innocent person suffers than a guilty person escapes retribution.

Illegal immigrants in Canada have an appeal process before deportation. Surely a law-abiding citizen of 20, 30 or 50 years should have a similar right.

Aspects of the new Citizenship Act have been called draconian and un-Canadian, and seem more vindictive and cruel than reasonable and fair.

At one point, the drafters of the new Act toyed with the possibility of deporting the foreign-born kinfolk of those deported.

Small wonder East Europeans are uneasy. It's ironic that 50 years after World War II, our new Citizenship Act is something the country will some day be ashamed of - unless Telegdi's amendment is adopted.