Toronto Sun | November 28, 2001 | Peter Worthington

Deporting the defenceless

Alzheimer's patient can even face trial

While the Canadian government worries about terrorists using Canada as a safe haven, a trial opens in Hamilton today to deport a 91-year-old deaf man with Alzheimer's, who the government thinks lied to get into Canada 54 years ago.

Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan wants Jacob Fast deported because he "probably" didn't tell the truth about being coerced into auxiliary police attached to a Nazi SS unit during the war.

Fast was born in Soviet Ukraine in 1910.

When he was accused, a couple of years ago, of working with the Nazis and mistreating prisoners, he denied it (don't they all?).

Ottawa has no records to show he lied when he and his family came to Canada in 1947 -- a time when refugee screening was casual, and displaced persons were being settled in the thousands.

Fast now lives in an old-age home in St. Catharines, cannot maintain a conversation because of Alzheimer's, can't defend himself, and won't appear at his Hamilton trial today.

This is a civil case, not a criminal one, so Mr. Justice Denis Pelletier of the Federal Court has ruled it's not necessary for the defendant to appear in person.

I have no knowledge of Mr. Fast (a retired auto worker), but the fact that he's another Ukrainian targeted by immigration, smacks of prejudice, vindictiveness, vendetta.

Wasyl Odynsky, of Toronto, who at age 17 was forced into auxiliary police in World War II as a perimeter guard at a concentration camp, is another Ms Caplan is determined to deport.

The record shows that when young Odynsky refused to report to the auxiliary police and ran away, he was caught and told if he ran away again, his parents and family would pay the price.

Another Ukrainian, Helmut Oberlander, has already been ordered deported. He was a teenaged translator for the Germans in World War II.

As for Mr. Fast -- what does it matter today what he did or didn't do in World War II? We know the Nazis viewed Ukrainians as "subhuman" and punished them rather as they punished Jews in Ukraine -- Babi Yar in Kiev was a massacre of Ukrainians and Jews.

Fast's age alone should dictate mercy, if not forgiveness.

After World War II, France put its World War I hero, Marshal Petain, on trial for collaborating with the Germans in a misguided effort to save French lives. Petain was 82 and dotty. He was found guilty but France felt the man should not be sent to prison to die.

What purpose is served by removing 91-year-old Jacob Fast from his old-age home and shipping him back to Ukraine?

Frankly, it sends a nasty message about Canada -- that we are not a country of justice and decency, but that we wait 50 years until people we want to get rid of are old and defenceless, and there are no records left to prove right or wrong.

In the meantime, terrorists, real and potential, enter Canada as phony refugees, or with forged documents, and remain here for years as appeals take place. Or they just disappear. They are eligible for welfare and free medical care.

Compare Jacob Fast with, say, Ahmed Ressam who enters with a forged passport, stays for years on welfare, then is caught trying to cross into the U.S. in a car loaded with explosives to blow up at Los Angeles airport on behalf of Osama bin Laden.

Ressam is one of heaven knows how many terrorists -- while Jacob Fast is one of 17 aging World War II gaffers who may not have told the truth when he entered Canada, and we now want chucked out.

Six died before their trial, a couple left voluntarily, three have been cleared -- all at a cost of millions to set up a special war crimes unit.

Not a very proud picture of Canada.