Toronto Sun | June 14, 2002 | Peter Worthington

This is justice?

It is wrong to strip an old man of his citizenship without appeal


Last year, around this time, in several articles I scolded then-immigration minister Elinor Caplan for her determination to deport 78-year-old Ukrainian-born Wasyl Odynsky, who's lived in Canada since 1949, raised a family and is a productive citizen with an unsullied reputation.

The case against Odynsky - conscripted by the Nazis at age 19 on pain of death and/or reprisals to his family - is so tenuous, vindictive and unjust it should be dismissed out of hand. Yet last month Odynsky got official notice the federal cabinet is considering the recommendation he be stripped of Canadian citizenship and forcibly deported.

What's appalling is that there's no appeal in these deportation cases decided by a judge - despite the urgings of every civil rights, legal and political organization except the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). Even B'nai Brith favours an appeal process, which Caplan opposed because it would delay deportations, and the targets might die in the interim.

The new immigration minister could undo some of the damage inflicted by Caplan - but of course this is unlikely.

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

His private member's bill advocating an appeal process has been picked up by the B.C. Liberal Association and forwarded to Ottawa for consideration.

By any objective standard, Odynsky was more a victim of Nazism than a perpetrator - virtually confirmed by Federal Court Justice Andrew MacKay, who went to Ukraine to hear evidence. MacKay found that in 1943, Odynsky, 19, with a Grade 5 education, was conscripted into an SS auxiliary unit as a perimeter guard at a concentration camp. He ran away to avoid conscription, but returned when the Nazis threatened his family.

No evidence was found that Odynsky had anything to do with Jewish prisoners. He was not a Nazi, and had an unblemished record as a Canadian citizen which, Judge MacKay felt, "may be relevant to any discretion the minister ... may exercise," but was not pertinent to the issue.

Odynsky insists that when he applied to come to Canada he wasn't asked about his wartime past (he met and married his wife in a displaced persons camp). Records show that only 11 RCMP visa control officers processed thousands of refugees in 1948, and they were on the lookout for communists, not Nazis. Odynsky didn't have an SS identity tattoo and says he wasn't asked pertinent questions.

Although records of that period are destroyed, Judge Mackay felt "in all probability" Odynsky had been asked but had not revealed his past - hence the judgment against him. An automatic appeal process would likely resolve the matter in Odynsky's favour, but what's available to murderers, rapists and terrorists is not available to him.

Compare Odynsky's with the case of Adalbert Lallier, a retired Concordia university professor who admitted being a Waffen SS officer-trainee when he entered Canada after WW II, and 50 years later volunteered the witness evidence that convicted his superior officer who shot and killed seven defenceless Jewish prisoners in 1945.

One Myroslav Prytulak contacted Caplan last year and pointed out the irony of the two cases: "One cannot help wondering why the Canadian citizen, Wasyl Odynsky, is facing deportation from Canada for probably(!) not telling an immigration officer that (1) he was not a Nazi and (2) that he did not commit any crimes; and at the same time allowing another Canadian citizen, Adalbert Lallier, to stay in Canada for exactly the opposite reasons, namely, for letting another immigration officer know that (1) he was a Nazi, but (2) for not letting him (or anyone else for 50 years thereafter) know that" he had witnessed the crime.

Only the CJC opposes an appeal of the deportation process that mostly targets aging Ukrainians. Of 10 similar deportation cases, two individuals left voluntarily, six have died.

Even if cabinet decides to let Odynsky remain in Canada, what remains of his life is ruined (he has prostate cancer), his savings have been exhausted, his Canadian family is shattered and disillusioned.

There are maybe three old, sick Ukrainian men in Canada in roughly the same situation - too young in WW II to be war criminals, now too old to defend themselves. Vendettas, no matter their cause, are disquieting, and unseemly for Canada to perpetrate.

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