Ukrainian News | 06Sep2007 | Marco Levytsky
Page 03

Furman dies after getting revocation notice

An Alzheimer's victim the federal government has been trying to strip of his citizenship, passed away in Edmonton, Aug. 31, 2007 -- a month after receiving a letter from Citizenship Minister Dianne Finley that she was recommending his citizenship be revoked by a special cabinet committee.

Joseph Furman's lawyer, Eric Hafemann, told Ukrainian News he received this letter in late July 2007 and informed the government that Furman was unable to communicate with his lawyer due to his illness.

Another of Hafemann's clients, Jura Skomatchuk of St. Catharines, has received a similar letter.

Skomatchuk is the last remaining Ukrainian targeted by the war Crimes Unit of the Department of Justice, along with the Canadian Jewish Congress and B'nai Brith under the Denaturalization and Deportation policy.

Earlier, Finley sent such letters to four other D & D respondents -- two of whom were ethnic Ukrainians, Wasyl Odynsky and Vladimir Katriuk -- and two who were ethnic Germans from Ukraine, Helmut Oberlander and Jacob Fast.

The Governor in Council, as that committee is called, decided not to revoke the citizenship of either Odynsky or Katriuk, but did revoke Oberlander and Fast's.

In revoking Oberlander's citizenship the Governor in Council went against a May 31, 2004, Federal Court of Appeals ruling which told them they can't do it.

"The Governor in Council …cannot apply the war criminals policy to a person unless it first satisfies itself, to use the very words of the policy, that 'there is evidence of direct involvement in or complicity of war crimes or crimes against humanity'," reads the ruling issued by Justice Robert Décary, with the concurrence of Justices J. Edgar Sexton and B. Malone in response to an appeal by Hafemann, who also serves as Oberlander's lawyer, of the whole citizenship revocation process.

Hafemann has again called for a judicial review of cabinet's decision on Oberlander, while B'nai Brith Canada has called for a judicial review of the Katriuk and Odynsky decisions.

Under the D and D policy, a person can have his citizenship revoked if a court finds "on the balance of probabilities" that he lied upon coming to Canada after World War II.

When this policy was announced in 1995, the government stated that: "The key criterion in all these proceedings is the existence of some evidence of individual criminality. If that cannot be proven, no proceedings will be considered."

In that same media backgrounder, the government stated that these cases were made possible because of a new agreement under which the former KGB opened up its files to Canadian investigators.

However with D and D, the government is under no obligation to provide evidence of any war crime.

When the War Crimes Unit attempted to introduce KGB documents in the Oberlander case, it was thrown out of court on the grounds the documents had been obtained by torture. Since then no evidence of any crime has been brought forward in these cases.

Furman had been accused of hiding his past as a Trawniki guard, a unit which was used as perimeter guards at concentration camps, but said he had been captured as a Soviet prisoner of war and sent to work as a slave labourer on a farm in Germany for the remainder of the war.

At his hearing Hafemann produced documents, attested to as genuine by government witnesses, that showed Furman did indeed work on a farm.

But Justice Judith Snider decided to accept photocopies of other documents which showed that a person with another name served as a Trawniki guard, stating that on a balance of probabilities she thought Furman's farm worker documents were faked.

Furman's son Bob told Ukrainian News the whole experience has been a tremendous strain on the family.

"We've gone through a terrible ordeal. We're just sorry that our father died before he had a chance to clear his name of all the unfounded claims that were made against him.

"He survived having his own father taken away by the NKVD, he survived the Holodomor, he survived being taken as a prisoner of war by the Nazis, and he even beat cancer. But the toughest fight was this fight against the federal government's witch hunt," said Bob Furman.

Joseph Furman, who was born in the Zhytomyr region of Ukraine, was 88 when he passed away.

He is survived by his loving family; sons, Leonard (Maryann) and Bob (Marianne); six grandchildren, Jennifer (Adam), Daniel (Andrea), Michael (Janelle), Andrew, Lyndon and Chantelle; and great-grandson, Mateo, all of Edmonton. Furman was predeceased by his wife, Mary.

As this issue went to press Sept. 6, 2007, Prayers had been scheduled for Sept. 7 with a Funeral Service on Sept. 8, Reverend Father Benny Ambrose officiating. Interment in St. Michael's Cemetery was to follow.