Blacklock's Reporter has confirmed the federal government will not disclose a confidential blacklist of Nazi fugitives hiding in Canada, despite considerable pushback from the public.
The Commission of Inquiry on War Crimes, led by Québec Court of Appeal Justice Jules Deschenes in 1985, identified 200 alleged Nazis who remain unnamed. The following year, a separate report identified 20 accused Nazis with recommendations on prosecution, but that too remains redacted under the Access to Information Act.
"Our history with Nazis and their presence in Canada is a dark history and it’s a difficult legacy and it’s been particularly painful for the Jewish community in particular but all survivors of the Holocaust," Attorney General Arif Virani told reporters September 27.
At the time, he said senior government officials reviewed the report, with recommendations expected in the "immediate future."
Fast forward seven weeks later and Canada's Department of Justice declined to comment when asked if the blacklist would be released. Advocates including B’nai Brith Canada, the Canadian Historical Association and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre have repeatedly petitioned for release of the list.
B’nai B'rith — a Jewish human rights organization — pressured the federal government to publish the secret list in a February 14 submission to the Commons ethics committee, but to no avail, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.
"Canadians deserve to know how and why Nazi war criminals were able to settle in this country," they wrote, condemning the "deliberate inaction" of the federal government for "intentionally harbouring known Nazi war criminals."
David Matas, counsel for B’nai B'rith, said his clients tirelessly pushed for the release of RCMP and Department of Justice files on alleged Nazi war criminals in Canada.
On September 29, B’nai B'rith and 18 other organizations, including Friends of Simon Wiesenthal, again asked the federal government for the unredacted historical records.
They demanded the names of Nazi fugitives, noting all members of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, including Canada, must commit to “[...] the opening of archives in order to ensure all documents bearing on the Holocaust are available to researchers.”
"We’ve run up against a brick wall," Matas told the Ottawa Citizen of their attempts to retrieve the blacklisted files.
When asked by a reporter if the government would reopen the Deschenes report, then, Virani deflected, stating there is a "process" to follow in Canada.
"Do you support reopening the Deschenes report?" asked the reporter. He replied: "I will always support ensuring people who have perpetrated war crimes […] are brought to justice."
Immigration Minister Marc Miller told reporters October 4 "there's no excuse for delay" on declassifying the documents, other than following a "process" in a "thoughtful way," reported Blacklock's Reporter.
"What could possibly be in it that still needs to be classified?" asked a reporter. "Good point," he said, after clarifying he had not seen the blacklist at the time.
"There are appendices I understand [that] names people [...] It is work that will require sensitivity," added Miller. "It will require a little bit of time and some work by people that put some thought into what elements get declassified."
The 'Nazigate' controversy stemmed from a Commons' mistake to pay tribute to a Waffen SS officer on September 22. Then House Speaker Anthony Rota praised Yaroslav Hunka, 98, calling him "a Ukrainian Canadian war veteran […] who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians," prompting two standing ovations.
Rota took the fall for the invite and resigned as Speaker on September 26.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who also promised to disclose records, reiterated his cabinet's remarks. "We have made sure there are top public servants who are looking very carefully into the issue including digging into the archives and they’re going to make recommendations to the relevant ministers," he told reporters.
As of writing, Canada has yet to have a successful prosecution of Nazis over war crime charges.
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, several prosecutions took place against Nazis residing in Canada following the Deschenes report — but they all ended in acquittals or stays due to insufficient evidence or the poor health of defendants.
They include Michael Pawlowski, a carpenter accused of killing 410 Jews in Belarus in 1942, and Stephen Reistetter, an autoworker charged with participating in Slovakian Holocaust transports that year.
Radislav Grujicic, a Windsor bookseller, also faced accusations of murdering Jews as a Belgrade policeman in 1943.
Toronto restaurateur Imre Finta received an acquittal on charges that he transported 8,617 Jews to concentration camps as a Hungarian police captain in 1944. The Supreme Court upheld his acquittal, stating the “defence of obedience to superior orders” is permissible in prosecutions for war crimes. Finta died in 2003 at 91.
In 2017, Justice Canada said it tried for more than two decades to deport Helmut Oberlander, a Kitchener contractor who served in an Eastern European death squad as an interpreter. He died in 2021 at 97.