Nazigate went from bad to worse as the feds say they will not commit to unveiling the identities of 20 suspected Nazis who immigrated to postwar Canada.
The Commission of Inquiry on War Crimes led by Québec Court of Appeal Justice Jules Deschenes in 1985 identified some 200 unnamed suspects in its public report, confirmed by Blacklock’s Reporter.
A follow up report in 1986 identified 20 accused Nazis with recommendations on prosecution, but it remains redacted under the Access To Information Act. It also details how they got into Canada postwar.
When asked by a reporter if the government will reopen the Deschenes report, Attorney General Arif Virani gave a non-answer, stating there is a “process” to follow in Canada.
“Do you support reopening the Deschenes report?” asked a reporter. Virani replied: “I will always support ensuring people who have perpetrated war crimes […] are brought to justice.”
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.
“We’ve run up against a brick wall,” he told the Ottawa Citizen of their attempts to retrieve the blacklisted files.
Immigration Minister Marc Miller also did not commit to releasing the report, stating he is not privy to its contents. “It is secret so I don’t know what’s in it either,” he added.
“I understand there are many groups, including leading Jewish advocacy groups, that are demanding the release of those names,” Miller told reporters.
“Canada has a really dark history with Nazis,” he said. “There was a point in our history where it was easier to get in as a Nazi than it was as a Jewish person. I think that’s a history we have to reconcile.”
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.