MONTREAL (Feb. 10)
An independent commission to investigate Nazi war criminals living in Canada has been appointed by Justice Minister John Crosbie, to be headed by former Chief Justice Jules Dechene of the Quebec Supreme Court.
In announcing the appointment in the House of Commons last week, Crosbie explained that the task of the commission will be to establish whether there are any former Nazis and war criminals presently living in Canada, when and how they entered the country and any other information about their past and present activities with a view to bringing to justice those guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The commission has until December 31, 1985 to render its report and findings. “A highly important matter like this requires a thorough investigation,” Crosbie declared, adding, “These criminals must be brought to justice.”
CANADIAN LAWS NEED REVISION
But if that is to be done, Canadian laws need revision to enable the prosecution of war criminals in Canada, according to a report by the Canadian Law Enforcement Commission headed by Justice Allen Linden. Linden maintained that Canada’s war crimes legislation is lax and outdated and is in need of review by government officials and the parties concerned.
Linden asked rhetorically in his report, why suspected war criminals living in Canada should escape prosecution because extradition has not been sought or because it is blocked by the legalities or is rendered impossible because of the nature of the requesting country’s judicial system. Another major obstacle, he said, has been the aversion of the Canadian justice system to retroactive legislation.
Linden’s commission is recommending the creation of a new criminal offense related to war crimes and the institution of civilian trials of persons accused of war crimes.
This turn of events has been hailed by the Canadian Jewish Congress and other groups. However, former Solicitor General Robert Kaplan, a member of the opposition, was sharply critical of what he considers the inordinate length of time to be allowed the Dechene commission to submit its report. Kaplan expressed concern that many suspects who may come under investigation might simply disappear.