TORONTO (Apr. 11)
A one-man federal commission consisting of Judge Jules Deschenes, former Chief Justice of the Quebec Superior Court, began its investigation in Ottawa yesterday of Nazi war criminals living in Canada.
The commission was set up on February 7 by the Conservative government of Premier Brian Mulroney in the wake of reports that Josef Mengele, the notorious Auschwitz death camp doctor, may have visited Canada in 1962.
It is mandated to determine whether there are war criminals presently living in Canada, how they entered the country and the best means to bring them to justice. The commission was given until the end of the year to complete its inquiry and present its report.
B’NAI B’RITH AUTHORIZED TO CROSS-EXAMINE
One of Deschenes’ first acts was to authorize B’nai B’rith to cross-examine witnesses during the open sessions of the proceedings. It is the only Jewish organization granted that right. The Judge acted against the advice of the commission’s counsel, Yves Fortier, who contended that “the commission might degenerate into a vengeful exercise.” His response was that “B’nai B’rith knows better than to try to indulge in that kind of exercise.”
Its right of cross-examination is limited to open sessions. Much of the commission’s work will be done in closed session because of the “fear of destroying innocent reputations,” Deschenes said. Another Jewish organizations, the Montreal-based North American Jewish Students Network-Canada, was denied the same status as B’nai B’rith because, Deschenes noted, they are the children and grandchildren of the Holocaust victims, not the victims themselves.
The first witness heard by the commission yesterday was Prof. Peter Hoffman of McGill University. He des- cribed how the Nazis used “mobile killing squads” to exterminate non-Germans in Nazi-occupied countries.