TORONTO (Oct. 23)
Immigration Minister Flora MacDonald has ordered an investigation into the mysterious destruction of several hundred thousand government files containing evidence the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) had on hand in preparation for action to denaturalize Nazi war criminals as a prerequisite for their deportation by Canada.
MacDonald acted last week after former Solicitor General Robert Kaplan testified at a hearing of the Deschenes Commission, which is conducting an inquiry into Nazi war criminals living in Canada, about the missing files and their significance. Her action was also prompted by a statement by Deputy Solicitor General Fred Gibson that the loss of the records had “seriously impaired the ability of the Canadian authorities, notably the RCMP, to investigate and take action against war criminals in Canada.”
The files in question consisted of 206 yards of case records at the Immigration Department comprising immigration forms used after World War II along with results of security screenings of immigrants. Evidence from these files, Kaplan said, could have been used to remove the citizenship of alleged Nazi criminals. “Unless there were admissions of guilt by these individuals, the files might be the only place where evidence was retained,” he told the hearing.
Kaplan, now an opposition Liberal MP, said he had learned of the destruction of the files for the names beginning with A through E in a letter from RCMP Commissioner Robert Simmonds in April 1984. In the letter, made public at the hearing, Simmonds said the files were destroyed some time between February 1982 and September 1983.
Montreal law professor Irwin Cotler, representing the Canadian Jewish Congress at the hearings, said the timing of the file destruction was enough to raise con- cern. The February 1982-September 1983 time period was the one in which Canada was involved with its first and only action against a suspected Nazi war criminal, the late Albert Helmut Rauca. This was a time “when the issue of Nazi war criminals had a high profile, ” added Winnipeg attorney David Matas, who represented B’nai B’rith at the hearing.
Rauca was arrested by the RCMP in June 1982 at the request of the West German government, which planned to try him for partiicpation in the murders of 10,500 Jews in the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania during World War II. Extradited in May 1983 after a legal battle, he died in November of that year before the trial could take place.
Gibson noted that the Simmonds letter did not mention whether the “disturbing” destruction of the files “involved a culpable act or was simply a monumental blunder.” Kaplan said he was “absolutely furious” when he learned from the letter about the file destruction. “It seemed incomprehensible that the RCMP would be foiled in that way,” he told the hearing.
Kaplan began pushing for action against suspected Nazi criminals upon taking office in 1980. The RCMP, which had made only limited efforts to track Nazi criminals in years past, intensified these efforts in 1982. It was in March of that year that they discovered the old case files in the basement of the Immigration Department.
The RCMP identified a small number of individuals they believed the courts might be able to strip of their citizenship for having lied, upon entering Canada, about their wartime activities. Kaplan told the hearing that the RCMP had two solid cases against suspected Nazi war criminals and was working on a third when the Liberal Party was voted out of office last year.