Canadian Lawmakers Recess Without Passing Government’s War Crimes Bill

Parliament adjourned for summer recess early Wednesday morning without adopting a government-sponsored amendment to the Criminal Code that would allow the trial in Canada of Nazi war criminals regardless of where their crimes were committed.

The measure, introduced by Justice Minister Roman Hnatyshyn with the support of a large majority in the House of Commons, was blocked by a night-long filibuster by two members of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s Conservative Party Alex Jimby of Calgary, Alberta, and Andrew Witen of Toronto. Mulroney backed the amendment.

The vote taken after the first of three required readings fell short of the unanimous approval needed to amend the Criminal Code. It was prevented from reaching the floor for the second reading by the filibuster, which lasted until the recess deadline.

Official sources here said the measure suffered a setback, but could be re-introduced and adopted when Parliament reconvenes in September. Dorothy Reitman, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, one of the organizations that had lobbied hard for passage, said, “We remain confident that the government will continue its efforts to see this issue resolved. The current legislative process is one more stage in a longstanding quest for justice.”

She said, “The CJC recognizes the Justice Minister’s extraordinary efforts on the issue.

The proposed amendment to the Criminal Code was recommended by the Deschenes Commission, headed by Quebec Superior Court Judge Jules Deschenes, after an 18-month investigation of alleged war criminals living in Canada.

The Commission’s report, submitted to the Mulroney government last December, positively identified 20 suspects and named 218 others for continuing investigation. Sources here said the postponement of the amendment will not impede the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other law enforcement and legal agencies from pursuing their investigations of war criminals. The 20 already identified remain under strict surveillance and cannot leave the country, the sources said.

NEXT STORY