War Crimes Bill Progressing in Canadian Parliament

Proposed legislation that would allow for the prosecution of legislation that would allow for the prosecution of alleged Nazi war criminals in the country is making steady progress through Parliament during the current special session.

The Legislative Committee of the House of Commons is scheduled to take up the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code Monday and may call Holocaust survivors to testify.

Minister of Justice Ray Hnatyshyn spoke in support of the amendments before the full house. “The Canadian people find it necessary to insure that some people do not avoid prosecution by maintaining that the acts of omission they are charged with were legal in their place of commission. In case of ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity,’ international law must have precedence over domestic law,” he said.

EFFECT OF NEW LEGISLATION

Besides changing the Criminal Code, the war crimes legislation would also amend the Immigration Act, adding a new class of persons inadmissable to Canada. They would include, the Minister said, “persons who, there are reasonable grounds to believe, have committed a war crime or crime against humanity as these concepts are defined in the amendments to the criminal code.”

Under the proposed amendment, the Minister of Immigration could select any willing country as a site of deportation for such an undesirable.

Also speaking in favor of the amendments was Robert Kaplan, a Liberal Member of the House and former Solicitor General of Canada under Premier Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Kaplan said he wished such legislation “had been done by past governments including the government of which I was a part.”

He added that not only Nazis and their collaborators would be affected by the new bill. “There are other victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity who are living in our country,” he said. “…Atrocities have been committed outside of war, against victims who have found haven in our country.” He noted that any individual inside Canada, even a tourist, would be eligible for prosecution as a war criminal or criminal against humanity.

The amendments would alter what Prof. Irwin Cotler has called “a bureaucratization of horror,” according to Svend Robinson of the New Democratic Party.

The Criminal Code amendments had been introduced late in the regular Parliamentary session that ended June 30. Supporters couldn’t muster the unanimous vote required to circumvent the committee and rapidly pass the bill. Passage is expected soon.

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