The first Canadian to lose his citizenship because of war crimes has been ordered to leave Canada because he lied about his past when he entered the country and continued to lie when he applied for Canadian citizenship.
After four years of hearings and appeals, 73-year-old Jacob Luitjens, a retired University of British Columbia botany instructor, was ordered out of Canada because he failed to disclose his past Nazi activities.
He had also failed to say that he had been convicted in the Netherlands in 1948 and sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for collaboration.
Luitjens was a member of the Landwacht, a local police force established by the Nazis to round up Jews and resistance fighters in Holland.
Immigration Adjudicator Daphne Shaw-Dyck ruled that “the evidence respecting Jacob Luitjens’ involvement in the Landwacht were, and his conviction is, more than sufficient to satisfy me that he was a Nazi collaborator and as such inadmissable to Canada.”
She emphasized that Luitjens “knew of his conviction, but deliberately failed to disclose it on his application for admission to Canada.”
Luitjens still has 72 hours to decide whether to appeal the order. He can either appeal to the federal court or to an immigration review panel.
Shaw-Dyck said she still must decide whether Luitjens will be deported immediately or given notice to leave to a county of his choice.
The Netherlands has asked for Luitjens’ return to serve out his life sentence. The Dutch government formally sought Luitjens’ extradition in January under a new treaty that went into effect on Dec. 1.
Luitjens’ sister, Anna Portma-Luitjens, disclosed in an affidavit that she told her brother 21 years ago, before he applied for Canadian citizenship, that he had been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for collaborating during the war. She said she did this in 1950 in Paraguay, telling her brother this had been reported in the newspapers.
Luitjens immigrated to Canada from Paraguay, where he had lived for 13 years.
At the end of the war, Luitjens spent two years in Allied prisons in the Netherlands before escaping to Germany, from which he fled to Paraguay.
In 1961, Luitjens moved to Canada, where he applied for citizenship in 1971.
In 1983, Sol Littman, director of the Canadian office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, tracked down Luitjens in Vancouver.
In 1987, Justice Jules Deschenes released a report of Nazi war criminals living in Canada, among whom Luitjens was listed. In 1991, federal Judge Frank Collier upheld a decision to strip Luitjens of his citizenship. The Canadian Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal of the judge’s decision.
Jewish groups expressed gratification on the ruling.
“We would like to see him out of the country as soon as possible,” said Michael Elterman, spokesman for the Canadian Jewish Congress, Pacific Region.
“We are hoping and we are requesting that the government see this as the opening up of a new avenue for bringing war criminals to justice in Canada,” Elterman said.
According to the latest figures released by Ottawa, there are 150 such cases that are actively being investigated.
Luitjens’ lawyer, John Campbell, claimed his client is a political scapegoat. “What happened 50 years ago might not necessarily be all that relevant.”
Said Campbell, “I am not saying that what he did should necessarily be washed away. He’s not proud of it either. He’d be the first to admit that to you.”
“He made a mistake when he was 20 years old. He went the wrong way. He wasn’t the only one. It’s just that he, through a series of circumstances beyond his control, has become a scapegoat.”
A Dutch Holocaust survivor demurred. “When you do something like this, you should be punished for it,” said Len Schraft.
Placing this decision in a greater perspective, Ian Kagedan, director of government relations for B’nai Brith Canada, said, “Events unfolding in Europe today show that the battle against Nazism is not ended. Our quest to bring Nazi war crime suspects to justice is part of that battle.”