Canada’s Justice Department is drastically reducing the size of its war crimes unit, which investigates and prosecutes suspected Nazi war criminals living here.
The unit, composed of 24 lawyers, researchers and historians, is to be cut to 11 staff members on March 31 as part of a wider trimming of the federal civil service. As recently as two years ago, the unit, established in 1987 employed 37 people.
The staff reduction will signal a shifting away from starting new investigations, said Sue Barclay, Justice Department spokeswoman.
“There is absolutely no wavering in the government’s intention to fulfill its moral and legal commitment to investigate and, where appropriate, litigate allegations of war crimes or crimes against humanity,” Barday added.
“Canada is not and will not become a safe haven for war criminals.”
But the cutback has angered Jewish groups here. “The trend appears to be one of economic concern and not moral obligation to prosecute Nazi war criminals, given Canada’s dismal record in the past,” said Bemie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress.
Canada’s criminal code was amended in September 1987 to allow for the prosecution of war crimes committed outside Canadian jurisdiction against non- Canadians.