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Unprecedented Measure on War Criminals Signed into Law in Canada

September 18, 1987
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Bill C-71, a law that allows the prosecution in Canadian courts of war criminals whose acts were committed outside of Canada, was given Royal Assent Wednesday, a day after it was adopted by Parliament without amendment.

Jeanne Sauve, Governor General, signed the bill on behalf of the Queen, a formality making it the law of the land. No other country has ever enacted similar legislation, although a bill of the same type has been introduced in Australia.

The law was drafted on the recommendation of the special commission headed by Quebec Superior Court Justice Jules Deschenes which conducted a two-year investigation of Nazi war criminals living in Canada. About 20 alleged war criminals now face prosecution in Canada and 281 suspects are under investigation.

Enactment of the law was hailed by Canadian Jewish leaders. Frank Dimant, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith Canada, said “Passage of Bill C-71 has removed the blemish or moral turpitude from the record of Canada’s post-war history.”

Milton Harris, past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, and chairman of its war crimes committee, said “This is an historic day. We are enormously gratified by the determination of the government in moving swift passage of the legislation.” Harris praised Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Attorney General Ramon Hnatyshyn for their exceptional efforts in gaining passage of the law.

Mulroney said earlier in the week that as long as he is Prime Minister, no Nazi war criminal will find safe haven in Canada. He said it was repugnant that Canada should share citizenship with persons who committed crimes against humanity.

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