This past August, I wrote an editorial piece in the Toronto Star calling Canada’s handling of Nazi war criminals a national shame. Despite the fact that over 800 war criminals were found to have snuck into this country by the Deschenes Commission, only 20 strong possibilities were identified for prosecution. Of those, Canada tried to obtain 10 denaturalizations, but two left on their own and the remaining eight had natural deaths.
The case against Nazi war criminals and denaturalization proceedings – the ability to revoke their citizenship because they lied about their Nazi past – was about two primary goals: First and foremost, to seek a semblance of justice for the crimes committed – to not let them get away with murder. Second, to create a legal if not moral precedent for our young nation so that future war criminals cannot seek comfort amongst us.
In recent weeks, discussion about admitting ISIS (Daesh) fighters back into our country shows we have failed miserably in our quest of these lofty ideals. Canadians who had decided to turn their back on our nation and join a terrorist group which has committed crimes against humanity should not be allowed to return home. They are war criminals. They murdered people. They raped women. They enslaved children. They destroyed villages and ethnic groups like the Yazidis.
Worse, they want to return home as trained assassins. Equipped with an ideological and religious fervor, they are ticking bombs – a security threat to our community and to our nation. Like the Nazis, terrorist fighters have chosen a path of hatred and injustice.
Canada is a nation of peace and justice. Our national identity is built on universal values of human rights for everyone. Those values, however, can be easily clouded by those who wish us harm and, like the Nazis, are using our good will and freedom to find refuge and evade justice.
We should not harbour war criminals again and we should not be silent in this important national debate. Defending human rights, fighting discrimination and protecting our freedom means learning from the lessons of the past – speaking out and not being silent.