The Canadian government is revisiting the issue of classified sections of a report from the 1980s that focused on former-Nazi fighters residing in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced. This renewed attention comes in the wake of a scandal involving a standing ovation given to a Ukrainian Waffen SS veteran in the Canadian parliament.
Trudeau stated that top public servants are currently examining the issue, including delving into the archives, and will ultimately provide recommendations to the relevant ministers. The report in question is the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals, which was headed by Justice Jules Deschenes. Convened in 1985, the commission was tasked with investigating the presence of war criminals seeking refuge in Canada and released its findings the following year.
According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, more than 2,000 former members of the 14th Waffen SS Division Galicia, primarily consisting of Ukrainian volunteers, were taken in by Canada after the war. These Nazi soldiers disguised themselves as refugees and anti-Soviet freedom fighters to gain admission, and British authorities facilitated their escape from Europe, as revealed by declassified archives.
The Deschenes Commission, which investigated over 800 individuals, made a controversial decision by stating that veterans of the Nazi unit “should not be indicted as a group.” This differs from the Nuremberg trials, which declared the entire SS organization to be criminal. However, large portions of the commission’s final report and most of its findings remained redacted.
In recent months, a 98-year-old veteran of the SS Galicia Division, Yaroslav Hunka, was honored as a “Canadian hero” who fought “for Ukrainian independence against the Russians” during World War II and was invited to the Canadian parliament. However, it was later revealed that Hunka had ties to the Nazis. Following this revelation, Anthony Rota, the former speaker of the House of Commons, took responsibility for extending the invitation and subsequently stepped down from his leadership position.
Jewish organizations, including B’nai Brith Canada and the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, have reiterated their demands for the full release of the Deschenes Commission’s findings in light of this scandal.
Quebec Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, who is Jewish, acknowledged the government’s reluctance to “bring pain” to “Eastern European communities,” but emphasized the need for Canadians to acknowledge their “horrible past with Nazi war criminals.” He noted that after the war, Canada made it easier for Nazis to enter the country than for Jewish individuals.
Quebec Conservative MP Gerard Deltell opposed the release of the report “at this time,” arguing that “history is history.” However, he conceded that his late father, a WWII veteran, would likely be disturbed by the Hunka incident. The debate over releasing the classified portions of the Deschenes Commission’s report continues.
In conclusion, the Canadian government is reconsidering the classified sections of a report from the 1980s that investigated former-Nazi fighters living in the country. This reevaluation comes after a Ukrainian Waffen SS veteran received applause in parliament. Calls for the release of the report’s findings have been renewed by Jewish organizations, while others express opposing views on disclosing the information. The controversy surrounding the report highlights Canada’s past associations with Nazi war criminals and the need to confront this history.