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Yaroslav Hunka is just 1 example of Canada’s Nazi problem: Read how WWII criminals found a safe haven there after escaping Europe

According to a report by Ottawa Citizen, the Liberal Party government of Canada has withheld a second part of a 1986 government commission report about Nazis who settled in Canada. Moreover, another 1986 report examining how Nazis were able to get into Canada is also heavily censored.

Canada has many skeletons in the closet. The standing ovation to Nazi war criminal Yaroslav Hunka in the Canadian Parliament on 22nd September was not an isolated incident. Canada’s Nazi problem is an old one. It has repeatedly disregarded and continues to disregard the values of international justice, law, and rules-based international order. And that has made Canada, historically, a safe haven for Nazis and hunting grounds for Jewish groups and other officials looking to bring them to book.

The honour bestowed by the Trudeau government upon the 98-year-old former member of the Nazi 14th SS-Volunteer Division “Galicia” was a repeat of a similar incident that occurred in 2007. Yaroslav Hunka was previously honoured by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in 2007.

According to X user and researcher Yuri Deigin, Hunka was one among several other Waffen SS war criminals who were lauded at a ceremony 16 years ago where the then Ukrainian ambassador to Canada, Dr Igor Ostash, was a special guest and also delivered a speech.

Over a dozen former soldiers of the First Ukrainian Division of The Ukrainian National Army were felicitated at an event organised on 21 January 2007 to mark Ukraine’s Independence from Russia in Toronto. They were honoured with “Medal of Merit”.

List of former members of the First Ukrainian Division of the Ukraine National Army, most of whom were Nazi war criminals. Yaroslav Hunka’s name appears in this list (Source: @ydeigin/Twitter)

Safe to say, had it not been revealed that the man being honoured in the House of Commons is a Nazi war criminal, the University of Alberta would perhaps still have been receiving funds in Yaroslav Hunka’s name. The university’s Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies has had a $30,000 endowment since 2019 carrying Hunko’s name.

The university has now reportedly closed the endowment and returned the money to Hunka’s family. “The university recognizes and regrets the unintended harm caused,” read a statement from Verna Yiu, vice-president academics.

That is not all. The co-founder of the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies (CIUS), Peter Savaryn, who also served as the University of Alberta’s chancellor from 1982 to 1986, was himself a 14th Waffen veteran.

Moreover, according to a Journal of Slavic Military Studies article by Lund University academic Per Anders Rudling, in 2011 the CIUS reportedly established endowments in honour of three Waffen SS veterans namely Roman Kolisnyk, Levko Babij, and Edward Brodacky.

A free run to Nazis in Canada

In the 1990s, war crimes investigator Steve Rambam secretly recorded the wartime testimonies of as many as 60 former Nazi soldiers and collaborators living in Canada. This included the notorious Antanas Kenstavicius from Hope, B.C.

Kenstavicius was a former member of a collaborationist Lithuanian police force who told Rambam about participating in the killing of around 5,500 Jews. His was the only case that was reportedly pursued by the Canadian law enforcement but Kenstavicius died of natural causes on the very first day of his deportation hearings.

Kenstavicius was 90 when the then-Canadian government led by the Liberal Party finally decided to begin deportation trials albeit to no avail. “Canada is where the Nazis are. Canada is the unknown haven for Nazis. Everybody knows about Argentina, but nobody knows about Canada,” Rambam told the Los Angeles Times in 1997.

According to the National Post, in 1997, historian and president of Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) Irving Abella cited a conversation with then PM Pierre Trudeau in which the latter said that Canada did not pursue Axis war criminals because “they were afraid of exacerbating relationships between Jews and Eastern European ethnic communities”.

On 23 January 1985, Robert Kaplan, a former member of the House of Commons raised the issue of the suggested presence of Joseph Mengele, infamously known as the Angel of Death, in Canada. Mengele was a Nazi war criminal known to have performed deadly experiments on prisoners in Auschwitz.

In 1992, the Justice Department ruled that it would not prosecute Michael Pawlowski, who was suspected of having helped kill 400 Jews and 80 non-Jewish Poles in the then Soviet Republic of Byelorussia in the summer of 1942.

In 1990, Stephen Reistetter became the third person to be charged under the War Crimes of the Criminal Code but, on the eve of pre-trial arguments, the federal government dropped the charges against him on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Reistetter was charged with kidnapping 3,000 Jews when he was serving as an official of the Hlinka party in war-time Slovakia.

The first person to be charged under the 1987 amendment to the criminal code was Imre Finta, a Hungarian-born former restaurateur from Hamilton, Ontario. He was a member of the pro-Nazi Hungarian gendarmerie during World War II and was accused of deporting and murdering Jews. However, Finta was found not guilty.

Nazi war criminal Imre Finta after being found “not guilty”. (Source: CBC)

Another Nazi war criminal Josef Nemsila died without having to face his sins. Nemsila, a Slovakian Nazi, was protected from deportation by a Canadian court. He helped round up 100,000 Jews to be deported to concentration camps.

Joseph Nemsila, a Slovakian Nazi, helped round up 100,000 Jews to be deported to concentration camps. (Source: Amazon.com)

Despite finding that Peteris Vitols had not concealed his membership in the Latvian Army or Waffen SS during his entry into Canada and that he may not have been asked about his wartime activities, Judge McKeown in September 1998 found no evidence that he personally committed war crimes.

Helmut Oberlander, mistaken as the last known wartime Nazi in Canada, was in between trials to avoid deportation to Germany over WW2 atrocities. The Canadian justice system failed Oberlander’s victims as he died in the “comfort of his family and home” in 2021.

The Canadian government failed to even strip Nazi war criminal Helmut Oberlander off his Canadian citizenship. (Source: CBC)

Oberlander worked as a translator for Einsatzkommando 10a, known as Ek10a, one of the special police task forces that operated in Ukraine when it was occupied by Germany. His squad was responsible for the murder of 100,000 people most of whom were Jews.

In 2012, a group of former prisoners of Dachau and Auschwitz urged the Canadian government to take action against Vladimir Katriuk in view of new evidence pointing to his role in the massacre in Eastern Europe. Katriuk was 90 at the time and had been living a good life in Canada.

Katriuk was part of a Waffen SS unit operating in Belarus and had been living in Canada since 1951. Katriuk in 2012 was implicated in the 1943 massacre of residents of the village of Khatyn, whom the Germans suspected were supporting partisan forces.

In 1995, suspected war criminal Konrad Kalejs, who had been scheduled for a deportation hearing in Toronto, fled Canada just hours before his visa expired. Kalejs was suspected of being a key officer in the notorious Arajs Kommando of the WW2 Latvian Security Police. All Canada managed to do after was add him to a watch list of persons inadmissible to Canada.

Chrystia Freeland and her familial ties with the Galicia Division of the Waffen SS

As far as the grave human rights violation in Canada is concerned, the fault lies at the very foundation. Canada’s deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland’s grandfather reportedly worked for a Nazi newspaper. This newspaper was recruited for the Galicia Division of the Waffen-SS.

A screenshot of pro-Nazi Ukrainian newspaper, Krakivski Visti, which Chrystia Freeland’s maternal grandfather worked for. (Source: Jacobin.com)

Yaroslav Hunka, the Nazi the Canadian Parliament gave a standing ovation to, belonged to this very division. Freeland’s maternal grandfather Michael Chomiak edited a Nazi newspaper for Ukrainian exiles in occupied Krakow called Krakivski Visti. The newspaper was published on a printing press seized from a Jewish owner.

Freeland has often cited her maternal grandfather as a political inspiration. When Freeland’s link to her Nazi grandfather was reported for the first time in 2017, she reportedly called it a bunch of Russian propaganda. Krakivski Visti published articles encouraging young Ukrainian men to join the Waffen SS.

The Galicia Division of Waffen SS and its links to Canada

The First Ukrainian Division was originally named the 14th Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS (Ukrainische Nr 1) and it was also known as the “Galicia” Division. It was a World War II Nazi Germany military formation made up predominantly of military volunteers with a Ukrainian ethnic background from the area of Galicia.

The division was formed in 1943 by SS-Brigadeführer Wächter, a Nazi Party leader and a high ranking high-ranking member of the SS, with as many as 70,000 volunteers coming forward to join.

It is notable that SS was the main paramilitary group under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany, and was primarily responsible for running Holocaust operations. 14th SS-Volunteer Division Galicia was made up of volunteers, which means that Yaroslav Hunka joined the unit on his own will, and was not conscripted.

The members of the First Ukrainian Division have been deemed war criminals by several experts. However, Canadian inquiry into their history did not recognise them as war criminals. Interestingly, there is clear evidence that Canada housed at least 3,000 war criminals.

Canadian authorities established a commission to look into war criminals, and the commission headed by Justice Jules Deschenes submitted its report in December 1986 titled “Commission of Inquiry on War Crimes”.

According to the commission report, in February 1949, the immigration applications of the members of the Galicia division were rejected by the Canadian authorities on the ground of them being members of the German Wehrmacht or the SS.

However, in May 1950, the Canadian Cabinet decided to give Ukrainians who were lodged in the United Kingdom at that time permission to be admitted to Canada following special security screening. The cabinet categorically said that they should “not be rejected on the grounds of their service in the German Army”. In its report, the Commission gave “clean chit” to the Galicia Division.

Calls for justice continue to fall on deaf ears in Canada

In a recent development, a Jewish advocacy group has called on the Trudeau government to release a 40-year-old report and other documents containing details about alleged Nazi war criminals living in Canada.

According to a report by Ottawa Citizen, the Liberal Party government of Canada has withheld a second part of a 1986 government commission report about Nazis who settled in Canada. Moreover, another 1986 report examining how Nazis were able to get into Canada is also heavily censored.

The Ottawa Citizen report claims that over 600 pages of the said document accessed by it through Access to Information Law have been censored. “We’ve run up against a brick wall,” said David Matas, the honorary counsel for B’nai Brith adding that the organisation was also pushing for the release of RCMP and Department of Justice files on alleged Nazi war criminals in Canada.

And yet, Canada, which has a serious Nazi problem festering in its backyard for decades, is lecturing India about international law and human rights.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Pragya Bakshi Sharma
Pragya Bakshi Sharma
Journalist with a journey from print to TV to digital news. Multi-tasker. Unstoppable Type 1 Diabetic running on insulin.

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