IRB Dismisses Oberlander’s Latest Legal Move

Oct. 21, 2020

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) has turned down an application from Helmut Oberlander, removing yet another obstacle to the deportation of the 96-year-old alleged Nazi war criminal.

Helmut Oberlander in an undated Second World War-era photo (left) and in his 90s (right)

In a decision issued Oct. 20, the IRB’s Immigration Division denied Oberlander’s bid to dismiss his case based on his argument that the board lacked jurisdiction to remove him.

Oberlander has argued that his status as a Canadian citizen was never expunged, and that the IRB lacked jurisdiction to issue a deportation order against him. Doing so would be an “abuse of process.”

The IRB’s 67-page judgment counters that the Immigration Division has the jurisdiction to issue removal orders against Oberlander on the basis of reports before it.

When he exhausted his last possible appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada last December, it appeared the next logical step was his removal. Taking the case to the IRB was seen as a last-ditch effort by Oberlander to avoid deportation.

The former Nazi death squad member was admitted to Canada in 1954 and acquired Canadian citizenship in 1960. The federal cabinet revoked his citizenship in 2001, 2007, 2012 and 2017. On the first three occasions, the decisions were upheld by the Federal Court but sent back to cabinet for redetermination by the Federal Court of Appeal.

The government has said that Oberlander was admitted to Canada through false representation or by knowingly concealing his wartime service in the mobile Nazi death squad Einsatzkommando 10a, known as Ek10a, and thus never gained lawful entrance to this country.

Oberlander has always maintained that he was a low-level translator with Ek10a, which operated in Nazi-occupied Ukraine and slaughtered thousands of civilians, mostly Jews.

He served with the unit from 1941 to 1943, claiming he had been conscripted as a teenager under duress and that he never took part in atrocities.

The case can now be scheduled for an admissibility hearing to determine whether Oberlander should be removed from Canada, IRB spokesperson Anna Pape told The CJR. Recourse can be sought through a judicial review by the Federal Court, she added.

The CJR will monitor developments.

Supreme Court Paves Way for Libel Action Against B’nai Brith

Oct. 16, 2020

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has greenlighted a libel action brought by a pro-Palestinian activist against B’nai Brith Canada, Canadian Press reported Oct. 15.

As usual, the high court gave no reason for declining to hear an appeal from B’nai Brith. The development clears the way for lawyer Dimitri Lascaris to pursue a libel case against the Jewish advocacy group.

The matter goes back to August 2016 when B’nai Brith published an article alleging Lascaris supported terrorism following a trip he made to Israel.

The article, and a subsequent tweet, charged that Lascaris had used social media “to advocate on behalf of terrorists who have murdered Israeli citizens.”

Lascaris initiated a libel case against B’nai Brith, which sought to dismiss the action using anti-SLAPP legislation, a legal tool designed to prevent use of courts to silence speech that is deemed to be in the public interest.

B’nai Brith succeed in Ontario’s Superior of Court of Justice but that decision was overturned by the province’s Court of Appeal, which reinstated Lascaris’s action.

He is seeking $220,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, plus costs.

Lascaris was the recent runner-up for the federal Green Party leadership. He has a long history of pro-Palestinian activism, including representing organizers of the annual al-Quds Day rally in Toronto.

This is not the first time B’nai Brith’s reliance on Ontario’s anti-SLAPP law faltered.

In January, an Ontario court dismissed a motion from the Jewish group, which sought to squelch a defamation lawsuit brought against it by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).

CUPW had made common cause with its Palestinian counterpart, the Palestinian Postal Service Workers Union, which B’nai Brith said “supports terrorism and the elimination of Israel,” and that CUPW’s leadership “had aligned itself with the path of violence and extremism.”

A judge dismissed B’nai Brith’s request to have the case thrown out under the anti-SLAPP law, saying that, in fact, CUPW’s defamation suit “appears to have merit.”

B’nai Brith is appealing the ruling to the Ontario Court of Appeal. The organization had no comment on the Lascaris matter.

– By CJR Staff

Editorial: Justice for Racialized Communities: We All Have Skin in this Game

Aug. 20, 2020 – For a time, we really did feel that things were changing. With the tragic murder of George Floyd, many rose from their complacency to demand change. Indeed, these times have been reminiscent of the heady civil rights era in which Martin Luther King, Rabbi Abraham Heschel and other faith leaders, Black and white, Jews and Christians (other faiths weren’t comfortable with the high visibility at the time) who peacefully but passionately spoke out against racism and discrimination. Reminiscent, but not quite the same.

The civil rights era of the 1960s led at first to a momentous change in the body politic of the United States: The Civil Rights Act signed into law by then President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

A crowning achievement, it was intended to outlaw discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin. It did not, of course. Words on paper are just words if they are not followed by concrete and meaningful action. Words blur, hate is muscular. Words are simply not enough without boldness of action.

Here in Canada, we like to believe we are better. We told ourselves we didn’t require a Civil Rights Act to understand the evil of bigotry. We fooled ourselves into believing that we held the moral high ground.

Among the evidence to the contrary were Ontario’s so-called restrictive covenants, which prohibited the sale of land to Jews and Blacks.

In one of the better-known examples in the post-war era, a labour organization, the Workers’ Educational Association of Canada (WEA), purchased property on O’Connor Drive to build “ideal” homes for working families and soldiers returning home. The WEA soon discovered the deed prevented the land from being sold to Jews “or persons of objectionable nationality.”

That led, in 1945, to an arrangement between the WEA and the Canadian Jewish Congress. Then WEA director Drummond Wren teamed with CJC’s legal committee chair, Bora Laskin, (later to become the first Jewish Chief Justice of Canada) and other lawyers representing the complainants. Together, their argument succeeded. Justice J. Keiller MacKay of the Supreme Court of Ontario, later an Ontario Lieutenant Governor, struck the offensive legislation from provincial law, declaring it “injurious to the public good.” Stated MacKay in his impassioned ruling:

“Canada is pledged to promote universal respect for and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without discrimination as to race, sex, language or religion…”

Justice J. Keiller MacKay

But that didn’t spell the end of bigotry. Appeals and counter-appeals wound up before the Ontario Court of Appeal, which, in a contemptible decision in 1949, sidestepped MacKay’s ruling and claimed that barring those of Jewish, “Negro or coloured race or blood” was only to make sure those owning land were of “a class who will get along together.” There was nothing “criminal or unusual” about any of this, the court assured.

It wasn’t until 1950 that Ontario banned the covenants in a bill that saw unanimous support. “There is no place in Ontario’s way of life for restrictive covenants,” pronounced then Ontario Premier Leslie Frost. Later that year, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down all forms of racial and faith-based restrictive land covenants as invalid.

Flash forward to today. While no barriers by race appear in law, bigotry and systemic racism still exist. This week, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (which arose from the battles undertaken by the WEA and CJC) identified, through its Human Rights Tribunals, that systemic racism continues unchecked, causing much harm.

As noted by Ena Chadha, the new Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission: This past March, a six-year-old Black girl was racially discriminated against when police restrained and handcuffed her at school.

And: In 2018, Black youths had to prepay their meals at a Toronto restaurant.

These are but two examples of systemic racism which were thankfully dealt with under human rights law. But racism continues unabated. This is not a time to take our eyes off the ball. Much work remains to be done. Justice for racialized communities does matter. We all have skin in this game.

Germany Honours Justice Rosalie Abella

By SUSAN MINUK

Germany has awarded Canadian Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, a national decoration.

Germany’s embassy in Ottawa announced that on June 19, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier would award Abella the Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit (with badge and star) of the Federal Republic of Germany.

It’s the second-highest federal German decoration; the first is for heads of state.

The award recognizes Abella’s achievements in the protection and promotion of the rule of law, human and minority rights, and the development of close relations between Germany’s Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Canada.

It also pays tribute to the engagement of Abella and her husband, historian Prof. Irving Abella, in Holocaust remembrance and reconciliation between Jews and Germans.

Due to COVID, the award was presented in a virtual ceremony by Germany’s ambassador to Canada, Sabine Sparwasser.

Sabine Sparwasser, Germany’s Ambassador to Canada places the Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit (with badge and star) on Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella in a virtual award ceremony. Note the photograph on the wall is of German Federal President Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier Photo Credit: Lennart Eisentrïnger, German Embassy Ottawa.

“We were at home in the garden of the German residence [in Ottawa] and Rosalie and her husband Irving were at their home in Toronto,” Sparwasser told the CJR. “We toasted Rosalie over Zoom.”

“Decorations are a nation’s way of saying thank you,” said Sparwasser. “It is an honour to say thank you to Rosie but also to bow to Rosie – a person who has drawn the lessons out of her family’s history, the country that has caused so much pain and suffering to her family. We are bowing to her to her wisdom and to the values she stands for, and for what she and her husband have done to keep the remembrance [of the Holocaust] alive.”

Abella was “very moved” by the award, “and so was I,” the ambassador noted.

“Through her influence in many legal battles over the decades, women’s and minority rights in Canada have been granted better protection,” stated a press release from the German embassy. “Her definition of equality and discrimination formed the basis of Canadian law under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and became a model many other countries adopted.”

Abella was born July 1, 1946 in a displaced persons camp in Stuttgart. Both her parents had survived the Holocaust. Her father, Jacob Silberman, was liberated in 1945 from Theresienstadt; her mother Fanny (Krongold) Silberman from Buchenwald.

Their two-year-old son, as well as Jacob Silberman’s parents and three younger brothers, were murdered in the Treblinka death camp.

The family arrived in Canada in 1950. Rosalie graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Music in classical piano in 1964, becoming one of the institution’s youngest alumni. She subsequently attended the University of Toronto, where she earned a BA in 1967 and a law degree in 1970.

Motivated by her father, who was unable to practice his profession as a lawyer when he came to Canada because he was not a citizen, Abella, at age 29, became the youngest judge in Canada when she was appointed to the Ontario Family Court.

Abella was the first Jewish woman appointed to the Supreme Court, and is the longest-serving current justice, having been named in 2004.

Abella “has been very instrumental in creating close links between our two courts,” said Sparwasser. “The fact that she was born in Germany meant a lot to her, and that Germany awarded her is a rare honour. It’s not something given out very often to foreigners.”