National Post (National Edition)
Canada's last known war-era Nazi gets reprieve from deportation
HEARING PUT OFF
What was supposed to be the start of the final hearing in the 25-year effort to kick Helmut Oberlander out of Canada for Nazi war crimes was cancelled Monday, after yet another legal battle forced immigration authorities to postpone his deportation hearing.
Oberlander, who turns 97 next week, was a member of a notorious Nazi killing squad in Ukraine and Russia during the Second World War and faces deportation.
His is believed to be the last Nazi wartime case in Canada.
The Immigration and Refugee Board scheduled a hearing for Monday against the retired businessman living in Waterloo, Ont., over whether he is ineligible to remain in Canada as a foreign national who committed crimes against humanity and lied about his past when applying for citizenship.
Instead, a board official announced the case was “administratively postponed.”
The IRB had no choice in the matter, after a Federal Court judge issued a stay of proceedings — at least until next month — at the request of Oberlander's lawyer, to allow more time for his appeals.
Justice Richard Southcott granted the postponement on Friday, and he left the door open for more time beyond the March 19 window, if needed.
Another in a long list of legal challenges and delays outraged members of the Jewish community, including Holocaust survivors, who called on the government to act swiftly to deport Oberlander.
“As survivors, we are immensely pained that Nazi war criminals continue to evade justice by concealing their past,” said Pinchas Gutter, co-president of the Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants.
“Oberlander has cynically abused our courts to avoid prosecution in Germany.”
Shimon Koffler Fogel, chief executive of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a Jewish advocacy group, called it “obscene abuse of the Canadian justice system,” that has stretched over decades.
“Oberlander was a member of a Nazi death squad responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of Jewish women, men, and children. The Federal Court ruled in 2018 that he contributed to the murderous aims of the unit and should never have been allowed to come here. If he evades justice again, it will be a disgrace to our justice system and slap in the face of Holocaust survivors and their descendants.”
B'nai Brith Canada, a Jewish Human Rights organization, said giving more leeway to Oberlander is “a disgrace to Canada's reputation.”
Requests for comment from Oberlander's two lawyers went unanswered prior to deadline.
Canada has been trying to deport Oberlander for decades because of his Nazi past, and lying about it when he immigrated to Canada. Four times his Canadian citizenship was stripped from him and three times that decision was overturned by the courts, in 2001, 2007, and 2012.
In 2019 the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear Oberlander's appeal of the last revocation of his citizenship. He was found to have entered Canada fraudulently in 1954 by failing to disclose his activities with the Nazis, tainting his citizenship application.
His lawyers have continued to fight, however. His family has said they wish for him to remain in Canada until his death.
Court documents say he is barely able to see or hear and has diminished mental capacity to understand the proceedings against him.
Oberlander is an ethnic German who lived in the Soviet Union — in what is now Ukraine — during the Second World War when it was invaded by Nazi forces. Then a teenager, he was assigned to work as a translator for Einsatzkommando 10a, known as Ek10a, one of the special police task forces that operated in occupied territory.
A Canadian judge described them as “mobile killing units” used by the Nazi SS for mass murder.
Oberlander's family earlier said he should be regarded as a former child soldier because he was “forcibly conscripted on the threat of death by the Nazis at age 17.”
In 2019, after the Supreme Court denied his appeal, his family issued a statement saying he “has been unjustly persecuted for 24 years by the Government of Canada. Mr. Oberlander has never been charged with any crime.”
Oberlander was among the first targets of a war crimes unit set up by the federal government in the 1990s.
Because of the passage of time and the difficulty in obtaining criminal prosecutions, deportation was turned to as a more realistic goal.
Most Canadians who received Employment Insurance or one of the federal government's many COVID-19 financial aid benefits last year will have one full year to repay any 2020 tax debts interest-free, National Post has learned.
The Trudeau government is set to announce the new relief measures Tuesday, sources confirmed to National Post. The sources were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss this matter publicly.
To be eligible for the interest relief, individuals must have made a maximum of $75,000 in taxable income in 2020 and received one or more of the government's five COVID-19 financial aid measures (or any equivalent provincial emergency benefit).
Those are the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB).
Taxpayers who were on EI for one or more periods throughout 2020 — regardless of whether the job loss was caused by the pandemic or not — will also be eligible for the interest relief.
The new measure will only affect tax debts contracted in 2020, and will have no impact on outstanding amounts owing from previous years.
Another novelty for the 2020 tax season: the Canada Revenue Agency won't claw back monthly or quarterly credits and benefits (such as GST/HST credits or the Canada Child Benefit) to pay for tax debts owed by COVID-19 relief program recipients, the sources confirmed.
Normally, if a taxpayer has an outstanding debt with the CRA and is eligible to receive one or many of those credits and benefits, the agency would withhold those payments and apply them against the amount owing until the entire debt is settled.
But Canadians who qualify for the COVID-19 interest relief program will still receive the full amount of credits and benefits they're eligible for, regardless of if they have any outstanding tax debts for the 2020 tax year.
Sources were not able to say how many Canadians would be impacted by this new program. As of now, there have been 8.9 million CERB applicants, 1.66 million CRB applicants, 708,000 CESB applicants, 368,830 CRSB applicants and 321,350 CRCB applicants.
The announcement comes as a growing chorus of Canadians who received government aid during the pandemic are expressing concern about the possibility of having to repay some or all of it as the 2020 tax season begins shortly. For example, some people who
THE NEW MEASURE WILL ONLY AFFECT TAX DEBTS CONTRACTED
“double-dipped” CERB payments will have to reimburse at least one of the duplicate payments they received.
The government's recouping efforts begin during a time when many businesses have ground to a near-complete halt as many provinces impose strict lockdowns to curb the second wave of COVID-19 washing across the country.
In December, the CRA created a significant stir when over 440,000 Canadians received an “educational letter” informing them they may need to repay some or all COVID-19 aid payments if they could not prove their eligibility come the 2020 tax season.