War Criminal, Multiculturalism, and Post-war Liberalism in Canada

Thumbnail Image
Arac, Katelyn
History , Justice , Immigration , Identity
In 1985, the federal government of Canada responded to concerns that Nazi war criminals were resident in the country by establishing a Royal Commission. Under the leadership of Judge Jules Deschênes the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals was asked to investigate three questions: if war criminals had migrated into the country; if they had, how many were still residents; and, what legal options were available to respond to these individuals. The presence of alleged war criminals in Canada caused division in the nation as various interest groups lobbied the federal government for action. This dissertation traces the history of Nazi war criminals in Canada from 1945 to 2000. I deconstruct the complicated history of immigration policy using the subject of war criminals – how they entered the country and why their presence was not subject to more scrutiny – as a lens to critique Canada’s national post-war project of ethnic pluralism and multiculturalism and to look at concepts of inclusion, exclusion, and the shifting nature of policy. I look at processes of immigration to discuss how the presence of Nazi war criminals among the thousands of migrant Displaced Persons exposed the prejudices within immigration policy. Migrants were selected that embodied Canadian ideals, that fit within the image of Canada. Central to this dissertation is the concept of justice. To demonstrate and understand judicial action towards Nazi war criminals, I use various case studies, including Jacques de Bernonville, Helmut Rauca, Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele, Imre Finta, Wasily Bogutin, and Serge Kisluk. I argue that Canada’s judicial response to war criminals displays the state’s inconsistent dispensation of justice. This project analyzes the Commission to evaluate how Canada became entangled in a fractious debate over war criminals by considering the divisions created between different cultural lobby groups, predominantly Jewish and Ukrainian, and in the ramifications of the Commission’s findings. In the course of debates about how Canada should respond to the question of war criminals, there existed a deeper question about justice – about who determines what justice is and how it is applied.
External DOI