Ottawa seeks help to hunt war criminals

The federal government released the names of 30 suspected war criminals Thursday, saying they should be “rounded up and kicked out of Canada” to protect the country’s immigration system.

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — The federal government released the names of 30 suspected war criminals Thursday, saying they should be “rounded up and kicked out of Canada” to protect the country’s immigration system.

Ottawa launched a website identifying dozens of men accused of committing or being accomplices to war crimes in an effort to drum up new leads that could help track and deport them.

Though the Canada Border Services Agency rarely names alleged war criminals, in these cases, “the necessity of apprehension is particularly acute,” the agency’s president, Luc Portelance, said at a news conference.

Canada has some of the toughest rules in the world when it comes to keeping war criminals out of the country, but it can be difficult to spot those who make refugee claims using false passports, said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

At the same time, Kenney said he’s concerned some war criminals may be setting their sights on Canada because “our asylum system has a reputation for laxity.”

“It is therefore extremely important that those who have lied to us, who have snuck into the country without declaring their complicity in such crimes be rounded up and kicked out of Canada,” he said.

“They do not belong in this country of peace and respect for human rights.”

Kenney’s comments are his latest move in an ongoing campaign to reshape Canada’s immigration system.

While the minister recognizes that Canada needs more immigrants to keep its labour market strong, he is also being increasingly selective about what kind of immigrants Canada brings in.

He also announced Wednesday the federal government plans to revoke the citizenship of at least 1,800 people who allegedly used fraudulent means to become Canadians.

Arthur Sweetman, a policy expert and professor at McMaster University, said Thursday’s announcement is “perfectly consistent” with the government’s overall stance on immigration and its tough-on-crime agenda.

“I think that what they’re looking for is an ordered, structured, legal immigration system rather than the so-called people jumping the queue,” he said.

“I think they would view war criminals as being the extreme case of people illegally entering the country (or) jumping the queue.”

About 300 people are denied entry to Canada each year because of potential violations to human or international rights, said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

Toews said the government may release more names in the future if the website is successful.

It’s unclear what crimes the men — who come from a number of countries, including Ghana, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Peru — are accused of committing.

Their names and some photos can be found through the Canada Border Services Agency website

Officials would not comment on the allegations against the men, citing privacy concerns.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said the government has already breached the men’s privacy by publishing their names and photos and labelling them war criminals.

“These are not people who, as far as I understand it, have been convicted of any crime,” she said.

“They’re people who … are found inadmissible under Canadian law or excluded under the refugee definition, which is a much lower threshold and it includes things where there’s just reasonable grounds for believing something.”

It could also mean a driver or police officer under an oppressive regime could be lumped in with someone personally responsible for crimes against humanity, she said.

The suspects all have deportation orders against them, officials said.

Portelance said many of the people identified were last seen in the Greater Toronto Area but “could be anywhere in Canada.”