Ottawa, 23 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Canada plans to triple the money and resources devoted to hunting war criminals, past and present.
Justice Minister Anne McLellan and Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard announced on Tuesday that the Canadian government will spend $31.5 million over three years to pursue war criminals living in Canada.
In a statement, McLellan said "Canada is not a safe haven for war criminals and the actions of this government over the past three years have made this very plain." Robillard said "Let it be clear to war criminals and all those involved in crimes against humanity who have fled to Canada that we are determined to remove them from Canadian soil."
The money will allow the Canadian Justice Department to initiate 14 new investigations of Second World War cases and let the Immigration Department increase its efforts to deport alleged war criminals from more recent conflicts.
The Canadian government also released the first annual report of its war crimes unit. It shows that investigators have looked into 1,571 war crimes allegations from World War II. Of these, 880 have been closed -- many because suspects have died. There are still 90 active cases and 280 inactive, mainly because there is insufficient evidence.
Since 1995, the Canadian government has moved against 15 people suspected of being Nazi war criminals. Three suspects died before their cases ended. Two others have had their citizenship revoked and been deported from Canada. A third case is nearing conclusion and the others are in various stages before the courts.
Irving Abella, chairman of the War Crimes Committee of the Canadian Jewish Congress, welcomed the government's announcement. "I think it's long overdue and that it's a very strong message that the Canadian government is sending out -- that Canada is no longer open to war criminals."
Canada has had a reputation for being half-hearted in its efforts to find and prosecute alleged war criminals, especially those from the Second World War.
Of the increased funding, most will go towards investigating modern war criminals from such countries as Bosnia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Haiti and parts of South America. In recent years, Canada has deported about 80 modern suspects.