By Justin Sadler ,Ottawa Sun
An RCMP source says “at least a few dozen” suspected war criminals are living at large in the capital region.
“Bosnia, Serbia, Rwanda, Africa … they come from all over, they get in, then they disappear,” said the source.
Despite screening processes by the Canadian Border Services Agency and its partners, including the Mounties, many of those involved in atrocities are beating the system by applying for visas or refugee status claiming they’re from other countries, often with fake ID, the source said.
“And many of them have been there for years,” post-conflict, after leaving their home countries out of fear, the source said, making it hard to trace their histories.
The border agency’s Ottawa-based war crimes section is primarily responsible for intelligence and screening to help visa officers identify suspected war criminals, but the effort to keep these people out of the country also involves the departments of justice and immigration along with the RCMP.
The latest available data, from 2008, shows 326 people were denied entry to the country because of possible involvement in war crimes or crimes against humanity. There were 361 the previous year.
The same year, 23 people were turfed from the country after they were found to have beem involved in war crimes abroad and border agency officials intervened at 80 refugee hearings in cases involving war crime allegations. Still, 29 people were granted status despite suspicions.
“The system works for the most part,” the source said.
Retired Colonel and law professor Michel Drapeau agrees but says the numbers point to a chink in the country’s armour.
“If this is the case … there’s a flaw somewhere in the system that these individuals have been able to operate below radar for a long period of time,” he said.
It’s easy to presume most of these people came to our shores, Drapeau said, and through our immigration system. Canada, presumably without knowing it, has provided them with sanctuary so they can live their old days not only in safety, but also enjoying the rights and privileges — such as free health care and education — afforded its citizens.
The border agency would not disclose the exact number of suspects it believes live in Ottawa.
Spokesman Luc Labelle would only say “records do not indicate any individuals subject to warrants for war crimes in the Ottawa area.”
The official line coming from the Mounties is also vague, its spokesman only saying it has “no outstanding arrest warrants for alleged war criminals.”
Citing privacy laws, though, border officials refuse to identify suspects.
Drapeau contested the refusal, saying the Privacy Act allows for such exceptions when it’s in the public interest.
“I believe, for the sake of their victims and for the sake of humanity, we need to deploy whatever resources we have to go and seek them out and bring them to justice even if it’s late in their lives,” Drapeau said.
“We owe it to international law, but more specifically the victims.”