Deportation: The cheap road to "justice"?

The Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, which seeks both to bar the entry of war criminals into Canada and to facilitate their prosecution, entered into force twelve years ago. Four departments and agencies of the government are tasked with implementing the war crimes law: the Canadian Border Services Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Justice Department, and the RCMP, each of which has its own role in ensuring that justice and security prevail.

However, as Sneh Duggal reports (“War crimes program without budget boost for 14 years,”, 18 January 2012), the miniscule budget assigned to the RCMP’s part of the job has made war crimes prosecutions few and far between. Of the $15.6 million allocated to the program across all four agencies, the RCMP receives a mere $682,000, an amount that has not increased in the 14 years since it was originally designated:

Budgets follow policy priorities, said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.

“The priority that we see, which seems to be reflected in the budget allocation, is that Canada continues to give priority to the ‘deport them’ solution,” she said, “without looking at the issue of how best to make sure that people are brought to justice and also how best to make sure that they are tried fairly.”

The article, worth reading in full, quotes a large number of other Canadian legal and human rights experts, including Matt Eisenbrandt, legal director for the Canadian Centre for International Justice, who argues for greater emphasis on prosecution:

There needs to be a big boost in resources as well as a realignment of the government’s priorities away from deportations and more on criminal investigations and prosecutions, said Mr. Eisenbrandt.

“Investigations of this kind are very complex. And the fact that the RCMP receives significantly less than the other departments shows that there’s not nearly enough emphasis being given to criminal investigations,” he added. “[Having] $682,000 to conduct investigations overseas, sometimes in several different countries in difficult circumstances, doesn’t strike me as being nearly enough.”

Errol Mendes, University of Ottawa law professor and former director of the university’s Human Rights Research and Education Centre, is also quoted:

While the deportation route is quicker and cheaper… the government needs to question whether that really fulfills the spirit of Canada’s commitment under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act to prosecute in Canada.

Photo by Ian Britton

Tags: Canada, Crimes against humanity, Errol Mendes, Janet Dench, Matt Eisenbrandt, War crimes