Canada's Program on Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes - 2011–2015: 13th Report

Profile of the War Crimes Program

On February 7, 1985, the Government of Canada established the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada (the Deschênes Commission) “to conduct such investigations regarding alleged [Nazi] war criminals in Canada, including whether any such persons are now resident in Canada and when and how they obtained entry to Canada.” The Deschênes Commission’s final report included recommendations on how to bring war criminals to justice, including amendments to laws and procedures governing the prosecution and removal of war criminals, the revocation of citizenship and the extradition of individuals wanted by other countries for serious international crimes.

In response to The Deschênes Commission’s report, the Government of Canada established specialized war crimes sections within the Department of Justice, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration in order to implement the recommendations outlined in the report. The War Crimes Program, as an interdepartmental initiative between the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, the Department of Justice and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was subsequently established in 1998; the Canada Border Services Agency became a program partner upon its inception in December 2003.

On December 18, 1998, Canada signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, ushering in even stronger laws criminalizing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. In addition, the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act received Royal Assent on June 29, 2000, and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act received Royal Assent on November 1, 2001. These legislative developments reinforced Canada’s existing “no safe haven” policy and established Canada as a global leader in holding persons who have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide accountable.

While the War Crimes Program initially focused on war crimes cases stemming from the Second World War, the Program has evolved to include a number of cases that stem from post-Second World War events, such as conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda or Iraq, and that involve not only war crimes but also crimes against humanity or genocide. The War Crimes Program emphasizes immigration remedies, namely refusing visas and denying entry to Canada to persons who are inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Immigration remedies have been found to be effective and cost efficient. Criminal investigations and prosecutions of war criminals are the most expensive and resource-intensive remedies and, as such, are pursued infrequently. Nonetheless, the ability to conduct criminal investigations and to prosecute is an important element of the War Crimes Program. In some cases, a criminal justice response is the most appropriate action and sends a strong message to Canadians and the international community that the Government of Canada does not tolerate impunity for war criminals or for persons who have committed crimes against humanity or genocide.

Date modified: