The Conservative government has released a U.S.-style list of Canada's 30 most-wanted suspected war criminals, part of a flurry of recent political announcements targeting immigration cheats.
The foreigners are now deemed priority targets to kick out of Canada because they "violated human or international rights" in their homelands, according to the list posted online Thursday. The cases, some of which date back 20 years or more, mostly appear to involve failed refugee claimants who went underground after their bids for asylum failed.
Canadian law banishes foreigners who are found to be complicit in war crimes, even though these allegations often don't surface until well after people arrive. The 30 men face deportation arrest warrants, but not criminal charges. Many cases appear to have been on the backburner for years, and were never before deemed top priorities by the Canada Border Services Agency, the federal agency in charge of deportations.
The Tories' tough-on-immigration-cheats messaging mirrors the anti-crime pronouncements that helped the party gain majority status during May's federal election. Earlier this week, the Conservatives announced plans to strip citizenship from 1,800 Canadians who are alleged to have obtained their citizenship under false pretences. A week ago, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney publicly applauded the Indonesian arrest of a ship of 80 Tamil migrants, claiming the vessel was bound for Canada.
Critics charge that the political rhetoric can often be inflammatory.
"These people are being described in a way that's highly exaggerated," said Raoul Boulakia, a Toronto lawyer who represented one of the 30 foreigners listed as a war-crimes suspect.
Mr. Boulakia, a past president of the Refugee Lawyers Association, said he's never before seen immigration authorities release dozens of mug shots of alleged war criminals. He doesn't dispute his past client faces deportation after losing his case – "I don't know what happened with the file after '97," he said – but stressed that he now fears for the man's safety.
"Anywhere he is in the world, people can now assume he has tortured or killed, which is completely false," Mr. Boulakia said. The client in question, he says, was found to be inadmissible to Canada for being involved in a Ghanaian group allegedly involved in human-rights violations. The courts never heard evidence his client was directly culpable in violence.
Few details about the individual cases were provided by the government Thursday. Federal Court records speak to some details.
One of the wanted men, for example, is a former Peruvian Army helicopter gunner who implicated himself in war crimes as he came to Canada claiming to be a conscientious objector.
"In December, 1987, I was part of a helicopter crew involved in the murder of two civilians," the Peruvian said in his written application for Canadian refugee status. "They were shot in my helicopter in my presence by army personnel on suspicion of being terrorists and then their bodies were weighted down with rocks and pushed out of the aircraft into a river."
He then added: "I was part of a helicopter crew which attacked a village of civilians with rocket and machine gun fire. … The victims of the attack included women and children."
The Peruvian was deemed inadmissible and deportable around 2005, but apparently never left Canada, a country that rarely jails asylum seekers for the years-long duration of their cases.
The most-wanted list was announced in Toronto Thursday by Mr. Kenney and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. They were joined by Luc Portelance, the CBSA chief now being touted as a leading candidate to become the next commissioner of the RCMP.