Canada has a Nazi problem. And no, I don't mean those modern Nazis who some media outlets insist on irresponsibly calling the "alt-right" (though we have plenty of those, too). I mean, honest-to-god, World War II era German members of the Nazi party.
After the War, it is estimated that somewhere between 2000 and 5000 Nazis fled to Canada. The Canadian government did nothing about this for a full 40 years. It wasn't until 1985 that pressure from the Canadian Jewish community forced the Federal government to launch the Deschênes Commission to dig into exactly how bad the problem was. The report turned up the names of 886 possible suspects still alive and living in the country.
Guess how many of those were successfully convicted of war crimes?
If you guessed any more than zero, you were way off.
Only 26 charges were laid between 1987 and 1992. Of those, only 4 went to court, and none were successfully convicted. One prime example is Imre Finta, a Toronto restaurant owner who went on trial in 1990 as one of the key officials who rounded up some 8000 Jews in Hungary and sent them to Auschwitz. He was acquitted, and the decision was held up twice during appeals, because the courts accepted the defence that "believing Jews to be the enemy was a legitimate excuse for killing them."
I originally had a "disgusted face" animated gif here, but I can't bring myself to make light of how shockingly terrible this whole situation is.
After that gob-smackingly stupid precedent was set, there was little hope of convicting anyone, so the government changed tactics. Following cues from our American neighbours, Canada began stripping suspected Nazis of their citizenship and then deporting them back to Europe, where the criminal justice system was much better at prosecuting them.
Guess how well that worked?
Since 1994, we successfully withdrew the citizenship of only 10 suspected Nazis. Two of those left willingly and the other eight stayed in Canada until they died of old age. Once again, we continue to bat a perfect 1.000 at not dealing with Nazi war criminals.
I actually have a personal anecdote related to this story. When I was kid I knew a guy a couple of years older than me whose father was German. In his house they had proudly displayed his father's war medals, which including an Iron Cross and other Nazi memorabilia. As a kid it didn't really click with me how disgusting and horrifying this was, nor did I contemplate how in some countries just owning this stuff would be illegal. His grandfather lived out his life in Canada, never fearing persecution for anything he may have done, and never even feeling the need to hide it.
This boggles my mind. Canadians are SO fucking polite that we even turn a blind eye when our neighbour may be a goddamn war criminal. I don't have any excuses or explanation for this particular bit of Canadian trivia, just embarrassment and disgust.
My A-to-Z Blogging Challenge theme for 2017 is Weird Canadian Facts and History. To see more blog posts, click here.