Will Canada finally release top-secret papers on suspected Nazi war criminals who moved to this country?

The headquarters of Library and Archives Canada on Wellington Street in Ottawa, Ont., hold the Deschênes Commission papers, which document how many Nazi war criminals found their way to Canada—and why they were allowed to stay. (Photo by Padraic Ryan/Wikimedia Commons)

As the fallout continues from the Canadian Parliament applauding a 98-year-old former member of a Nazi-led Ukrainian Waffen SS unit, the spotlight is focusing on how the former soldier Yaroslav Hunka and thousands of other Second World War enemy troops like him, were permitted to come to Canada in the first place.

For decades, Jewish groups have been calling on the Canadian government to release the complete files from the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada—known as the Deschênes Commission—which, from 1985 to 1986, looked into how many Nazi war criminals were here and what Canada could do about it. While the final report led to a few (mostly unsuccessful) prosecutions, much of the detailed information, including the names and cases of hundreds of other suspects, was never released. The papers are held by Library and Archives Canada, the Department of Justice and the RCMP.

Now, however, some are hoping the international public embarrassment might convince the federal government to finally reckon with Canada’s past and release all these historic files.

On The CJN Daily, we meet the main Canadian historian, Alti Rodal, who worked for the Deschênes Commission nearly 40 years ago. Then we speak to David Matas, B’nai Brith’s senior legal counsel, who intervened in those hearings in 1985 and continues to lobby for the full records to be made public.

What we talked about

  • Why Edmonton’s Jewish community wants two monuments honouring Ukrainian Nazi soldiers finally taken down, in The CJN
  • Read the B’nai Brith Canada brief to Parliament on why Canada should release the Deschênes Commission documents in full and read the Canadian government’s update (1998) on names of suspected war criminals and what happened to their cases
  • What the political fallout will be on Canada’s “blunder” to give two standing ovations to a former Ukrainian soldier in the Waffen SS’s 14th Division, on The CJN Daily


The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer.Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To subscribe to this podcast, please watch this video. Donate to The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt by clicking here.