CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

The Deschênes Commission on war criminals

The Story

How many war criminals live among us? The Deschênes Commission -- two years and $60 million in the making -- will release its findings. As heard in this CBC Radio report, Canadians are of two minds about the anticipated report. Some critics argue about the fairness of the extradition process and the definition of the term "war criminal." But others are undeterred by these arguments and indicate that its high time Canada correct the record. "It's time," historian Irving Abella says passionately, "to write the last chapter of the Second World War."

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: Jan. 18, 1987
Guest(s): Irving Abella, Y.R. Botiuk, Leslie Green, Robert Kaplan, Sol Littman, Oskar Morawetz, John Sopinka, Wasyl Weryha
Host: Linden MacIntyre
Reporter: Paul Carvalho
Duration: 21:30

Did You know?

• The Deschênes Commission defined "war criminals" as "All persons, whatever their past and present nationality, currently resident in Canada and allegedly responsible for crimes against peace, war crimes or crimes against humanity related to the activities of Nazi Germany and committed between 1 September 1939 and 9 May 1945, both dates inclusive."

• The accusation that the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele had immigrated to Canada was one of the reasons the Deschênes Commission was called during Brian Mulroney's term as prime minister. Rumours persisted that the infamous doctor, who had performed medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners, was in fact still living in Canada under an alias. Robert Kaplan, former solicitor general, spearheaded the call for an investigation of war criminals in Canada. During its proceedings, the commission found that Mengele never entered Canada.

• The report also detailed a secret telegram issued from the British Commonwealth Relations Office to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Ceylon. The memo stated, "In our view, punishment of war criminals is more a matter of discouraging future generations than of meting out retribution to every guilty individual. Moreover, in view of future political developments in Germany envisaged by recent tripartite talks, we are convinced that it is now necessary to dispose of the past as soon as possible."

• The memo further advised no new war criminal trials should be started after Aug. 31, 1948.
• For more on the Deschênes Commission, please view the next clip.


Fleeing Justice: War Criminals in Canada more