Suspected war criminal arrested in Alberta

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says suspected war criminal Cristobal Gonzalez-Ramirez has been arrested in Alberta after authorities received several tips from the public.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says suspected war criminal Cristobal Gonzalez-Ramirez has been arrested in Alberta after authorities received several tips from the public.

Cristobal Gonzalez-Ramirez is alleged to have been part of a special army unit in Honduras. ((CBSA))

Kenney made the announcement at a press conference in Montreal on Friday, just one day after the government launched a website containing the names of 30 alleged war criminals.

"Our government received a strong mandate from Canadians to keep our streets and communities safe, and maintain the integrity of our immigration system," Kenney said in a statement. "We asked the public for assistance in apprehending these individuals and the response has been overwhelmingly positive."

Kenney said Gonzalez-Ramirez, 44, belonged to a special army unit in Honduras, where his crimes are alleged to have been committed.

Gonzalez-Ramirez first made a refugee claim in Canada in 2006, but was declared inadmissible a year later. 

Kenney said a 2009 pre-removal assessment showed no indication he'd face any danger if he was sent home. He was scheduled for removal in March 2010 but vanished.

Kenney said he couldn't go into much detail about the arrest of Gonzalez-Ramirez. His last known address was in Edmonton but Kenney did not want to reveal where he was arrested.

Gonzalez-Ramirez is now in detention awaiting deportation.

Kenney said tips from the public continue to pour in.

"We owe it to Canadians to ensure that those who are not welcome in this country because of suspected involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity are removed and we are very pleased with the co-operation of the public on this case," he said.

Government publishes names, photos

At a press conference in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, the government announced the creation of a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) website that contained the names and pictures of 30 suspected war criminals believed to be living illegally in Canada.

Kenney said then that anyone who has committed or been an accomplice to war crimes should be "rounded up and kicked out of Canada."

He said there are stringent measures to prevent war criminals from entering the country, but it can be difficult to spot those who apply for asylum using false passports.

A note on the CBSA website says: "It has been determined that they violated human or international rights under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act or under international law." 

CBC News is not publishing the names or photos of the suspects at this time.

Takes away presumption of innocence

The government's decision to publish the names, photos and last-known locations of the 30 individuals has been questioned by some people.

Quebec immigration lawyer Dan Bohbot said the list takes away the presumption of innocence.

He said the invitation of tips from the general population might "cause a witch hunt."

Another lawyer said at least one of the accused was never linked to any crime.

Raoul Boulakia said his client, whom he represented in Federal Court and is on the list of 30, was excluded from immigrating here because he belonged to an organization in Ghana that at one time committed human rights abuses. But he emphasized his client was never found guilty of any crimes nor was any evidence tabled in Federal Court to that effect.

"So what the government says about these people is very extreme and, I don't know all 30 cases, but I do know about the one case that I dealt with that it's just not accurate," he said.

Boulakia added that there is nothing wrong with government trying to find these people.

"But the tone and the actual content of what they're saying is very alarmist and really exaggerates the situation," he said.

However, Safety Minister Vic Toews said the decision to publish the photos was in response to a request from Sun Media, adding that several cultural communities had also asked that the pictures be shared.

Communication breakdown

Police in Medicine Hat, Alta., said Friday the federal government failed to notify local authorities that a suspected war criminal was living in the city for four years.

Staff Sgt. Brent Secondiak said there had been a communication breakdown, adding that local police do not know what crimes the man is alleged to have committed.

Kenney did not comment directly when asked about the complaints from Medicine Hat police but said any individual under a removal order is put on a national watch list that is accessible to RCMP, provincial and local police.

Kenney said all of them are under active deportation orders.

"I can't speak to whether there might be some gaps in access for certain local police services."

With files from The Canadian Press