TORONTO — The Canadian government is likely to thwart a bid for refugee status by Ernst Zundel, a notorious Holocaust denier who was deported from the United States to Canada last week and is being held in a Niagara Falls, Ontario, detention center.
The German-born Zundel, who lived in Canada for more than 40 years without citizenship before moving to Tennessee in 2001, filed a refugee claim last week with the Canadian immigration authorities. He fears he will be deported to his native Germany, where he was convicted in absentia of hate crimes and could face a prison sentence.
Under Canada’s liberal refugee policy, asylum-seekers are often able to remain in the country for years while their cases meander through a drawn-out refugee-status determination process, complete with appeals. But Immigration Minister Denis Coderre vowed that Zundel would not be allowed to “make a mockery” of the process, and his office is expected to use the security-risk provisions of the country’s Immigration Act to thwart Zundel’s bid.
Even if Zundel were to fail in his asylum application, as a permanent resident he would not be deportable. The only way he can be removed is as a security risk, said David Matas, an immigration lawyer and honorary senior counsel for B’nai Brith Canada. The security-risk provisions, which are usually applied to suspected terrorists, allow for a deportation hearing with only minimal due process.
In such a case, a federal judge would hold a closed hearing, providing the suspect’s lawyer with only a brief written summary of the government’s case against him. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the domestic spy agency, advised the government back in 1996 that Zundel was a national security risk because of his ties to racist groups.
Leo Adler, director of national affairs for the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he is uncertain that the security-risk label fits Zundel. “I don’t know that there’s a real basis for it, as obnoxious as his views are. You don’t stretch [legislation] just for the sake of catching a bad guy.”
Matas criticized Coderre for failing to urge his American counterparts to deport Zundel to Germany rather than Canada. “All it would have required was a phone call. I have no doubt that if the Canadians had said, ‘do us a favor, send this guy back to Germany,’ the Americans would have said ‘sure.’”
But now that Zundel is on Canadian soil, Matas said, the only way to evict him is through the security provisions. Matas noted that Zundel was able to fight his original security-risk designation in the courts for five years before leaving Canada.
Zundel, 63, moved to the United States in 2001, but was arrested early this month at his home outside Knoxville, Tenn. American immigration officials, who said his visa had expired, handed him over to Canadian authorities at the Peace Bridge at Niagara Falls. He is being held at the Niagara Detention Center.
Zundel first came to Canada as a teenager in 1958. He was twice tried by Canadian courts for publishing a pamphlet called “Did Six Million Really Die?” and was twice convicted, only to be set free by appellate courts. Though he won permanent-resident status, his attempts for citizenship were rebuffed because of his extremist views. In December 2000, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear more appeals in his bid for citizenship.
It was then that Zundel headed south. He married an American citizen and vowed never to return to Canada. “You’re talking to the new Ernst Zundel,” he said at the time. “They used to accuse me of Holocaust denial. Well, now I’m in Canada-denial. I have put Canada behind me.”