TORONTO – War criminal Michael Seifert stands one step closer to extradition after the Supreme Court of Canada turned down his request that it review a lower court decision permitting his removal to Italy.
The high court gave no reasons for its decision, but its refusal to hear the case leaves in place a B.C. Court of Appeal judgment that permitted Canada to extradite Seifert to Italy.
Seifert, 83, was convicted in absentia by an Italian court of war crimes in connection with his service as an SS guard at the Bolzano concentration camp. The Italian court found him guilty of helping kill and torture 11 people at the Bolzano camp in 1944 and 1945.
When the war crimes allegations were raised, the federal government proceeded on two parallel tracks to remove him from Canada. It opened denaturalization proceedings to strip Seifert of his citizenship, and in 2006, then Justice Minister Irwin Cotler signed a surrender order permitting Seifert’s extradition.
Seifert challenged both the extradition and citizenship-removal cases in court. In November, a federal court judge ruled Seifert entered Canada and acquired citizenship illegally, “by misrepresenting and concealing his activities during the war and his place of birth.” That finding permitted the federal cabinet to strip Seifert of his citizenship, but before it did so, the parallel extradition case was resolved by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s decision “means the surrender order signed by the minister is valid and the way is clear for his extradition to Italy,” said Alain Charette, speaking for the Justice Department.
Seifert “has been afforded due process under our extradition law,” said Charette, adding the Supreme Court’s decision marks the last opportunity for Seifert to challenge his removal under Canada’s extradition law. Jewish groups urged the government to quickly remove Seifert to Italy.
“Canada is ill-served having this man living amongst us, and we now strongly urge the federal government to honour Italy’s extradition request and immediately send the ‘beast of Bolzano’ back to his home to face the justice he has so long evaded,” said Keith Landy, chair of Canadian Jewish Congress’ war crimes committee.
“Canada’s highest court has ruled that there will be no appeal for Michael Seifert. There is nothing further standing in the way of what we expect will be his immediate extradition from this country,” said Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada. “There is only one outcome in this case that will serve the cause of justice and that is for his immediate removal from Canada.”
Landy called on the federal government “to deal with the remaining cases of denaturalization and deportation with Nazi-era defendants,” while Dimant noted B’nai Brith launched a court challenge last August seeking judicial review of the federal government’s decision not to revoke the citizenship of Wasyl Odynsky and Vladimir Katriuk. Courts have found both guilty of lying about their war-time pasts when entering the country.