On the heels of the death of Bill Horace, an alleged warlord living in London, Amnesty International says that Canada "washes its hands of responsibility" when it comes to adequately prosecuting alleged war criminals.
But MPs say that prosecuting alleged war criminals is of high importance, but emphasize the difficulty of gathering evidence to convict alleged war criminals in Canadian courts.
Bill Horace, who was shot dead in London in late June, had ties to a rebel group in Liberia whose alleged war crimes were under investigation, but Horace was never charged by Canadian officials.
Law professor at McGill University, Sébastien Jodoin, helped draft the report in the No Safe Haven series by Amnesty International, that says war crimes programs are grossly underfunded and underused.
“The governments own sort of review program says, ‘We are not doing enough, and it’s because we don’t have enough money.'”
Jodoin says that the annual budget of $15.6 million is used mostly on deporting alleged war criminals than investigating them, because it’s more cost-effective.
London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos says that anytime there are possible war criminals living in Canada, "That’s a deep concern and they must be prosecuted."
Fragiskatos says the challenge is carrying out an effective prosecution and getting a guilty verdict.
“In these cases it would be necessary for Canadian lawyers to go to the country in question and gather evidence, that all hinges on whether or not the country's government gives permission."
He adds that gathering credible evidence is an issue of itself, “Getting access to the sites where alleged crimes took place can be very hard, getting access to documents that would establish a pattern of criminality...is often extremely difficult if not impossible.”
An evaluation of the program by Canada's Department of Justice found that Canada is meeting its international obligation, but adds, “Several key informants were critical of Canada’s preference for immigration remedies, arguing this approach displaces international criminals, but does not hold them accountable."
The $15.6 million per year budget for the war crimes program has not increased since its inception in 1998, while Amnesty International say the cost of an investigation that would lead to criminal prosecution has only risen in Canada.
"People prefer the idea of not thinking about this and they don’t want these people to come here…out of sight out of mind, but I think we are better than that as a country and we have a record of combatting impunity and being apart of international justice and I think we should do our part,” says Jodoin.