Man denied access to his information following war crimes investigation

A European immigrant, now a Canadian citizen, requested my intervention after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) repeatedly denied him access to its investigation file of his involvement in Nazi activities in Jewish death camps during World War II.

The man was denied entry into the United States in 1990 when his name appeared in a database containing information gathered by the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations (OSI). The database contained the names of all members of a Nazi unit, regardless of rank, occupation or activity. The OSI then asked the RCMP to investigate the extent of the man's involvement in the Nazi unit. During the investigation, carried out jointly by the RCMP's War Crimes Section and Justice Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Section, the RCMP interviewed the man about the U.S. allegations.

Over a period of several years, he attempted to obtain information from the RCMP about its investigation so that he could take appropriate action to clear his name, but was always rebuffed. The RCMP claimed it was still looking into the allegations and releasing anything from its files might jeopardize the integrity of its investigation.

He requested a copy of the file again in 2000 after he received correspondence from the Department of Justice advising him that its joint investigation with the RCMP was concluded and the file had been closed. The RCMP refused again, saying the file was exempted in its entirety under section 22(1)(a) of the Privacy Act, and verbally told him that the case was still ongoing. He then complained to my Office.

When a privacy officer of my Investigations Branch reviewed the information withheld by the RCMP, he noted that some of the information was almost 60 years old and therefore did not qualify for exemption under the provision cited by the RCMP. The RCMP then considered applying another exempting provision, section 22(1)(b), but to do so properly, the RCMP would have to demonstrate the injury that would likely occur to its investigation if the information were released. Since the investigation was already concluded, the privacy officer questioned how disclosure of the information could cause injury. The RCMP maintained that its investigation was not yet finalized even though there had been no activity on the file since 1997.

After the privacy officer confirmed with the Department of Justice's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Section that the case was closed for lack of evidence to proceed, the RCMP conceded and agreed to disclose information from its file.

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