War Crimes Program


The War Crimes Program supports Canada’s commitment towards international justice and the fight against impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. To that end, the Program works to ensure that people who commit or are complicit in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide do not enter Canada. When such individuals do arrive in Canada, despite robust immigration screening processes, the War Crimes Program seeks to remove their immigration status, remove them from Canada and/or prosecute them. In doing so, the War Crimes Program also protects the integrity of Canada’s immigration and refugee policies by not extending rights and privileges to persons who have committed or have been complicit in these crimes.

Program partners

Canada’s War Crimes Program is delivered jointly by four program partners:

Together, these departments and agencies:

Each program partner plays a specific role in the War Crimes Program based on its expertise and mandate.


The War Crimes Program also works with various other government departments, as well as other domestic and international stakeholders, to achieve its goals including:

Within the Government of Canada

Other Domestic Stakeholders

International Stakeholders


The Program also receives information from domestic and international sources concerning individuals who are alleged to have committed or been complicit in crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide. Sources include members of the public, other police services, and international tribunals. The Program reviews every allegation and where appropriate investigates the facts and takes legal action. The relevant program partner will undertake the investigation according to its own mandate and, in consultation with other program partners, make decisions regarding the course of the investigation.

When determining the most appropriate legal option, the War Crimes Program considers a number of criteria including, the existence of a request for extradition or surrender; the gravity of the offences; the type of participation in the offences; and, the availability and accessibility of evidence.


The first steps in the development of a broad Canadian War Crimes Program were taken in the mid-1980s, when it became known that a considerable number of Nazi war criminals had gained admission to Canada through a variety of illegal or fraudulent means.

In response, the Government announced in February 1985 that Mr. Jules Deschênes, a Justice of the Court of Appeal of Quebec, would head an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate these allegations. The Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals (also known as the Deschênes Commission) produced a report in December 1986, concluding that a number of suspected war criminals were indeed living in Canada. The government responded to this report in March 1987 by announcing that those alleged to have been involved in the commission of war crimes or crimes against humanity would be subject to criminal prosecution or have their citizenship revoked and be deported. Subsequently, the Department of Justice and the RCMP set up specialized war crimes units and worked together in the investigations.

Building on the experience and success of these units, and seeing a need to extend its initiative, the Government announced in 1998 an ambitious War Crimes Program, involving the Department of Justice and the RCMP, as well as Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) (now, IRCC). In December 2003, the newly created CBSA, which took over many of CIC’s modern war crimes activities and corresponding resources, became the fourth partner in the Program.