The Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Program consists of four partners, each with a specialized War Crimes units or staff dedicated to the War Crimes Program: the Department of Justice, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

Coordinated Approach and Accountability

Officials from all four partner organizations share responsibility for overseeing and coordinating the Program through the War Crimes Steering Committee and the War Crimes Program Coordination and Operations Committee (PCOC). The Program’s success depends on the close collaboration of each of the partners, as well as their efforts with organizations abroad.

Preventing entry into Canada

CIC and the CBSA act as the first line of defence against alleged war criminals attempting to seek haven in Canada. Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), CIC visa officers are responsible for the selection of permanent and temporary residents to ensure that they are not in violation of human rights or international rights. The CBSA provides visa officers with analysis and recommendations on applications, training, screening aids and intelligence support. For complex cases, the Program can request legal advice from the Department of Justice and investigative assistance from the RCMP to ensure that alleged war criminals are denied entry to Canada.

Enforcement in Canada

In cases where perpetrators arrive in Canada or are found living in Canada, the Program partners assess the situation to determine the most appropriate remedy, which may include the following:

  • Criminal investigation and prosecution;
  • Revocation of citizenship; or
  • Vacation of refugee status and removal from Canada.

The Department of Justice

The Department of Justice’s War Crimes Section is a multi-disciplinary team consisting of lawyers, historians, analysts, researchers, paralegals and specialized support staff. Team members are part of the national and international justice community. They seek cooperation from international tribunals and special courts, and maintain contact with independent international research faculties, as well as human rights and international law experts.

The Section provides war crimes-related advice to the RCMP, the CBSA and CIC. This centralization of advice permits uniformity in war crimes cases from a legal policy perspective. It ensures consistency with our international obligations and relations and allows for strategic planning when various available remedies are being considered.

International research efforts

The Section’s work requires frequent international research efforts abroad. The research unit, which consists of senior analysts, historians and research officers, identifies the main locations of potential background material, depositions, and supporting evidence. It also determines the relevant international government and non-governmental agencies, whose cooperation is key in support of research. Research material includes foreign judicial records (e.g. trial material, testimonies, statements, court documents) as well as contemporary document and record collections at various locations. Results of these research trips are analyzed and summarized by Department of Justice historians and analysts and shared with the RCMP. The Section’s historians, analysts and research officers provide continued support to the prosecution and litigation teams throughout criminal court cases, immigration cases as well as in citizenship revocation cases.

Expert legal counsel

Department of Justice counsel provide comprehensive legal and strategic advice in the highly specialised area of war crimes and crimes against humanity to all three program partners. They advise on international criminal law, international humanitarian law, customary international law and immigration and refugee law as it relates to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In criminal cases, Department of Justice counsel apply Canada’s Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act and provide legal opinions to the RCMP on the Act’s jurisdiction beyond Canada’s borders, the various types of criminal liability, and the general and specific elements of international crimes. Counsel suggest avenues of investigation, and recommend the appropriate legal remedy to apply. At the end of an investigation, if prosecution is appropriate, the Section gives the recommendations to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) who will then seek the approval of the Attorney General. The Department of Justice works with PPSC when and if a prosecution is initiated.

The PPSC is responsible for prosecuting offences under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. To date, the organization has completed one prosecution under the Act-the successful conviction of Désiré Munyaneza, and has initiated a second prosecution against Jacques Mungwarere. PPSC’s efforts are supported by the Department of Justice War Crimes Section.

The Department of Justice also provides extensive assistance to CIC and the CBSA. Department of Justice counsel provide legal advice to CIC when they require interpretations of the Citizenship Act and represent CIC in citizenship revocation litigation cases. These cases target suspected perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity who are alleged to have obtained citizenship through misrepresentation, fraud or the concealment of material facts.

Similar assistance is provided to CBSA in immigration litigation cases. Department of Justice counsel assist the CBSA in refugee cases under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

War Crimes database

The Department of Justice continues its efforts to build a modern war crimes database to manage information obtained in support of war crimes research and investigations. The database will facilitate the management of documents and records obtained by the War Crimes Section’s analysts, historians and research officers from open sources and research trips abroad, such as testimonies, statements, background documents and other supporting evidence. The database will also allow for easy cross-referencing of material and information within the Section to better enable the Department of Justice’s support of work carried out by the RCMP and the CBSA.


The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is Canada’s national police force with responsibility for enforcing all federal statutes, including the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act. The RCMP’s War Crimes Section is responsible for conducting criminal investigations abroad, with legal and research support from the Department of Justice, and targets individuals in Canada alleged to have participated in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. The RCMP responds to allegations from witnesses, foreign governments, community groups and non-governmental organizations.

International outreach and investigation

RCMP investigators face significant challenges, such as distant travel, negotiations with foreign governments, lapse of time, and linguistic barriers. They must rely on witness testimonies from victims who are often difficult to locate and reluctant to speak to investigators. RCMP investigators carry out witness interview trips with the assistance of Department of Justice officials who liaise with representatives from foreign governments to secure cooperation in accordance with bilateral agreements.

Law enforcement network

While information on Second World War investigations can be found in archives, the same cannot always be said of more recent crimes. Some of the suspects under investigation were not part of formally structured organizations and may have operated in specific locations for very limited periods of time. With little documentary evidence of atrocities, emphasis is placed on finding witnesses capable of identifying the perpetrators and talking about what happened. To facilitate this process, the RCMP has entered into special cooperation agreements with police departments and public offices in some of the countries where witnesses are located. The RCMP is involved in ongoing efforts to conclude agreements with all countries where witnesses may be located, either for current or future investigations. In return, the RCMP provides assistance to foreign police and international law enforcement authorities, such as the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Canada Border Services Agency

In response to the events of September 11, 2001, Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) formed an Intelligence Branch bringing together the intelligence resources at their National Headquarters in Ottawa. This Branch, which included CIC’s War Crimes Section, was moved to the newly created Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in 2003. The CBSA works closely with CIC to screen applicants for permanent and temporary residence in Canada.

Operating within the context of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), the CBSA works with CIC to provide the first line of defence in preventing war criminals from reaching Canada. When requested, its analysts provide the CIC visa office with assessments and recommendations for inadmissibility based on war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. The CBSA also develops and delivers war crimes specific training, manages computer databases, develops screening tools, and posts lookouts in CIC’s and the CBSA’s computer systems to help prevent suspected perpetrators from entering Canada. Additionally, the CBSA formulates policy directives and guidelines on war crimes issues, and provides support and advice to the ministers of Public Safety Canada and CIC on cases involving war crimes, crimes against humanity and abusive regimes.

If the presence of an alleged war criminal in Canada is brought to the attention of CBSA officials, enforcement action, when warranted, is initiated under the IRPA.

War Crimes library and database

The CBSA maintains an open-source library containing materials on modern human rights violations. The Agency also manages an open-source database that houses information on people, events and organizations pertaining to war crimes or crimes against humanity.

International intelligence network

The Agency’s Current Intelligence Section (CIS) receives, analyzes, and distributes foreign and domestic products to the CBSA and CIC. CIS provides to CBSA regular intelligence briefings and responds to Requests for Information relating to threats (e.g. persons/groups of concern). The Agency’s Open Source and Environmental Scanning Section is responsible for information management and the maintenance of an intelligence library and databases, as well as the production of open source reports and assessments, such as screening aids for clients in the CBSA and CIC.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has a mandate to manage the access of legitimate visitors and immigrants to Canada, to aid them in their resettlement, and, if they so choose, to process them to become Canadian citizens. Working within the context of the Citizenship Act, CIC contributes to the War Crimes Program by promoting international justice and security by fostering respect for human rights and denying access to Canadian territory to persons who are criminals or security risks.

Screening measures

The War Crimes Program relies on CIC to take appropriate measures to screen and deny visas for people suspected of involvement in atrocities.

Revocation of citizenship

In cases that involve a Canadian citizen suspected of committing atrocities, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Department of Justice may determine that it would be more appropriate to pursue proceedings under the Citizenship Act. When that occurs, the partners may provide the results of their investigations to CIC, which evaluates the information and determines whether or not to proceed with revoking citizenship.

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