TORONTO - Some Toronto veterans are seeking the deportation of a Czech man accused of stealing west-end poppy boxes after he and his family were given refugee status in this country that they fought for.
A man surrendered to police on Nov. 7 after his picture was caught on a security camera during one of the alleged thefts.
He is accused of stealing boxes containing donations to help vets at a Pizza Nova at The Queensway and Royal York Rd., a Coffee Time at 2788 Lake Shore Blvd. W., and a Pizza Pizza outlet at 2814 Lake Shore.
Police said the thefts occurred within weeks of Remembrance Day.
The suspect arrived in Canada from the Czech Republic with his family in 1999, security officials told the Toronto Sun.
They filed refugee claims at Pearson airport and were accepted as claimants more than a year later, immigration records show. They were entitled to free housing, welfare and some medical and dental care as refugees.
The accused has been living in Canada for about 12 years and has not obtained citizenship, which means he can be deported if convicted of serious crimes, officials said.
“This person has been here for a long time and should know Canadian laws by now,” said one investigator. “Anyone who steals from veterans is a coward.”
Security officials said the family landed in Canada at a time when hundreds of Romas were arriving as refugee claimants from the Czech Republic.
Outraged members of the Royal Canadian Legion are privately calling for the suspect to be deported if he’s convicted of the offences.
But, Canadian border officials said even if the suspect is convicted there’s little chance of him being deported since the offences are not considered “a major crime” that carries the 10-year prison sentence required for deportation under Canadian law.
In addition, the accused has already been accepted in Canada as a refugee, because he is supposed to be fleeing persecution from his homeland.
Dave Gordon, of Royal Canadian Legion Ontario Provincial Command, said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the case because it is before the courts.
Boxes were also stolen this year in London, Ottawa and Smith Falls, Gordon said. But it is too early to determine the extent of the losses.
“These people are really stealing from veterans and their loved ones,” Gordon said. “The money being taken all goes to veterans and their families.”
Tomas Hvozdar, 26, of Toronto, is facing three charges of theft under $5,000 and one count of failure to comply with recognizance. He returns to court on Dec. 5.
Hvozdar has said his girlfriend’s 18-year-old daughter has less than a month to live while suffering from a brain tumour.
Accused poppy thief in Canada as refugee claimant | Toronto & GTA | News | Toronto Sun