HL:Terrorist Tigers banned, Canadian Tamils urged to report on fund-raising
Mon April 10, 2006 17:00 EDT .
BC-Tamil-Tigers, 2nd Writethru Bgt
By BRUCE CHEADLE
OTTAWA (CP) - The Conservative government has outlawed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and will encourage Canadian Tamils to snitch on any fund-raising efforts by the violent Sri Lankan separatist movement.
The Tamil Tigers were formally listed as a terrorist group effective Saturday, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced Monday in a decision he said was "long overdue."
"It sends a signal to the (Tamil) community and right across the country that the government will not tolerate terrorism or terrorist activities," Day said.
The terrorist listing means it is illegal for anyone in Canada to support or participate in Tiger activities.
The decision, which comes just as Norwegian-brokered peace talks are about to resume in Geneva, appears likely to inflame debate in Canada's large, geographically concentrated Tamil community around Toronto.
"This is not us taking sides," said Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay. "This is very much about expressing a desire to see the peace process progress."
MacKay said he spoke Monday with Norway's foreign minister and promised full Canadian assistance, including an offer to host peace talks in Canada if desired.
The Tigers are notorious for their use of suicide bombers during a 23-year fight for an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka.
More than 64,000 deaths are attributed to the quarter-century conflict, and some 300,000 Tamils have moved to Canada - almost half the estimated 600,000 to 800,000 Tamils dispersed around the globe.
Day said the swift decision - making good on a longstanding Conservative pledge that was purposely muted during the recent election campaign - was in part spurred by a report last month that claimed Canadian Tamils are being coerced and intimidated into giving money to the Tigers.
The government will be launching an advertising campaign targeting Canadian Tamils to explain the terrorist designation and the fundraising ban.
"In one of the ads that we're putting out there's a number listed for people who are emboldened now by the Criminal Code designation and may want to contact authorities for follow up," said Day.
It's the first time Ottawa has launched such a campaign after banning 39 persons or groups under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Vincent Veerasuntharam, a Tamil businessman from Toronto who ran unsuccessfully as a Tory candidate in the January election, said the Tamil community "is quite confused and disappointed" by the terrorist designation.
Tamils want Canada to assist the peace negotiations, he said, and are also concerned about the impact the terrorist designation may have on their ability to see their extended families in their homeland.
"They're Canadians first, law-abiding citizens, hard-working people, paying their taxes, raising families," Veerasuntharam told The Canadian Press.
"But they have a lot of families left there (in Sri Lanka). They just want justice and peace for their folks."
The former Liberal government barred the Tigers from raising cash in Canada, but Liberals - who rely heavily on Tamil support in several Toronto ridings - stopped short of formally declaring it a terrorist organization or outlawing membership in the group.
An internal Tory e-mail during the election campaign revealed the Conservatives were attempting to keep their promised Tiger ban out of the media for fear of alienating Tamil voters.
The full ban follows a report by Human Rights Watch that claimed the Tigers continue funding terrorist activities by extorting cash from expatriot Tamils in Canada, Britain and elsewhere.
"Obviously, listing the Tigers as a terrorist organization will go a long way to pushing the police in Canada to address these issues," James Ross, senior legal counsel for Human Rights Watch in New York, said Monday.
"We would hope it would have a real impact on the Tigers using intimidation and extortion against Canadian Tamils."
Day said authorities will be keeping a close eye on affiliated organizations that could run afoul of the terrorist designation should they continue allying themselves with the Tigers.
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Published: Mon Apr 10 19:43:59 EDT 2006