HL:Ottawa adds non-profit group financing Tamil Tigers to federal terrorism list
Mon June 16, 2008 18:15 EDT .
TORONTO _ A non-profit group known for going door to door collecting financial support that ended up in the hands of the Tamil Tigers is now on a list of Canada's known terrorist groups and has had its assets frozen, Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day said Monday.
The World Tamil Movement, which was created in 1986, has been given the designation for facilitating terrorist activity and for acting on behalf of the terrorist group, the government said.
``It will send a clear message to groups who assist or are involved in any way in terrorist activity: they will indeed be stopped in Canada,'' Day told a news conferencein Toronto.
The organization has been known for canvassing Tamil populations in Toronto communities demanding donations, sometimes by using aggressive intimidation tactics to get the money.
The Tamil Tigers have been fighting a rebel war in Sri Lanka since 1983 and many groups outside of Sri Lanka have been raising money to support the conflict.
The WTM became a front to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Canada, which was outlawed under the Anti-Terrorism Act in 2006.
While the WTM has managed to funnel money overseas, Day said he could not comment on the specific amount because of an ongoing investigation.
Day also said the WTM has helped ship tools overseas for terrorist activities in Sri Lanka.
``Sometimes we are aware, for instance, that certain pieces of equipment can be acquired that can be sent to terrorist forces for them to use in the application of their duties.''
Security and terrorism experts said Monday that the money collected by the WTM for terrorist activity was likely in the millions.
``They were at minimum sending about $10 million and that $10 million was in great part obtained through criminal activity,'' said terrorism and security expert Michel Juneau-Katsuya, the former chief of Asia-Pacific for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
International security experts have been well aware of the elaborate operations used by WTM and other entities to transport money from Toronto to Sri Lanka, Juneau-Katsuya said.
``The World Tamil Movement has been recognized worldwide by authorities as a front organization,'' he said.
``They tried to say that they were apart, that they are not linked to one another, but authorities have accumulated tons of information that says the opposite.''
In 2006, the RCMP raided the Toronto and Montreal offices of the World Tamil Movement just a few days before Ottawa declared the Tamil Tigers a banned terrorist group.
The fact the group is a non-profit organization involved in community-based work makes it difficult to imagine it providing succour to terrorist groups, said Juneau-Katsuya, who hailed Ottawa's decision to put the WTM on the list.
``It sends a message for the rest of the community: we are going after your financial arm.''
It is standard practice for such organizations to engage in legitimate fundraising and community-based activities in order to disguise their real aims, Day added.
``It's the modus operandi of terrorist groups,'' he said.
``From time to time they do other work that is seen as good work to camouflage or justify the fundraising that is done for terrorist activities.''
But anger boiled over as the Tamil community fired back on Monday, arguing the government was punishing an entire organization instead of a few individuals.
``If anyone from the WTM or any organization (is found to) break the law we always stand for the rule of law,'' said David Poopalapillai from the Canadian Tamil Congress, which is not affiliated with WTM.
``But do not take the brush and paint an entire organization,'' he said, adding it tarnished the community.Discuss this story
Published: Mon Jun 16 20:51:41 EDT 2008