|Canadian Connection: LTTE Front Organizations and Networking
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|Author:||Peter [ Wed Sep 28, 2005 3:01 am ]|
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LTTE Canadian Connection
LTTE Front Organizations and Networking in Canada
Source: Other people's wars: A Review of Overseas Terrorism in Canada (30 June 2003) - A comprehensive study by by John C. Thompson, Joe Turlej
Tamils in Canada
Canada’s Sri Lankan community was a small one until 1984, when the first of a wave of Tamil refugees arrived by way of Europe. Typically, most were genuine in their desire to escape the fighting on the island, but it already seems that the LTTE was planning on establishing a Diaspora community as a support mechanism. This is a new wrinkle in the history of insurgent movements; while the use of overseas communities for support is an old story, deliberately encouraging the creation of such a community is not. In any event, 20 years after Tiger-supported immigration to Canada began, Toronto has become the World’s largest Sri Lankan Tamil city, with as many as 200,000 here, and another 50,000 or so in other cities. Estimates on how many are here vary, and are at odds with census data — suggesting much illegal immigration.
While the LTTE is very much present in Canada, it is almost invariably manifested through a pair of front organizations: The World Tamil Movement (WTM), which has spun off dozens of subordinate groups in other communities, and among Tamil students; and the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils (FACT). Both groups have been described by the annual US State Department Report Patterns of Global Terrorism as fronts for the LTTE since 1995.
The LTTE has almost never presented violence to anybody outside of Sri Lanka and southern India, and it has been a matter of policy to avoid deliberately targeting foreigners. This has meant that the risk of Tiger violence inside Canada is low — except to dissenting Tamils. A trio of low key incidents are all that can be easily categorized: A drive-by shooting at the home of a Tamil language broadcaster who refused to run pro-Tiger ads; the beating of a distributor of David Jeyaraj’s independent Tamil language newspaper Muncharie, and the torching of his van; and the firebombing of a Tamil cultural centre whose director opined that perhaps both sides in the war in Sri Lanka were guilty of human rights abuses. None of these incidents were lethal, and no more have been reported since 1996.
However, the Tamil community in Toronto is certainly not free of violence. Two rival Tamil gangs, the pro-Tiger VVT and the anti-Tiger AK Kanon, have engaged in dozens of violent incidents including mass armed brawls, gunfights, drive by shootings, armed robberies, and murders throughout the Toronto area since 1994 (and perhaps earlier still). Gang members have been convicted of offences relating to heroin and weapons trafficking, armed robberies, credit card fraud, and extortion. It is not clear if the VVT is raising money for the LTTE, while AK Kanon certainly is not. The violence between the gangs represents an embarrassment to FACT and the WTM, and is a vexation to ordinary Tamils themselves. FACT and the WTM have cooperated with the Metropolitan Toronto Police and officers from other Canadian police forces in working to reduce the gang violence — albeit with the strict proviso that they do not use joint platforms to further espouse their main cause.
The political side of the LTTE’s support structure can be witnessed by the demonstration mounted by 650 demonstrators from a full spread of their front groups outside the offices of the Toronto Sun on February 12th, 2000. The campaign (along with a coordinated bombardment of e-mails and phone calls) subsequently proved successful in intimidating the Sun for some months. Interestingly, the demonstrators considered any story describing criminal activities in the paper to be discriminatory. The same campaign was also directed against the Mackenzie Institute, but circumstances restricted the Tiger’s supporters to jamming the phone lines. Usually eight to 10 callers would start ringing through at the start of every hour, mostly from unlisted phone numbers and payphones. Callers almost invariably followed an identical script; and the one quiet hour during the first day of the campaign appears to have been designed to allow a Liberal MP (who has many connections to the Tamil community) to get through.
The Toronto police have also been "roasted" in community meetings, particularly after a senior Police officer reported that the Tigers extracted $1 million a year out of Toronto (a conservative estimate). Police officials were invited to a community meeting hosted by the Tamil Eelam Society, but walked out after the nature of the meeting became clear.
Perhaps the most distressing aspect of the mass Tamil migration to Canada is that, under other circumstances, Sri Lankan Tamils would have made ideal immigrants to the country. Educated, hard working, innovative, and entrepreneurial, many of their gifts and much of their energy has been subordinated to the needs of the Tigers — whose deceitful and atrocious nature has poisoned the ethics of so many of their own people.
The Art of Networking
In modern pressure politics, networking is the key to successful campaigning. For an activist, it is vital to make a ripple in society seem like a tidal wave. In today’s world, it is vital for a cause to be represented by dozens of different organizations and seemingly endorsed by dozens more.
For example, one woman with an Ontario Animal Rights group in the early 1990s was in a leadership role with at least five different major Animal Rights organizations, and would write separate letters for all of them (each using different letterheads and formatting) when pressuring municipal governments. Additionally, she would describe herself as belonging to local committees of larger organizations, thus making it look as if groups like ARK-II and the International Wildlife Coalition had local chapters in the cities that her organization was targeting. One can imagine the effect of a dozen such activists, each presenting themselves as representing a dozen separate groups, on a credulous municipal clerk or member of a provincial legislature.
The Toronto Disarmament Network would practice the same tactic in its lobby to get a "nuclear weapons free zone" in Toronto (as part of a larger campaign) in the late 1980s. A handful of members could easily represent dozens of groups between them, ranging from ‘Parkdale for Peace’, The Toronto Chapter of Psychiatrists for Social Responsibility, Kids for Peace, ad infinitum; and with additional letters being written by activists from major trade unions or Canadian Churches that often claimed to represent the entire parent organization. For 10 years (and with the signal help of at least once city councilor), the Peace Movement in Toronto was able to maintain a presence that belied the slender numbers of actual supporters that it really had.
With these examples, is it any wonder that the supporters of the Tamil Tigers adopted the same tactics? In the 20 years since supporters and organizers for the LTTE started to arrive in Canada, they have created numerous organizations to add credibility to their cause and strengthen their hold on the Sri Lankan Tamil community here. These groups include:
Academy of Tamil Arts and Technology. Set up in 1990 by the World Tamil Movement (WTM), it was founded by the treasurer of the Tamil Eelam Society of Canada (TESC). Seemingly a cultural and immigration support organization, this group shares office space with TESC in two of its six Toronto-area locations. Its banner also appeared at an October 1997 protest against the jailing of Manickavasagem Suresh, a coordinator for the World Tamil Movement. The group’s main activities include teaching computer skills, English-as-a-second-language, and linking Tamils to their culture. Appayan Temple. Subjected to a visit by Stewart Bell of the National Post (one of the stable of excellent reporters there, and has repeatedly drawn the ire of the Tiger’s front organizations), he noticed that a number of Tiger-related items were on sale in the temple and that a Tiger logo was on the door of a building on its grounds.
Canadian Alert on Sri Lanka. One of the first groups to surface in Canada, it appeared in 1987 and established linkages with the Toronto ‘progressive’ community to sell the LTTE’s bona fides as a national liberation organization. There seems to be little sign of it in the 1990s.Canadian Foundation for Tamil Refugee Rehabilitation. A registered charity and supporting member of the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils (FACT).
Canadian Tamil Congress. A new group established in October 2000 "to represent the interests of the Canadian Tamil community." It may be an attempt to generate a new umbrella organization free of the bad press that some existing Tamil groups have attracted. Their key spokesman — so far — has a solid history of involvement in Tamil student activism at the University of Toronto and the Canadian Tamil Youth Development Centre against the National Post, the Toronto Sun, and the Mackenzie Institute.
Canadian Tamil Women’s Community Services. This might not be all that closely affiliated with the main Tamil groups, as its purpose is to improve the lot of Tamil women within their own community. It has also condemned the abduction of Tamil girls by Tamil gang members.
Canadian Tamil Youth Development Centre. Although created with the help of the Tamil Eelam Society of Canada in 1998, one of its major purposes is to reduce the gang violence among young Tamils — which has been a source of great embarrassment (and loss of life) to the community. In 2000, it received $50,000 from the National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention to produce a study entitled "Toronto Tamil Youth: The Realities." In 2002, they received $90,000 from the same organization for similar studies, and $6,000 from the City of Toronto under their "Breaking the Cycle of Violence" grants program. Members of the group have supported the LTTE’s front organizations and the Tiger cause in several demonstrations.
Eelam Tamil Association of British Columbia & Eelam Tamil Association of Quebec. There is little publicly available information on these organizations, but both were designated by CSIS in December 2000 as fronts for the LTTE.
Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils (FACT). It has been repeatedly listed by the annual US State Department report "Patterns of Global Terrorism" as a front organization for the LTTE and one of its leaders, Manickavasagam Suresh, has been fighting a deportation effort on a National Security Certificate since 1995. The group has sought to intimidate some of those who describe it as a terrorist front through demonstrations and threatened law suits — it sued the National Post for $13 million in October 2000. This is the main umbrella organization for pro-LTTE organizations in Canada. It has shared premises with the WTM for many years and has a close working relationship with TESC — again sharing space and telephone numbers from time to time.
Society for the Aid of Ceylon Minorities (SACEM). The group became prominent outside the Tamil community in 1986 when 155 Tamil refugee claimants landed from lifeboats in Nova Scotia. Toronto initially received 61 of these, and SACEM played a noticeable role in getting them settled and raising funds for their aid — soliciting funds from the general public and offering tax-deductible charitable receipts. SACEM does not appear in Toronto phonebooks until 2001. In August 2001, their president described SACEM as an agency specifically serving the Tamil community in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada. Their title is a bit hypocritical, as the LTTE has been known to massacre Muslims (Sri Lanka’s second minority after Tamils) who lived in the areas that the LTTE claimed for its envisioned state.
Tamil Anti-Racism Committee. Established in 1993 by TESC, the group has served to interact with Human Rights and Anti-Racism groups in Toronto. It has received funding from Toronto multicultural grants programs to host a series of community conferences. The group has started some of its meetings by singing both the Canadian national anthem and the LTTE’s chosen anthem for an independent Tamil homeland. The irony of a Tamil front organization clinging to the skirts of anti-racism in Canada while supporting the violent pursuit of a single ethnic state in Sri Lanka seems to have escaped most outside observers. Tamil Cooperative Homes Inc. This is one of over 150 subsidized co-operative housing projects in the greater Toronto area. This groups’ high-rise apartment co-op was created in the late 1980s with 129 units. Most co-ops in Ontario pride themselves on the diversity of their occupants, and none seem quite as ethnically specific as this one. Funding for construction was obtained from the Ontario government through the Ministry of Housing. Between 1990 and 1993, the organization received $4,939,919 in grants from the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Affordable Housing to recondition an existing co-op for about $34,000 per unit. Altogether, government subsidies to 2000 have amounted to over $84,000 per unit.
With an unknown number of Tamils dependent on Ontario’s social services, there is some need for social housing — although co-ops have been an expensive solution to this. It is easy to theorize (and impossible to prove) that the co-op mainly benefits people of value to the World Tamil Movement.
Tamil Co-ordinating Committee of Canada. Its office is located in downtown Ottawa, and the group was designated by CSIS in 2000 as a terrorist front. The group is a supporting member of FACT. Among other activities, the group supported a demonstration by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade against the National Capital Air Show in 1998 (a seemingly strange activity, but was probably a way of maintaining some bona fides with the local ‘progressive’ community). Their women’s wing, the Ottawa Tamil Women’s Association, promotes the LTTE’s perspectives of their sisters in Sri Lanka.
Tamil Cultural Centre of Scarborough. The centre ran in the mid 1990s and offered lessons in Tamil dance, the Tamil language, and the violin. In the case of a cultural centre, the presumption of innocence should prevail, and the group may be innocent of political content. However, the Centre made extensive use of local high school facilities for evening events, and some of the same schools have been used to host fundraising events for the LTTE. It is also hard to imagine that a major cultural group could be allowed to operate without the sanction of the LTTE’s fronts.
Tamil Eelam Association of British Colombia. After being listed by CSIS as a terrorist front organization in December 2000, the group was cut off by the BC Gaming Commission from the receipt of proceeds from charity games and casinos -- although it did receive $45,000 in donations in 1999. The group was carried on FACT letterhead in early 1996.Tamil Eelam Economic Development Organization. The group appears to be a showcase and networking point for the community in Canada and only the use of ‘Tamil Eelam’ in its name suggests its political alignment. They held a ‘high tech expo’ in Toronto in 2001.
Tamil Eelam Society of Canada. Incorporated as non-profit organization in 1978, it was originally given office space by the United Church of Canada. The group now has six different office locations in the Greater Toronto area as of the spring of 2002. In 1996, one of the group’s spokesmen declared that they were the Canadian affiliate of the LTTE. The group has received millions of dollars in federal, provincial and municipal grants since its inception. Much of this money has come for immigrant services (including for language and resettlement programs, but also citizenship multicultural grants — which provide core funding and let the group run some of its other activities). It received about $2 million in Federal funding in 1999/2000 and 2000/2001, and has received $11 million overall since 1994. The Society has staged meetings to denounce critics of the LTTE, such as the meeting of the Tamil-Canadian Race Relations Conference that the invited Toronto police representative walked out of after realizing the true purpose of the meeting was to denounce a police report that the LTTE was receiving $12 million a year out of Toronto. This was also the meeting where the Society’s President let slip that "We [Tamils] are a race that has achieved perfection much ahead of any country in the world." In a September 2001 interview with an Australian TV journalist, their president Sitta Sittampalam said "We do support the LTTE." Perhaps they are not the best vehicle to provide settlement services for new Canadians.
In 2000, Sitta Sittampalam and a delegation from FACT consulted with Raymond Chan, Canadian Secretary of State for the Asia Pacific Region, as guests of the Canadian government.
As an aside, a profile of the Tamil people produced by the Society for Toronto’s 2002 Caravan Festival (a major celebration of the diversity of the city) claims that "the Tamil civilization is over 5,000 years old," and appropriates the legacy of the ancient Dravidian cities of the Indus Valley entirely to the Tamils. One might be reminded of other hyper-nationalistic ideologues that made similar romantic constructions — White supremacists, for example, or the Japanese militarists of the 1930s.
Tamil Eelam Society of Mississauga. The group does not appear to be an active one, and might only serve as another of the Potemkin organizations that usually add the illusion of weight to activist networks of any kind — except that it shares the address of the Tamil registered charity Motherland and Child Care of Sri Lanka in office space now run by the Academy of Tamil Arts and Technology.
The Tamil Refugee Aid Society of Ottawa. A registered charity -- also known as the Tamil (Sri Lanka) Refugee Aid Society of Ottawa -- their filings show very meager donations. These are usually under $5,000, and are dispersed in Canada and Sri Lanka.
Tamil Refugee Rehabilitation. Another vague organization about whom little is known; but an earlier group called Tamil Refugee Rehabilitation of Canada operated out of the same address as the main office of the Tamil Eelam Society of Canada and the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils. As a consideration, the Sri Lanka News (Canadian edition) reported that similar organizations in Great Britain were used as ‘employment banks’ and to provide housing for LTTE activists. The Sri Lanka News is a periodical published by the Sri Lankan government.
Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (Canada). From the mid-1990s until 2002, they were lodged in the same building as FACT, but now have office space of their own. Established in 1985 in northeastern Sri Lanka, the organization is part of a network in 15 countries and was designated as a terrorist front by CSIS in December 2000. In 1998, the President of FACT said that the group sent $300,000 a year back to northeastern Sri Lanka.
Tamil Relief Organization. This group also shares office space with the Tamil Elam Society of Canada and the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils. The group’s British branch was a registered charity that has been accused of transferring millions of Pounds to the hands of the LTTE. Tamil Resource Centre: This group was active in the 1990s in endorsing protests by the Toronto Coalition Against Racism (a cause other Tamil groups have espoused), but was firebombed in 1995 after its board of directors opined that perhaps both sides of the war in Sri Lanka were guilty of human rights abuses.
Tamil Seniors Centre. Its spokesman was an external advisor to the Trillium Foundation of Canada in 1996/7 (the group which dispenses largess from Ontario lotteries), despite not having a discernable phone number at the time. It does exist now through public funding from two levels of government. The group is an affiliate of FACT Tamil Students Association, Ryerson. This is a student group.
There are also Tamil Students Associations at the University of Ottawa, University of Windsor, the University of Waterloo, Community Colleges in the Toronto area, and even at several high schools. Tamil Students Association, University of Toronto. First noticed after a 1993 shooting incident (one of many in the Tamil community about which little remains known) on the UofT Campus, the group also coordinated the February 2000 demonstration against the Toronto Sun. Tamil Students Association of York University. Cited in the Socialist Worker, one of the surviving dialectical epistles of Canada’s Marxist leftovers, describing one of the authors of this report as "Right-Wing" and "Racist" for daring to condemn the LTTE’s activities in Canada. It should be noted that the use of these pejoratives is common nowadays for any criticism of a contemporary terrorist or organized criminal group drawn from a narrow ethnic base; only the most credulous tend to take such remarks seriously.
Thamilar Oli Association Inc. Little is known about this Montreal-based group. It is a supporting member of FACT, and was a supporting member of the campaign to free Suresh.Women Organization of World Tamil Movement. A group that makes occasional appearances at International Women’s Days events.
World Tamil Movement. Listed by "Patterns of Global Terrorism" as a front for the LTTE, the group has been similarly described by the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service. It also has a presence in Western Europe and Australia. The Canadian offices of the WTM often share office space and phone numbers with FACT. They have received public funding over the years to pay for outreach and staffing purposes. World Tamil Movement — Ontario. It first surfaced in 1989 and quickly aligned itself with sundry anti-racism groups. It also received funding from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship to hire a co-coordinator in 1993. The group is a member of FACT.
World Tamil Movement — Quebec. Another member of FACT.
There are several other organizations in Canada’s Sri Lankan Tamil community, and one might wonder whether LTTE supporters have taken control of them. One complaint does stand out from an international conference on Tamil Culture held at the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto, where one of the delegates accused the LTTE of trying to turn the gathering into a fundraising event.
There is a long and noble tradition of self-help organizations from particular communities assisting newcomers with settlement in Canada, and some of these groups have carried grievances towards the governments back in their homeland -- this was especially true of our Eastern European compatriots who arrived in the 1940s and ‘50s. In many respects, the Tamil community is perpetuating the self-help tradition, although lavish government funding was not as available to earlier groups as it is today. But using the front groups for a terrorist organization to spearhead settlement and cultural life is a definite and unwelcome precedent.
In Jacques Ellul’s classic study Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes he observed that propaganda had to be ‘total’ and universal if it was to succeed. One can imagine the effect for a Sri Lankan Tamil family that has arrived in Canada (almost invariably in the Toronto area), and finds that supporters of the LTTE run all of the services designed to facilitate their transition here. The family’s breadwinner finds that English language training, new job skills, and employment services are run through LTTE-support groups. As the parents receive training to settle them, FACT-approved child minders are baby-sitting their children. From there, the LTTE’s supporters will be running events at the cultural centres or staffing tables at the temple.
If this family looks for Tamil commentary in the media, they will find no shortage of newspapers, radio programs and television shows. These are, at best, neutral (by not mentioning the conflict at home) or else pro-Tiger. The consequences for taking a counter-LTTE line are illustrated by a pair of events — a 1992 drive-by shooting at the home of a Tamil language broadcaster who refused to play pro-Tiger ads on his show, and the 1995 persecution of the distributors and advertisers in David Jeyaraj’s newspaper Muncharie. Nobody was hurt in the first case, although three bullets were fired through a front door. Jeyaraj was forced out of business, especially after the distributor of his paper had his leg broken and van set on fire.
There are also some controls over Tamil language DVDs and VHS tapes, to limit the effects of films produced in India’s Tamil Nadu State — although the demand for Tamil language films and videos from India is voracious. A series of visits to the video racks in some stores in the Tamil neighborhoods in Toronto was undertaken in the course of this study; while ‘Bollywood’ entertainment movies were easily available, some LTTE-related videos were on display in a locked case. Requests for copies of these were turned down (it should be pointed out that these attempts were not made by people of Dravidian/South Asian appearance).
Propaganda, in order to be successful, requires the intended audience to be willing to receive the propagandist’s message. There are ample signs that a great many Canadian Tamils, despite the wide net cast by the LTTE’s supporters, are not all that willing to accept all of their messages. While the 30-year conflict (if one uses Prabhakaran’s 1972 murder of a Tamil politician as the starting point) has entered its third ceasefire in February of 2002, there is no necessary guarantee that the peace process will work out this time either. After all, the LTTE is still drafting children and acquiring arms. The senior leadership of the LTTE has invested too much in the struggle, and after 30 years, war has become business to them. Still, the vast majority of Tamils both in Sri Lanka and in Canada are tired of the whole business. It might not be easy to rekindle their interest and re-ignite their loyalty if the war resumes.
The LTTE’s support network has also worked on forming linkages outside the Tamil Community. Their groups played an active role in "Anti-Racism" causes in the early 1990s, and linked in with Toronto’s Anti-Racist Action (a group that usually prides itself on brawling with white supremacists — although the latter have been furtive and rare in recent years), the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, and with similar groups.
They have sought connections with Canada’s ‘Progressive’ Left by presenting themselves as a national liberation struggle. This has earned them some sympathy from a few prominent Canadian lawyers — Clayton Ruby initially represented the suit against the National Post, and Nancy Jackman has guided Suresh through eight years of legal battles to delay his deportation. Presumably, this appeal to the Left might have helped in dealing with Ontario’s NDP government in 1990-95. However, fooling the Canadian Left is both easy and pointless, as they don’t carry much weight anymore. Networking with political parties that hold power is much more useful.
There are other networks that support other terrorist groups in Canada, but few operate as openly or as universally as the Tamils do. Militant Sikhs from the Babbar Khalsa and International Sikh Youth Organization have never been able to dominate Canadian Sikh community life, although they did try to do so in the 1980s. There are a number of Muslim/Arab groups that will be defensive about Islamic issues, and who certainly do not love Israel, but the Canadian Muslim community is too diverse to be easily united, let alone controlled. But FACT and the World Tamil Movement have shown what is possible, and one should fear those that attempt to follow their example.
If democratic societies have one real weakness, it is that popularity usually carries more weight than principle. Political figures, at all levels of government, have to work hard if they want to be re-elected; and those that keep their seats have usually put in long hours of work for their constituents. It is easy to be contemptuous of a city councilor, a Provincial MLA, or a Federal MP (especially if you disagree with them on most issues), but most of them really do deserve more respect than they usually receive. Yet their greatest handicap remains the need to secure re-election.
Margins of victory at election time can be quite thin. Few of Canada’s provincial or federal representatives win their seats with more than 50% of the popular vote, and Elections Canada results show that only PC-Alliance vote splitting has let the Federal Liberals win their three consecutive majority governments. One result of this fragility is that most representatives are careful around ethnic/cultural issues, especially if they have a large bloc of people from the same background in their riding — and the militants, activists, and self-appointed community leaders in Canada know it.
No politician can afford to have a number of his constituents angry with him, particularly in a public forum, and especially if their leaders really can deliver a large bloc of votes. Over the past 30 years, it has also become difficult to avoid encountering ethnic blocs in all federal ridings, especially during nomination battles, when it is easy for organizers to scoop up huge numbers of new members by canvassing cultural organizations and community groups.
Some politicians can embrace a particular group without reservations: The NDP Windsor area MP Joe Comartin is appealing for support from Muslim Canadians (and has posed in front of a poster of Saddam Hussein for a photo on his website), and has attracted numerous new members and contributions for his campaign chest from the Muslim community. One can compare him to the Liberal MP Derek Lee (Scarborough Rouge River), who has run into flak from both the Tamils and Muslims in his riding over his government’s actions to reduce terrorism. Lee, at a time when Ottawa was contemplating placing restrictions on the activities of the Tamil Tigers, had Canadian Tamils on his own riding association executive and had to face angry Tamil constituents over the issue. "I think I am going to soon have to ask them if they want to be Canadians first or Tamils first." The results from the next elections in these two ridings will yield illuminating results.
In Canadian politics several things carry weight with candidates: contributions, volunteers, supporters, and positive press and community endorsements.
Contributions to political parties and campaigns are tax deductible; they also don’t always have to be reported. Elections Canada will (grudgingly and with some expense) provide copies of campaign contributions only after an election, or will release records of contributions to national political parties between elections.
Donation records to riding associations between elections — when they are most appreciated — and to leadership campaigns are only available when an individual candidate or riding association chooses to release them. This seldom happens, and the result is that there is no clear and efficient way to determine if front groups or leadings figures within them are making donations to political parties. Researchers for this report spent considerable time examining the Elections Canada campaign reports, but as donor addresses are not carried on the list, there was no way to verify the identities of suspected donors with ties to terrorist front groups.
While riding associations are required to file reports listing their executive members with Elections Canada, these reports are not made available to the public. Moreover, they are only required during elections. Again, this makes it difficult to determine if front organizations are entering into Party riding associations.
This lack of transparency in our political process is dangerous.
Anecdotal information is of no use when charging that Front Groups for terrorist organizations are systematically supporting particular political parties with volunteers and campaign workers. Two interview subjects for this study alleged that the LTTE’s front groups have ensured that there is a plentiful supply of eager young Tamil volunteers to help out in particular ridings (with the implication that the most important criteria is that the candidate belongs to the party most likely to form a government at the federal or provincial level); but their remarks could not be confirmed and for all we know, the Tamils could have been motivated by wholesome civic-mindedness.
There are some facts that can be worked with. Civic events that draw media coverage, and give a politician exposure and photo-ops, are much appreciated. The Hindu New Year’s Party in a city that now has hundreds of thousands of Hindus would be a valuable function for a politician to attend. Unfortunately, too many attended the 2000 New Years Party hosted by FACT — the open front group for the LTTE. Among the municipal, provincial and federal political figures in attendance at the event were two Liberal cabinet ministers, Paul Martin and Maria Minna.
The two ministers (or their staffers, whose job requires them to vet the appointments of their ministers) should have known better. Ottawa had already spent five years trying to deport Suresh, a FACT leader, for reasons of National Security. The RCMP and CSIS were well aware of the group’s nature, and the latter had published an open report on the group that described it as a front organization, and mentioned that it raises money from often unwilling Canadian Tamils to support the LTTE’s insurgency. The two ministers did not react at all well to those who informed them that they had dined with a terrorist group, and called their critics "un-Canadian".
Other representatives at various levels of government are often only too happy to raise an issue for their constituents when they perceive an injustice is happening. Often they really do not have the time to look at things closely. This was presumably the case for Marlene Catterall, a Liberal MP from Ottawa West (where there are some Tamils, but not the decisive concentration of them that can be found in Toronto’s Scarborough area). The initial defence (long since dismissed in several hearings) for Suresh was that repatriation to Sri Lanka would result in his torture and/or death. Marlene Catterall introduced a petition in April 1996 to the House of Commons, calling for Ottawa to remain neutral towards Sri Lanka, and demanding the release of Suresh.
Jim Brown was a member of the Conservative government of Mike Harris in his first term from 1995 to 1999, but the Scarborough area representative was unable to be nominated for the next election. During the first Harris government, he was appointed as the Head of Ontario’s Crime Commission, a group that was tasked with looking for new ideas and suggestions for tackling crime in the Province. Suggestions that dealt with the Tamil Tigers were shot down or ignored. It latter turned out that his assistant, Anton Phillip, was on an RCMP affidavit listing dozens of Canadian Tamils who had occupied senior leadership positions with the LTTE in Sri Lanka. In a 1997 telephone conversation with one of the authors, Brown observed that all the talk about the LTTE was "Sri Lankan propaganda" — which is one of a number of common responses that FACT and the WTM make when criticized.
Phillip has also worked as the event coordinator for the Tamil Anti-Racism Committee in 2001, and represented the Tamil Eelam Society in the Metro Toronto Community Advisory Committee on Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism in 1996. One of the authors was also told by an Alliance Party member that Phillip had briefly worked with the Stockwell Day leadership campaign in 2000, but this has not been substantiated.
The LTTE’s front organizations will react quickly to criticism of their groups and their cause. They will hold demonstrations, such as the major rally in front of the Don Jail when Suresh was imprisoned there, and have tried to intimidate the Toronto Sun in February 2000 (which seems to have worked for a few months), and the National Post. Avalanches of phone calls, e-mails, and letters can also beleaguer their critics —although many of these come from unidentifiable sources and some can be threatening.
During the February 2000 phone-jamming offensive on the Mackenzie Institute, there was one-hour pause during the blitz — when a call came in from Jim Karygiannis, the Liberal MP for Scarborough Agincourt, who offered to mediate in the dispute we had seemingly generated. There is room to wonder about all the implications of this call.
At the gathering of Tamil University students in Toronto on January 13th, 2002, Derek Lee was pressed to speak and chose to defend the Government’s security legislation — in the face of an audience that might have been best regarded as carefully neutral. He was then roped into presenting an award for a Pro-Tiger journalist. By contrast, Karygiannis was warmly received, particularly when he chose to attack his own government’s Post 9-11 counter-terrorism bills. But then, the LTTE front organizations have described him as an "ardent supporter" of their cause.
Nor are the Tigers the only beneficiaries of intervention by government figures. The Sikh community, especially in British Colombia, has long been roughly divided into factions based on feelings about the Babbar Khalsa. Generally, pro-BKI Sikhs tend to gravitate towards the Federal Liberals, while more moderate Sikhs have emerged in the Alliance and the NDP. Overall, the Sikh community tends to be an activist one with a level of political involvement far beyond that of the general Canadian population.
Currently, Herb Dhaliwal and David Kilgour (Dhaliwal is a cabinet minister and Kilgour is a junior one) have joined the lobby that is attempting to keep a Khalistan Commando Force member in Surrey BC from being repatriated to India to face capital charges for a 1993 terror bombing. As a part of this campaign, a delegation — which included two members of the ISYF (now a banned terrorist organization) -- traveled to Ottawa and met with the Prime Minister and three other senior cabinet ministers. The terrorist delegation also met with NDP MP Svend Robinson and Alliance MP Gurmant Grewal.
There are a number of election-related anecdotes collected in the course of this report, but most cannot be substantiated — which is not uncommon in Canadian politics anyway. People who have worked as canvassers on political campaigns often imply that the Voters List is inaccurate, and that there is no way to ascertain that only Canadian citizens are voting. One author has heard NDP, Liberal, Conservative, and Reform/Alliance members wonder how, for example, 43 paid up party members can be living in a three bedroom suburban house in Markham during a hard-fought nomination fight; or how two people who arrived in Canada two months before a federal election (and those of 10 other people of the same background in their tiny apartment) are on the voter’s list.
Are the supporters of the Tamil Tigers — or other major terrorist groups -- making inroads into the Canadian political system? Probably. Can it be proved? Not at present. However, it would certainly be useful — for a number of excellent reasons — if the Canadian political system became much more transparent.
There are supporters and members of many other terrorists groups in Canada who also engaged in political activism. But it is hard to take the Mujahedin e-Khalq seriously when their major campaign for 1989 featured a pair of members carrying a sandwich board with photos of Iranian atrocities while failing to get passers-by to accept some badly written pamphlets (this was seen on Sparks Street in Ottawa and Yonge Street in Toronto).
Likewise, it is hard to see FARC as having a serious Canadian political presence when their main support comes from the Communist Party of Canada. On March 4th 1999, the UofT Communists hosted a FARC speaker (one J. Romero), and the January 1999 edition of People’s Voice offered "solidarity bonds" for sale to support FARC. In December 2001, People’s Voice also advertised a FARC benefit dance in Vancouver, while the National Action Committee on the Status of Women decided to support FARC in June 1999.
This is trivial support, but perhaps it does let FARC preserve the illusion that it is still a revolutionary organization. The trickle of overseas contributions coming in from undiluted (and overly optimistic) Marxists is unimportant to a group that commands billions in narcotics productions, but — as was the case with the IRA’s "prisoner’s penny" boxes — the value is that the insurgents can claim to having overseas supporters as a key source of funding.
Canada is vulnerable to political action by the supporters of terrorist organizations, and some ethnic communities of Canadians have these supporters attempt to dominate cultural and political life. This attempt has worked extremely well for the Tamil Community, with the result that they appear to be making inroads into our leading political parties — with the probable intention of neutralizing them. Moreover, we face this cancer in our body politic without having the means to examine ourselves for infection and seemingly without the will to excise it.
Our tolerance and sense of pride in the diversity of cultural life in our nation has also been used against us, repeatedly and successfully, in order to let this occur and to limit treatment. The long-term prognosis if this current state continues cannot be good.
War Taxes and Donation Systems
"War Taxes," "Subscriptions," and "Donation Systems" are probably the oldest fundraising techniques used by terrorist organizations. The system is a simple one --all those who are supposedly going to benefit from the exertions of the insurgent are expected to make regular contributions to the group. However, very few rebel groups really enjoy genuine popular support and nobody enjoys paying taxes, let alone to both a legitimate government and to an insurgency.
Coercion is the engine behind any tax system, and terrorist groups can exercise it more readily than governments can. But regular donations and taxes are really only possible in a population where the terrorist and his political fronts have almost complete control, or exercise either strong sympathies or abject terror, within the community. Otherwise, the authorities can interfere with the collection of the tax system, and can expect to soon develop a network of informants. There are exceptions, and some people have been seen to readily accede to the collection of a regular tax system. Among these are the Sri Lankan Tamils of the ‘Diaspora’ outside of Sri Lanka.
Toronto police and Sri Lankan diplomatic officials maintain that a regular system of contributions and proceeds from extortion in Canada went to pay for the war in Sri Lanka. Paul Clark, of the Toronto Tamil Task Force, said that a million dollars a month was raised in Toronto through a combination of quasi-legal and illegal means. Predictably, the LTTE’s front groups denounced the report. The head of the Tamil Eelam Society of Canada once remarked: "I don’t think there is even one instance of extortion… Every cent we collect is by donation" when responding to a similar story. In 1991, an official of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (then led by a defector from the LTTE) claimed that Canadian Tamils were being shaken down for $200,000 for an ‘urgent war fund’. Sam Duraiswamy, then vice president of the Tamil Eelam Society of Canada, claimed to have no knowledge of any complaints or of any force that was being used to gather donations. Unfortunately, front organizations can often deliver statements filled with terminological inexactitude.
The regular subscription system may have also been surpassed when the LTTE was trying to launch a major offensive in 2000. As the Tigers readied for a key battle over Highway A-9 near Jaffna, it was reported that they were expecting every Tamil family in Australia, Canada, and the UK to contribute about US $1,000 for the cause.
LTTE fund raising operations are arguably the most sophisticated of any terrorist organization being undertaken on Canadian soil. They have mastered the techniques of collecting regular donations from the expatriate community, organizing regular "cultural" events, accessing public monies, and running numerous charitable organizations, to name but a few of the activities used to keep Canadians in the dark as to the true purpose behind these fundraising undertakings.
Donations, whether voluntary or coerced, make up a huge component of the Tiger war chest. The apparatus for the systematic collection of voluntary contributions by Tamils living internationally have their roots in Britain, and were triggered by the widespread anti-Tamil rioting of 1983 in Sri Lanka. In a London meeting, convened by an LTTE representative K. Balaskeram, under the name of the Eelam Solidarity Campaign, a presentation was made to British Tamils who were rightly concerned for the well being of their families still in Sri Lanka. Sympathizers who attended the meeting were encouraged to leave their names and telephone numbers. LTTE supporters then followed up on the lists, and created an apparatus that divided Britain into territories and expanded the lists of supporters.
The genius behind this approach was that Tamils were then acclimatized to donating to the Tiger cause, and were put into the habit of giving on a consistent monthly basis. Once the idea is accepted, it becomes legitimate and, with some repetition, evolves into becoming normal. The template formed in Britain has been transferred to all countries where there are large Tamil populations and is now supported by a rigid recording, accounting, and "compliance" process.
There is another element to the collections process that makes the LTTE unique. While the story of collections rackets for insurgent groups is an old one, there have been many examples over the years of terrorist groups (or their fronts) tapping income from emigrant communities elsewhere. Russian Anarchists in the 19th Century solicited funding from Russian émigrés living in Western Europe; the Provisional Wing of the IRA sought to harness the affections of Irish Catholics living in North America during the 1970s, and Middle Eastern groups certainly look for money from inside the Muslim communities that have been formed in recent decades inside the Western World. What makes the Tigers different is that they appear to have facilitated and encouraged the growth of ‘Diaspora’ communities of Tamils inside Western Europe, North America, and Australia — with the expectation that these communities could be harnessed to raise money for the cause.
A definite pattern exists in how the LTTE orchestrates the movement of Tamils worldwide, they look for two factors in deciding host countries: a liberal refugee policy, as well as a generous welfare system. The second factor is most important, as it allows the Tigers a means of accessing capital and diverting it to fund the movement. Merely putting Tamils abroad would not suit the Tigers’ purpose, as they need the hard cash that asylum seekers in certain western countries can generate. This is the reason that countries such as Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and Canada were prime destinations for Tamils. Welfare recipients have been prime targets for LTTE donation-collectors and extortionists.
This pattern appears to have been followed at least once already, as tens of thousands of Somalis bailed out of their collapsing homeland in the early 1990s. Many came to Canada with prior knowledge of the social benefits here, in the full expectation of harnessing them both for personal advantage, and to advance the fortunes of their clans.
In the Tamil case, the Sri Lankan foreign minister reviewed some of the more interesting developments overseas when addressing their parliament on February 9th, 1996. He reviewed the need of the LTTE to have a "considerable population of asylum seekers abroad in order to generate sufficient funds…" and cited Canada, Switzerland, Denmark, the UK, Norway, Australia, and Germany in particular. Stories from inside Europe bear out some of his complaints.
In 1999, the Germans put eleven Sri Lankan Tamils on trial for running an extortion racket among Tamil refugees in the Ruhr area since 1985; families were expected to contribute between $3 to $60 US per month, and that those who failed to cough up their donations could expect intimidation either in Germany, or directed at their families inside Sri Lanka. The system was a lucrative one, one of the defendants was charged with transferring 3.3 Billion Deutschmarks (about $1.95 Billion) to the tigers in a four-year period. Another intimidation ring that was broken apart in Germany acquired about 200,000 DM a month by collecting at least 50 DM per family — although one must assume that they undertook other activities as well.
On April 10th, 1994, Swiss police arrested 15 members of the LTTE for intimidating Tamils in the country, and beating and confining some of those who refused to donate around $60 a month to the cause. Canada’s own Immigration and Refugee Board acknowledged that Tamils inside Western Europe had to pay similar amounts as early as 1992.
Understandably, a lot of ordinary Tamils are shy about coming forward to tell stories about what they have experienced. Being identified as a media source could be personally hazardous (perhaps more so in the early 1990s than today) while becoming a known critic of the Tigers and their activities could result in being cut off from much of Tamil community life. A few will nervously confide stories of their own experiences if they know that their information is strictly off the record — the interviews conducted under these conditions in the 1990s were contrary to accepted practices for the news media, academia, and other sources of research and authoritative comment, but consistent reports suggested that the pattern that was being seen in Europe was also being practiced in Canada.
In essence, several Tamil refugees implied that there was a systemic collection system operating in Canada soon after the arrival of the first Tamil refugees from Germany in 1980s. Those who refused to comply with the demand for about $30 a month sometimes found it necessary to move to avoid visits from enforcers. However, if they contacted family members back in Sri Lanka, especially if their families were living in LTTE controlled areas, it became clear that the Tigers were monitoring them as well and would demand a cut if any money was sent home. Moreover, the family would be pressured into revealing the new address of their reluctant relative in Canada, and he would be expected to soon make good on arrears in payment.
The implication from both Europe and Canada is that Tamil organizers overseas remained in close contact with organizers in Sri Lanka, and that a system of checks exists to ensure that all overseas Tamils make contributions. This suggests a close level of coordination and an efficient administrative structure of some kind.
Is a systemic collection system still being run among Canada’s Tamil community? It appears that one did, perhaps still does, and that the system might have easily collected between one to two million dollars a month in Canada alone in the late 1990s. However, the current ceasefire would make it much more difficult to collect regular payments from most Canadian Tamils, as the incentive to voluntarily cooperate with the system has become weaker. Additionally, as the Tamil community has grown in size it has become harder to control — which makes it more likely that some Tamils will eventually come forward to publicly denounce the collection system if attempts are made to perpetuate it.
At various times in the 1990s, sources within the Sri Lankan community stated that some Tamil owned businesses in the Toronto area might display a small ‘license’ on the premises that indicates that the establishment is a regular contributor to the World Tamil Movement. This report had been heard from three different sources, one of who was also a regular source of intelligence to the RCMP and Canada’s Immigration services. A series of visits to Tamil owned convenience stores and shops in key neighborhoods in Toronto over 2002 noticed a small blue form in Tamil script only, by the cash register in about 15% of visited stores. This did not match earlier details of the ‘license’ (described as being a small plaque), and was found in too few stores to confirm earlier reports of the systemic taxation of Tamil business establishments.
Public Funding for Private Wars
Canada spends a lot of money on multicultural programs to encourage its diverse communities to express themselves, and there are a significant number of grants programs to encourage vitality here. Registered charities may receive government funding, and donors to them can write off a portion of their taxes for helping such groups out. Schools and houses of worship can find it fairly easy to win charitable status from the Federal Government.
Community newspapers often have a difficult time making ends meet without the occasional grant, and government advertising dollars are valuable. There are also charitable duties within some communities. Sikhs, for example, are expected to make major contributions to their Temples (a devout Sikh might donate 10% of his revenues on an annual basis). Muslims are directed to be charitable too — the zakat is a regular annual payment of 2.5% of one’s total worth for the poor, and voluntary charity (the sadakat) is supposed to increase one’s chances of reaching heaven, while fitra charitable donations are expected during Ramadan.
As mentioned in Chapter Three, there are government grants for immigration services and language services — which in the Tamil community have ended up in the hands of LTTE front groups. Other communities might experience the same problem.
Overall, with billions of dollars a year in both government and private funding being spent on charitable works and community organizations, there is much that can be diverted into the wrong hands.
The Tamil Tigers do not neglect the charitable side either. Other tentacles of their international octopus are the purported "development" and "reconstruction" groups that gather funds for supposedly humanitarian purposes in northern Sri Lanka. The two largest organizations are the Tamil Eelam Economic Development Organization (TEEDOR) and the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization (TRO). Both are disguised elements of the LTTE, and it is no secret that large portions of the donations made to either of these fronts are used to buy weapons for the anti-government effort.
The long war in Sri Lanka has generated hundreds of thousands of internal refugees, most of who are too poor to be able to afford the fees necessary to get themselves sent abroad. For the Tigers, these internal refugees (almost all Tamil) serve several functions — their miseries can be used to illustrate the purported callousness of the Sri Lankan government (which cannot really afford to resettle them), plus the presence of tens of thousands of refugees who fled Sinhalese persecution by heading into Tamil controlled areas adds a much cited proof that Sri Lanka’s government does have much to atone for.
Creating charities to raise money to care for these refugees has been useful for the Tigers. Motherland and Child Care of Sri Lanka Foundation was a registered Canadian charity operating from Mississauga Ontario — although it appears to have closed a couple of years ago. The TRO (which does not have registered charitable status in Canada) gushes with lists of its activities inside Sri Lanka, where it has cooperated with more legitimate NGOs like Medicins Sans Frontieres and CARE international. These organizations, however, hesitate to describe themselves as being part of a consortium with the TRO (although its Canadian Website implies that they are), but see cooperation with them as part of the price of doing business inside Tiger dominated areas.
The TRO serves a valuable function by legitimizing fundraising for Tamil Front organizations, but also provides the bulk of its services in areas where it does not have to account for expenditures. If aid money is diverted to the Tigers inside Sri Lanka, it is impossible to confirm, and one is only left with the impression that some diplomats and aid workers have developed: That the TRO is only a minor player inside Sri Lanka when it comes to the visible effect of charitable work.
Charitable works inside Canada can also add to the luster of the Tigers and their front organizations. The number of Hindus in Canada is growing rapidly, and the largest Hindu temple in the country is being built by the Toronto Tamil community. Construction is being undertaken under the name of the "Hindu Temple Society of Canada" (begging the question are the Tamils going to presume to speak for all of Canada’s Hindus?), but this society shares the same phone number and address as the Ganesh Hindu Temple. The opening of this huge — yet unfinished -- temple in early September 2001 saw 20,000 Tamil Hindus being met by young men selling LTTE memorabilia and passing collection jars for the TRO.
Evidently, the normal staff of the Ganesh Temple are not enthusiastic supporters for the LTTE, as the rack of self-help pamphlets, business fliers, and ads for immigrant services inside the front door of the Temple does not normally carry anything related to the Tigers or their Canadian front groups. On Hindu holidays in the summer of 2002, it was evident that the arriving crowd of worshippers was being worked for donations to the TRO between the parking lot and the front steps of the temple.
Passing the Bucket Again
"The support extended by you in attending this rally alone is not enough. You must prove your support by giving money. Your support should be converted into money. That money should be converted into arms for the movement."
-- An LTTE activist addressing a rally of Tamil Canadians in 1997.
Lectures, shows, and speaking engagements are a time-honored method for raising money. They also have the effect of providing a dual purpose of activating an audience to win their allegiance for a particular cause and affirming the loyalty of sympathizers for the cause. In the 19th Century, this was practically the only method available to the Irish Fenians to raise money and generate support. It is still a popular method.
In the angry aftermath of the Indian attack on the Golden Temple at Amritsar, The BKI heavily relied on individuals such as Talwinder Singh Parmar and other members to speak at various temples across Canada. At the end of the fiery sermons, they would call upon the crowd to make donations. They were most successful in gaining access for speeches to temples controlled by the ISYF — a rare instance of inter-organizational cooperation.
Passing around the collections bucket is a frequent occurrence in several Canadian cities. Sometimes, it is a real art form. The front organizations for the Tamil Tigers can stage fund-raising and cultural events in Toronto and Montreal that have featured members of the community parading in camouflage uniforms. Sometimes, youths or veteran Tigers will be on stage with dummy AK-47s as well, under the colors of the LTTE guerrilla formations. Then, after a cultural display, the awarding of prizes for various achievements, the showing of footage from the war, and a barn-burner of a speech, buckets (literally) are passed through the audience while they are enjoined to be generous.
The Tigers are perhaps the most assiduous terrorist group in the world when it comes to raising money, as there are few techniques they will overlook. At the back of the hall where the Tigers are preaching, the audience may be inveigled to buy more Tiger videos, t-shirts, their roaring tiger-head flag, and other items; with the proceeds going to the cause. The Tigers’ supporters are also known to go door to door on a routine basis within the Tamil community with a cadre of well-trained fundraisers. In 1998, it was estimated that there were about 60 veteran WTM activists (in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto) who would undertake this, and their lists of potential donors were said to be carefully annotated so that the reluctant might be later persuaded to be more generous through other means.
Multiculturalism has been held up as a Canadian ideal ever since the concept was first introduced in 1972. Somehow or other, it perhaps did not occur to the earnest backers of a multicultural Canada that the fullest expression of community life in a more diverse Canadian society would include the diversion of temple funds, the abuse of Canadian charity laws, and the selling of atrocity videos on our school stages to pay for other peoples’ wars.
It is not generally understood — yet — by most of citizens that actions by the supporters of groups like Babbar Khalsa, al Qaeda, or the LTTE represents a devastating betrayal of our one-time hopes for a peaceful community of all peoples within the Canadian state. Even if money raised for terrorist groups never results in violence here (although this has already happened), the cultural institutions and self-identity of several of our component societies have been hijacked by the supporters of terrorist groups. These very same supporters have no interest in the peaceful acclimatization of the people they claim to represent within the Canadian polity … so why should we continue give their likes any possible encouragement by continuing to tolerate the intolerant?
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