TORONTO, June 18 /CNW/ - The World Tamil Movement - Ontario (WTM) is
profoundly shocked by the Minister of Public Safety's announcement on Monday
June 16, 2008 that it has been added to the list of terrorist organizations
under the Criminal Code. For the first time since the anti-terrorism
provisions were introduced in 2001, a community-based organization has been
listed as a terrorist entity by the Canadian government. The move is deeply
alarming both to the organization and the broader Tamil Canadian community.
The WTM was incorporated in Ontario in 1986 as a non-profit corporation,
and since then has provided settlement, counselling, and cultural services to
tens of thousands of Tamil Canadians. An estimated 200,000 Tamil Canadians
live in the Greater Toronto Area, the vast majority of whom immigrated to
Canada in the last 20 years. The WTM has been instrumental in assisting Tamil
newcomers to establish new lives in Canada while maintaining ties to their
cultural community. Over the years, the WTM has offered a variety of programs
and services, including document translation, interpretation, language and
vocational training, Tamil language and culture classes for children, a
women's organization to address the particular needs of women newcomers, a
16,000-volume library, sports leagues, and cultural celebrations. The WTM is
staffed and funded entirely by volunteers.
As a result of the listing, the WTM is vacating the premises at 39
Cosentino Drive in Scarborough, and the Board of Directors will be suspending
its operations. Effective immediately, all services will cease and the library
will be closed to the public.
Sitha Sittampalam, the former President of the WTM, expressed concern
that the listing will have a devastating impact not only on the Tamil
community here in the GTA but also in Sri Lanka: "The listing of the World
Tamil Movement will encourage the Sri Lankan government - which has been
repeatedly chastised by the United Nations and international human rights
organizations such as Amnesty International for its dismal human rights record
- to continue to use violence and intimidation to stifle dissent."
The WTM is resolved to fight its inclusion on the list of terrorist
entities, which it views as an attack on the fundamental freedoms of
expression and association enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"This act of listing the World Tamil Movement is a first step on a slippery
slope, where all of our fundamental rights can be eroded. Tamil Canadians see
this as a strictly political move intended to silence a voice within the Tamil
diaspora. The Board of the World Tamil Movement has therefore instructed its
counsel to vigorously challenge the listing," stated Mr. Sittampalam. "We have
full confidence in the Canadian legal system to uphold the constitution, and
will diligently pursue all legal remedies available."
Mr. Sittampalam declined to comment further as this matter will shortly
be before the court, and asked that all further inquiries be directed to the
WTM's lawyers, Marlys Edwardh, Adriel Weaver (Ruby & Edwardh, 416-964-9664)
and Barbara Jackman (Jackman & Associates, 416-653-9964).
For further information:
For further information: Marlys Edwardh, Adriel Weaver, Ruby & Edwardh,
(416) 964-9664; and Barbara Jackman, Jackman & Associates, (416) 653-9964