Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is on the record as saying that the Canadian government acted against its own political interests by listing the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist group in 2006.
Kenney said this at a special briefing limited to Tamil-Canadian media in Toronto last month (watch YouTube video below) when asked about his reaction to Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris’ accusations that Canada’s approach to human rights in his country is biased and unbalanced.
“My answer is what I told him (the Sri Lankan foreign minister). The current Canadian government acted against its own domestic political interests by adding the LTTE to the list of prescribed terrorist organizations in 2006,” said Kenney. “They’ve been accusing us of somehow responding just to domestic political pressure, and being indifferent to the Tigers. I say this is exactly wrong.”
Kenny’s office later explained that his remarks highlighted the government’s “principled opposition to terrorism, and support for human rights and the rule of law.” But what was perhaps left unsaid is that the Canadian government believes that most Sri Lankan Tamils in this country are sympathetic towards a “terrorist” organization. How else does the “terrorist” label fly against the government’s domestic political interests? That is an unfortunate insinuation.
iPolitics.ca reported Canadian Tamil Congress national spokesman David Poopalapillai as saying, “I don’t know what he meant. It was a little confusing.” Despite his confusion regarding Kenney’s comments about the listing of the LTTE as a terrorist organization, Poopalapillai said the Canadian Tamil Congress welcomed Kenney’s toughness on the Sri Lankan government and supports Canada’s threat to boycott the Commonwealth meeting.
The government’s contention that domestic political calculations do not come in the way of foreign policy is hard to square with its stand on Sikh separatist activity in Canada and its total silence on the mysterious activities of a Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, a Muslim preacher from Toronto, in Pakistan, who created a political storm in that country by calling for the removal of a democratically-elected government. There does seem to be at least some daylight.
On his recent visit to India, Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejected the host government’s suggestion that Ottawa needs to do more about Sikh separatist activity. Harper said that that merely advocating for a separate Khalistan homeland in the Punjab is not a crime. “It may be a political position that both the government of Canada and the government of India disagree with,” the Prime Minister said in the southern Indian city of Bangalore. “We can’t interfere with the right of political freedom of expression.”
That is a tenuous line to walk. The link between the demand for Khalistan in India and this country came home to roost when a whole planeload of Canadians was bombed out of the sky in 1985. Even this week, a radio producer in British Columbia, Maninder Gill, is in the news because he claims the weapons charges against him stem from the politics around the Khalistan movement. Gill received a Queen’s Jubilee Medal from his local MP, Jinny Sims.
One also remembers the attacks on Tara Singh Hayer, the only journalist ever assassinated in Canada, for writing critically against Khalistan extremists and agreeing to be a witness in the Air India bombing case. The brutal attack on former federal minister and B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh for vehemently opposing the separatist movement is yet another example.
It is hard to gauge support for either the Tamil Eelam or the Punjab Khalistan cause because the campaigners tend to be more vocal and better organized. It is, therefore, dangerous to tar a whole diaspora with the same brush. Instead, the government should crack down uniformly on all fund-raising and separatist activities targeted at foreign nations. We know only too well the cost of fighting a sovereigntist movement in Quebec. To the extent that Canada contributes to their discomfort, we should do everything we can to spare the global South these distractions.
– New Canadian Media