TORONTO — The Ontario Progressive Conservatives said they were unaware that a guest they entertained at Queen’s Park last week was being deported for being a member of a terrorist organization.
Last Thursday, MPP Jack MacLaren stood in the Ontario legislature to welcome a group of “friends and guests” he said had come to hear him read a statement about those killed during the Sri Lankan civil war.
But he was apparently not informed that the Canada Border Services Agency had been trying to deport one of them for being a member of the Sri Lankan guerrilla group responsible for its share of those deaths.
“No I didn’t tell him about it,” the man in question, M.K. Eelaventhan, told the National Post. He said he was appealing the government’s deportation order to the Supreme Court and had no trouble getting into Queen’s Park.
Eelaventhan, also known as Manickavasagar Kanagendran, was an appointed representative of the political party aligned with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels and had “met personally” with its top leaders, the Immigration and Refugee Board found.
“He was an active and vocal supporter of the LTTE, holding a position of importance and working at a high level to further the LTTE’s cause,” the IRB wrote. “Mr. Kanagendran had knowledge of the crimes committed by the LTTE and lent his active support to the group.”
The incident is the latest example of the disconnect between federal officials enforcing Canada’s national security laws and politicians advocating for the overseas causes of their constituents. The incident came just four days after the National Post reported that PC leader Patrick Brown and Premier Kathleen Wynne were among several politicians who had paid visits to a Toronto temple the CBSA alleged was controlled by a banned Tamil terrorist group.
MacLaren did not respond to questions. According to a transcript of the proceedings at Queen’s Park, on Nov. 26 he welcomed “my friends from the Tamils for Patrick team” as well as Tamil media outlets and activists, and spoke about the “genocidal onslaught for the Tamils” in Sri Lanka.
“MPP MacLaren delivered a statement on behalf of innocent civilians who lost their lives,” Brown’s spokeswoman, Tamara Macgregor, said. “We invited a number of organizations from the Tamil community to hear the statement in the legislature but we had no control over which individuals came to represent each group.”
Photos on the Tamil Mirror newspaper website showed Eelaventhan posing beside MacLaren after the statement was read. Nimalraj Vinayagamoorthy, another of the party’s guests, confirmed Eelaventhan was present.
“He was part of the team that visited there,” Vinayagamoorthy said. He said the Conservatives had invited them to hear the statement read in the legislature. Eelaventhan’s immigration status was not raised with the party beforehand, he said.
Eelaventhan is in his 80s. Before fleeing Sri Lanka in 2009, he was a Member of Parliament for the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which the CBSA calls a “political front” for the Tamil Tigers, an outlawed terrorist group in Canada.
The refugee board ordered his deportation on security grounds in 2012. In 2014, the Federal Court upheld the IRB’s finding that Eelaventhan had been a member of a group engaged in terrorism. A separate allegation that he was complicit in war crimes was quashed.
“We agree there appears to be a need for additional security measures at Queen’s Park,” Macgregor said. She did not elaborate except to say that “there is an ongoing conversation at Queen’s Park regarding security.”
Sergeant-at-Arms Dennis Clark said MacLaren’s guest was not banned from Queen’s Park. “When an MPP invites a guest we take the names,” he said. “But if that MPP has them as a guest then we’re not going to say ‘No you can’t come in.’”
Eelaventhan has a long history of non-violent activism, both in Sri Lanka and in Toronto. He joined the TNA in 2002 and in 2004, the party appointed him an MP. He lost his seat in 2007 for non-attendance. “His whole life he contributed to the community without expecting any personal gain,” said Vinayagamoorthy.
During a 2007 visit to Canada, Eelaventhan was photographed at an event beside then-prime minister Stephen Harper, although they are not looking at each other and the Sri Lankan had not yet been ordered deported.
His whole life he contributed to the community without expecting any personal gain
In an interview in 2012, Eelaventhan compared the TNA to Ireland’s Sinn Fein, and the Tigers to the IRA. “Both are fighting for the same goal of an independent sovereign state of Eelam [Tamil homeland] but the methods, the devices they adopt are different,” he said. “We run parallel.”
He testified that while he supported Tamil liberation, he never considered himself a member of the Tigers, nor had he ever raised financial or other support for the armed group and he did not endorse their use of violence.
But in approving Eelaventhan’s deportation, the Federal Court found there was sufficient evidence to conclude the TNA was “subservient” to the rebels, and that membership in the party “was tantamount to membership” in the Tamil Tigers.