TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian government added the World Tamil Movement to its list of terrorist groups on Monday, describing it as a front organization that raised funds for the rebel Tamil Tigers fighting against the government in Sri Lanka.
The World Tamil Movement’s assets will be frozen and Canada’s banking regulator said that Canadian financial institutions must review their records and immediately report to the federal police any transactions made by the group.
The directive covers Canadian banks, insurance companies and credit unions and is part of Ottawa’s effort to fight money laundering and terrorist financing.
“We have to send a clear message that we do not countenance this type of activity,” Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day told a news conference in Toronto.
“By listing this group as a terrorist-related organization, it will also be illegal for individuals or other groups or associations to assist in any way the World Tamil Movement.”
The World Tamil Movement, based in Toronto, was created in 1986 and the Canadian government called it “the leading front organization” for the rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, known as the Tamil Tigers.
The group has waged an often violent campaign for decades against the Sri Lankan government in order to create a separate Tamil state in the country.
The evidence “is both sufficient and reasonable” to show that the WTM has been involved in fundraising to support the Tamil Tigers, Day said.
But the minister would not say how much money WTM raised in Canada or sent to Sri Lanka.
“The funds are significant. I prefer not to comment on the volume at this point because of ongoing investigations,” Day said. “It’s not the dollars alone. Sometimes we are aware, for instance, that certain pieces of equipment can be acquired that can be sent to terrorist forces,” he added.
Canada passed an anti-terrorism law in 2001 that allows the federal cabinet to name entities and individuals directly involved in terrorist violence in order to curb their activities. It added the Tamil Tigers to that list some time ago.
Fighting between Sri Lankan government forces and the Tamil Tigers has intensified this year, after the government formally pulled out of a six-year-old ceasefire pact in January, though a renewed civil war has been raging since 2006.
An estimated 70,000 people have been killed in the 25-year civil war.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been investigating the World Tamil Movement since 2003, and they raided its Toronto and Montreal offices in 2006.
Day did not say if or when criminal charges would be laid against the WTM or its members, telling reporters to “stay tuned” for developments.
Representatives of the group have said it is sympathetic to the Tigers’ cause, but denied it raises funds for terrorism.
The WTM can appeal the government’s designation to Day directly or through the Federal Court.
Reporting by Lynne Olver; editing by Rob Wilson