A Sri Lankan man who arrived aboard a cargo ship last year has been ordered deported after admitting to once being a member of the Tamil Tigers, but insisting he quit the banned terrorist group nearly two decades ago and never participated in combat.
The man is the second passenger on the MV Sun Sea to be ordered out of Canada because of membership in the Tigers, but his lawyer signalled Thursday he'll appeal directly to the federal public safety minister to fight the deportation.
Both people were among nearly 500 Tamil migrants who landed off the West Coast last August and immediately made refugee claims.
The federal government has accused more than 30 of the passengers of having links to terrorism, war crimes or human smuggling.
The Immigration and Refugee Board heard the man joined the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - or LTTE - as a young man about 20 years ago in Sri Lanka.
By then, Tiger rebels had already begun what would be a bloody 26-year fight against the Sri Lankan government. The civil war is believed to have left 70,000 people dead before it ended in 2009 with the defeat of the Tigers.
The man completed more than a year of training before he was assigned to a security detail off the coast of Sri Lanka, his lawyer, Shepherd Moss, told the IRB hearing.
Mr. Moss said the man's assignment was to protect Tamil citizens who were crossing into Tiger-controlled territory, but he never had a combat role.
The man asked to leave several years later, said Mr. Moss, and he was punished with forced manual labour for more than a year before he was eventually discharged.
"He was discharged from the LTTE and he's had no further dealings with that group since then," Mr. Moss said. "So he joined voluntarily and he left voluntarily."
Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator Daphne Shaw Dyck said she was required by law to issue the deportation order because the man admitted membership in the Tigers, which the Canadian government considers a banned terrorist group.
"Even though you stated you did not engage in battle, your training and role within the LTTE is admitted and unambiguous," Ms. Shaw Dyck told the man, who sat with his arms crossed and appeared to be listening intently.
The Refugee Protection Act allows claimants who are labelled inadmissible on security grounds to appeal directly to the public safety minister if they can demonstrate "their presence in Canada would not be detrimental to the national interest."
The man deported last week also admitted to being a former Tiger. His lawyer suggested he too plans some form of appeal, but didn't elaborate.
The Sun Sea was the second vessel carrying Tamil migrants to arrive since 2009, when a smaller ship - the MV Ocean Lady - sailed to British Columbia.
The Ocean Lady was carrying 76 migrants, who immediately filed for refugee status. The federal government alleged some were connected to the Tigers, but all have since been released.
A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews didn't comment specifically on the case, but said it's proof that the Conservative government's attempts to toughen refugee laws are necessary.
"This decision shows the need to crack down on human smugglers who threaten our borders," Christopher McCluskey said in an email statement.
"Law-abiding Canadians have told us this abuse of our generosity is a real problem that must be stopped."
The Conservatives tabled a bill last year that would impose tough penalties on human smugglers. It would also make it easier for the government to detail migrants who use human smugglers, deny them certain benefits, place them on probation for five years and prevent them from applying for permanent residence for five years.
Mr. McCluskey also attacked opposition parties, who have blocking the legislation over concerns it would treat refugee claimants unfairly and could breach their charter rights.
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