Canadian Tamil Congress fears 'targeted' break-in
The Canadian Tamil Congress claims the theft of a computer from its Toronto offices may have jeopardized the safety of hundreds of refugee claimants and their family members in Sri Lanka.
Toronto Police are investigating after the organization's offices were broken into Saturday night. So far, police have confirmed that there were signs of forced entry, and "a quantity of equipment" was taken from the office.
CTC director of public relations David Poopapalapillai fears whoever took the computer was looking for sensitive information on the passengers who arrived on the MV Sun Sea last month.
"One computer has info on migrants because we are helping families get connected to the migrants and migrants to the families," Poopapalapillai told CTV News.
All 492 names of the Sri Lankan migrants are believed to have been on the computer, as well as the names of any family living in Canada.
Those names are being withheld from the public under a Immigration and Refugee Board-ordered publication ban aimed at protecting the refugee claimants and their relatives in Canada and abroad.
Because other computers and a flat screen TV were left behind, Poopapalapillai is convinced the theft was focused on obtaining the identities of those who arrived in Victoria, B.C. from Sri Lanka on Aug. 13.
He told CTV News Channel that the perpetrators tried to steal several other hard drives, but were unable to do so.
"We clearly believe we were clearly targeted because of our involvement" with Tamil migrants, said Pooppalapillai, noting his organization's concern about retribution against family members who are still in Sri Lanka. They could be targeted and intimidated to quiet recent migrants who could be witnesses in a war crimes trial against the Sri Lankan government.
"By intimidating the families, they might scare off the witnesses," Pooppalapillai said.
He said he suspects that members of the Sri Lankan government were involved in the break in, but did not provide evidence to support his theory.
From his perspective, former Mountie and CSIS officer Michel Juneau-Katsuya sees little reason to believe the theft was more than a crime of opportunity.
That the missing computer was the one closest to the entrance means the thief could have grabbed whatever was at hand, Juneau-Katsuya told CTV.
"Who will benefit, that's the piece of the puzzle that is missing," he added, explaining that the identities are likely no secret to the Canadian government and the Sri Lankan authorities with whom they are working to sort out the refugee claims.
"So there's not too many others who might want that information, which leads to the possibility it was a simple criminal action," he said.
Detention review hearings are underway to determine whether the Canadian Border Service Agency is allowed to hold the migrants in custody until their refugee claims are heard.
The RCMP is trying to determine whether human smugglers or members of the banned terrorist organization Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), are among the group. LTTE lost a 26-year civil war against Sri Lanka's government last year.
With files from CTV's Austin Delaney and The Canadian Press