Canada probes who paid for Tamil refugees’ travel

VANCOUVER, August 17, 2010 (AFP) – Canadian authorities are investigating whether Sri Lankan rebels financed the passage of nearly 500 Tamil refugees to Canada last week, officials said Monday before the start of detention hearings. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, speaking to The Globe and Mail daily in an article Monday, said passengers were charged up to 50,000 Canadian dollars (48,000 US dollars) for travel aboard the cargo ship MV Sun Sea.

Members of Canada’s 300,000 Tamil community may have helped fund their passage and the outlawed Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels — regarded by Canada as a terrorist group — could have organized the voyage, he said.

“Obviously (the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) will follow every connection between the payment of money and those who received it,” Toews told The Globe and Mail.

RCMP Constable Michael McLaughlin told AFP: “We’re investigating a variety of offenses.

“The human smuggling aspect is an obvious avenue that we have to pursue. Financing would be a sidebar of this investigation,” he explained.

Toews’ spokesman Christopher McCluskey commented: “Human smuggling is a despicable crime and any attempts to abuse Canada’s generosity for financi