The Canadian news website, Star.com reported the following story of 74 year old widow, Sugunanayake Joseph facing deportation. The full article is republished below.
After her husband was assassinated during midnight mass at a church in Sri Lanka on Christmas Eve 2005, Canada welcomed Sugunanayake Joseph. Former foreign affairs minister Bill Graham spoke at a memorial service for her husband, Joseph Pararajasingham, a Sri Lankan MP, calling him a “man of peace.”
Five years later, the Immigration and Refugee Board has ordered the 74-year-old Toronto grandmother deported, concluding her role as a politician’s wife — supporting her late husband’s career and accompanying him to political events — amounted to membership in a designated terrorist organization.
“My husband was not a terrorist,” Joseph told the Star on Thursday. “I am also not a terrorist. He was an innocent man. A man of the people.” Joseph was also wounded in the shooting. Shortly afterward, the federal government issued a visitor’s visa so she could flee to safety in Canada, where her son and daughter are citizens. But when she made a refugee claim in 2007, the federal government alleged Joseph was inadmissible because she had been complicit in crimes against humanity and had belonged to a terrorist organization in Sri Lanka.
A refugee board hearing began in July 2009 and continued over the next two years. In a Feb. 17 decision, adjudicator Oksana Kowalyk found that by a series of associations, Joseph was, in effect, a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Although neither Joseph nor her husband had formal membership in the LTTE, he was one of 22 Sri Lankan MPs who formed a coalition in 2001 known as the Tamil National Alliance, which pushed for peace negotiations between the government and the leadership of the Tamil independence movement.
The Tamil National Alliance functioned as the LTTE’s alter ego in Sri Lanka’s parliament, Kowalyk concluded in her decision. And by supporting her husband’s activities as a member of the MPs’ coalition, Joseph also furthered the LTTE’s objectives, Kowalyk found. The adjudicator based her conclusions in part on a letter from Amnesty International Canada, which described the Tamil National Alliance as a “proxy” for the LTTE. But she also ignored portions of the letter in which Amnesty International stated membership in the Tamil National Alliance could not be regarded as de facto membership in the LTTE, argues Raoul Boulakia, Joseph’s lawyer, who is asking the Federal Court to review the ruling.
In an interview Thursday, Gloria Nafziger, Amnesty Canada’s refugee coordinator and the author of the letter, said “it would be simplistic” to call the Tamil National Alliance a proxy for the LTTE. While it shared the LTTE’s desire for an independent Tamil state, the Tamil National Alliance has always advanced a platform of non-violence and is a credible political party, she said. “Having been a member of the alliance does not mean you would have been a supporter of the LTTE,” Nafziger said, adding all Tamil politicians were under pressure to associate with the LTTE and being openly critical of the party could place their lives in jeopardy.
Now Joseph worries if she is deported, she will be targeted by militants who opposed her late husband’s call for a peaceful resolution to Sri Lanka’s political strife. “I’m afraid to go back,” she said. “They shot my husband. They’ll shoot me, too.”