Canada takes back deported gangster
Published: Saturday, February 28, 2009
Canadian officials acknowledged yesterday that they helped bring a “dangerous” gang member to Toronto from South Asia this week, two days before the government unveiled its new anti-gang strategy.
Panchalingam Nagalingam, who was deported in 2005 because of his involvement in a violent Toronto street gang, arrived back on Tuesday morning, and Canadian officials say they facilitated and paid for his return. The circumstances have one official lamenting that the government is “in the business of putting gangs and gangsters out of business, not in bringing them back to Canada.”
Police were furious yesterday and immigration officials were at pains to explain why the government had paid to fly a gang member, once charged with hacking two people in the head with a meat cleaver, back to Canada more than three years after he was deported to his native Sri Lanka.
A spokesman for Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, said the government was outraged that it was forced to return Mr. Nagalingam to Canada because of a legal agreement entered into by the previous Liberal government.
The Ministry of Justice agreed in December, 2005, that it would allow Mr. Nagalingam to return to Toronto if the courts ever overturned a decision that found he was a danger to the public, officials said. The Federal Court of Appeal did just that in April, 2008, ruling that the judge who decided Mr. Nagalingam's case had made a procedural mistake.
Canadian officials started discussions about Mr. Nagalingan's return to Toronto last June, after he went to the Canadian High Commission in Colombo and said he feared for his safety. He was given a temporary residency permit in January that allowed him to enter Canada, but it was cancelled upon his arrival at Pearson Airport.
“We are very disappointed by the outcome of the court's decision. And we are outraged that we are forced, because of a legal agreement negotiated by the previous Liberal government, to return this dangerous individual to Canada,” said Alykhan Velshi, Mr. Kenney's spokesman.
“The agreement made under the previous Liberal government was not required by law and is very unusual; however they made it anyway and, sadly, we are bound by it.” He added that “because of the Liberals' agreement which we were legally bound to implement, we unfortunately had to pay for his return flight.”
“Since being returned to Canada, Nagalingam has been held in detention, where we will strenuously argue that he should remain,” he added.
A 36-year-old Sri Lankan citizen, Mr. Nagalingam was a member of AK Kannan, one of two warring Tamil gangs that engaged in extortion, drug trafficking, weapons dealing, attempted murder and murder in Toronto. The gangs were responsible for dozens of shootings, one of which killed an innocent bystander at a doughnut shop.
At an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing on Thursday, an immigration official read a police statement that said Mr. Nagalingam had been identified as a gunman in an unsolved shooting in Scarborough in 2000 that left two teenagers dead. He had also smashed a chair over the head of a man at a community function and assaulted a security guard at a theatre, the official said. On two occasions, Mr. Nagalingam was shot at by rival gang members.
“Nagalingam has demonstrated that he will not hesitate to use violence, and he has challenged rival gang members in public settings,” the official said, reading a statement by the Toronto Police Service.
“This individual in my opinion is a recipe for yet another disaster on the streets of Toronto. He is a danger to the citizens of Canada and should not be allowed to stay in Canada.”
Mr. Nagalingam thanked God and the immigration department “for helping me to get back here” and said he had turned over a new leaf. “I have a child outside, I have my mother and father. I decided to start my life again.
“Immigration states here I am a danger to the Tamil community,” he added. “Won't I get a chance for me to reform, to start my life again? That's all I ask for.”
The Refugee Board ordered him detained on the grounds he is a danger to the public and a flight risk. In the meantime, the government has already commenced proceedings to have him deported once again. He was to appear before the board again next Thursday.
Mr. Nagalingam first arrived in Canada in 1994 and was accepted as a refugee the following year. But Toronto police quickly identified him as an AK Kannan gang member. He has three criminal convictions but he has faced other charges that were dropped.
For example, in 1998, he was charged with assault with a weapon after he allegedly struck two rival gang members in the head with a meat cleaver. Police arrived at the scene and “did see the accused attempting to strike several other persons with the meat cleaver, before he like the others began to flee,” but the victims could not be found and the charges were stayed.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced new legislation to fight gang violence on Thursday. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the government would “take tough, responsible action to make our streets and communities safer and more secure.”
Canadian High Commission