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Hindu Temple Faces Fine Over Tsunami Donations

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A Hindu temple has been fined $301,869 by the Canada Revenue Agency for sending money to "non-qualified donees," which include a group that Ottawa alleges was part of a support network for the Tamil Tigers.

The Hindu Mission of Mississauga, which is a registered charity, sent money to an overseas charity in the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami, which devastated part of Sri Lanka.

The temple sent $84,604 to the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization — known as TRO — in Sri Lanka, in the fiscal period that ended in May 2005.

During the same period of time, the organization also sent money to the Sri Lanka-based North and East Community Development Organization, which the CRA believes “was affiliated with, and supported the projects of, the TRO.”

Shan Shanmugarajah, the president of the Hindu Mission of Mississauga, which operates the city’s Jeya Durga Hindu Temple said the "TRO was the only organization that was working in the north because of the Tiger problem.”

But, in documents obtained by CBC News, the CRA says that TRO is "an organization that formed part of the support network for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam."

The Conservative government put the LTTE on Canada's terrorism list in April 2006 — more than a year after the tsunami.

Stockwell Day was minister of public safety at the time. In an interview with a local Tamil radio program in the days after the LTTE was put on the terrorism list, he said, "the functioning of the TRO, I can assure you, will not be affected in any way. People can support that organization. They can give funds to that organization."

Hari Nesathurai, the temple's lawyer said "it's sad that their reputation has been tarnished by reports and allegations that are significantly later in time."

However, the CRA in Apr. 23, 2012 letter reiterated its stance on the issue. As it said in a previous missive, the CRA told the Hindu Mission of Mississauga that a registered charity is “not meeting the definition of a charitable organization…when it uses its resources to finance or sponsor the support network of an entity that engages in terrorist activities.”

And the CRA said in the letter it believes the Hindu Mission of Mississauga was “aware of the affiliation” between the TRO and the LTTE, and “agreed to provide funding to the TRO in spite of that affiliation.”

The CRA has also told the temple that if it does not pay the fine, it could lose its charitable status.

Temple officials say they will pay if necessary but they insist they did nothing wrong. Nesathurai says the CRA isn't the final arbiter and he intends to appeal the decision in court.

The CRA declined the opportunity to comment on its audit when contacted by CBC News.

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