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Court orders review of former informant’s human rights complaint against spy agency

The Federal Court has ordered the Canadian Human Rights Commission to review a discrimination complaint against the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) by a former informant and child soldier who says the spy agency cost him his security job on Parliament Hill. .

Kagustan Ariaratnam applied to work for the Parliamentary Protection Service in 2016 but was rejected on security grounds after a meeting between House of Commons and CSIS officials during which the spy agency released two classified documents discussing Ariaratnam’s mental health.

Ariaratnam was in contact with CSIS in the 2000s about the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, better known as the Tamil Tigers, which he joined as a teenager while living in Sri Lanka, according to court records.

After she was turned down for a job on Parliament Hill, she complained to CSIS, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) and the Human Rights Commission and got nowhere.

“I basically felt betrayed [CSIS] “I gave them a lot of information,” Ariaratnam, now 50, told CBC News.

But on Friday, Federal Court Judge Janet Fuhrer ordered the commission to reconsider its complaint against CSIS, which alleges mental health discrimination.

Near the car, with the inscription
Ariaratnam was working for a private security firm in Ottawa in 2016 when he applied to work with the Parliamentary Protection Service. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Ariaratnam “has undertaken his duty to establish that the Commission’s decision is unfounded,” Führer wrote in his ruling.

The commission dismissed the complaint after it concluded that the matter had already been dealt with by the NSIRA, which rejected his complaint in 2020.

Fuhrer found an “inconsistency” in the commission’s reasoning, saying it had “inexplicably” decided that the complaints to the commission and NSIRA were identical, although it acknowledged that Ariaratnam had not raised any human rights issues in the latter’s submissions.

Ariaratnam was working for a private security firm in Ottawa in 2016 when he applied to work with the Parliamentary Protection Service.

The job required “site access,” which itself required a CSIS security clearance.

Ariaratnam’s lawyer, Nicholas Pope, with the Ottawa law firm Hameed Law, said the commission used a “paper-like rationale” to reject Ariaratnam’s claim.

Pope said the case is part of a broader pattern by the commission, which rejects cases if they are “to the extent that they touch” on other administrative proceedings.

“I think that the commission lacks resources and is overworked,” he said.

In its legal arguments, the commission, through Canada’s attorney general, argued that it had “meaningfully dealt with” the complaint and the decision to dismiss it was “reasonable” because the spy watchdog had conducted a “robust investigation”.

Ariaratnam’s complaint to NSIRA alleged that CSIS improperly used information to portray itself as a security threat.

The intelligence watchdog ruled against him because the House of Commons rejected his application, not CSIS. However, CSIS admitted during the hearing that the spy agency’s top leadership would not approve the release of classified documents on Ariaratnam.

The 2006 and 2009 summaries were drawn up in relation to Ariaratnam’s then ongoing immigration proceedings. He is now a Canadian citizen.

Soldiers men and women standing in formation holding assault rifles.
Tamil Tiger rebels salute during a ceremony in eastern Sri Lanka in July 2006. The group has fought for decades to secede from Sri Lanka and create an independent homeland for Hindu Tamils. (Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press)

“CSIS recognizes that the manner in which some of the information was shared would not have been approved by management and would not have been disseminated as such today,” NSIRA said in a 2020 decision.

“However, CSIS maintains that it has the authority to share the information in question and that it is appropriate to contextualize other open source information.”

The NSIRA decision said Ariaratnam had a “previous relationship” with CSIS and that he had “been interviewed by the service in the past.”

The federal court order said that Ariaratnam “provided CSIS with intelligence about [Tamil Tigers] for several years until he suffered from a mental illness that he claimed was orchestrated or caused by CSIS.”

The federal government has listed the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organization. They have fought for decades to secede from Sri Lanka and create an independent homeland for the Hindu Tamils.

A heavily redacted internal CSIS memo on Ariaratnam, classified as “confidential” and obtained through the Access to Information Act, said he had “several times” of contact with the spy agency.

Ariaratnam says the security job on Parliament Hill was life-changing. That would put him significantly above the minimum wage for a security guard, a ceiling he has yet to break, he said.

“It deprived me economically. It affected my mental and financial well-being, my quality of life,” says Ariyaratnam, who is currently studying digital journalism at the University of Ottawa.

“My whole family, marriage collapsed. So much has happened that I still question why the Canadian government treated me this way, even though I fully assisted the Canadian authorities.”

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