A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[BRIEF NOTE] On possible organized electoral fraud among Tamil Canadians in Scarborough

The robocalling scandal has managed to produce allegations of systematic fraud in the riding of Scarborough—Rouge River in northeasternmost Toronto (the former Scarborough).

A CBC News investigation has uncovered allegations of electoral fraud concentrated in the Tamil community in the east Toronto riding of Scarborough – Rouge River.

The allegations, which span both the federal and provincial ridings, centre largely on what appears to be a lack of oversight surrounding election-day additions to the official voters list.

Only Canadian citizens are legally allowed to vote in Canadian federal and provincial elections, and even people whose names are on the voters list must provide identification before they vote. In a federal election, a person who shows up at a polling station without ID can get a fellow constituent to vouch for them. In Ontario elections, voters without ID are asked to sign a form verifying they live in the riding.

It’s this polling-station process that lacks the most basic oversight, say candidates who spoke to CBC News. And the lack of oversight allows voters to illegally cast ballots in a practice the candidates say was common in Scarborough – Rouge River during last May’s federal election and in October’s provincial election.

Marlene Gallyot, a federal Conservative candidate who lost to the NDP’s Rathika Sitsabaiesan, has complained to Elections Canada, alleging ineligible voters “by the dozens” turned up on voting day and filed ballots illegally.

“They came with a Future Shop bill,” she told CBC News. “They came in with a Canadian Tire bill. They were coming in without proper identification.”

Gallyot alleges that despite lacking the required ID, voters were still allowed to cast their ballots.

She also said scrutineers — party volunteers who oversee voting on behalf of candidates — were approaching voters at polling stations, speaking to them in Tamil and coaching them on who to vote for. Gallyot overheard such coaching inside and outside a polling station she was allowed to visit as an “observer,” she said.

Gallyot was born in India but speaks Tamil as a second language. She told CBC she tried to put a stop to the alleged vote-coaching when she saw it but could not prevent it from happening at other polling stations.

“When they got to know that I could speak and understand Tamil, they were shocked, at least to some degree I was able to control it but there were too many polling stations.”

Yes, the allegations may have been made by a Conservative candidate, but I find them at least superficially credible. One reason is that they echo complaints made by the local Liberal representative in the Ontario Provincial Parliament, whose provincial riding shares the same name and boundaries as the federal riding in question.

MPP Bas Balkissoon has complained to Elections Ontario alleging widespread voting irregularities in his Scarborough-Rouge River riding, including thousands of names being “improperly’’ added to the voters list.

“People are getting on the list and I’m not sure they’re living here,’’ Balkissoon said.

In two submissions to Elections Ontario totalling 25 pages, Balkissoon, a longtime provincial incumbent, says that between the last municipal election in October 2010 and the last federal election in May 2011 about 8,000 persons were added to the voters list, but only 3,000 names were removed, “a very large net gain of 5,000 voters.’’

He also claims that in the provincial election, 20 to 30 people showed up registering to vote as additions to the list, claiming they lived at 80 Alton Towers, a highrise in the riding.

“Most (of the voters) could not offer evidence of current residence, and declined to show the place of prior residence, but they did complete the statutory declaration,’’ and voted, Balkissoon’s submission reads.

He became aware of the problems after Namu Ponnambalam, a losing candidate in the last municipal vote, approached him before the provincial election, and showed him the municipal voters list.

Balkissoon and Ponnambalam believe thousands of names added to the list are either people without citizenship or have never lived in the ward.

Another reason is that this sort of centrally directed political campaign is common. I’ve blogged extensively about the substantial Tamil Canadian community of Toronto–concentrated in areas like Scarborough. Most Tamil Canadians do not come from India’s large and stable state of Tamil Nadu, but rather from the much smaller and more embattled Tamil minority in Sri Lanka, the first major waves of Tamil immigrants to Canada coming in the 1980s at the beginning of the country’s civil war. The Tamil Tigers have traditionally controlled Sri Lankan Tamil communities, a 2006 report observing that Tamils in the diaspora were shaken down for money by Tiger front organizations, these front organizations exerting significant influence elsewhere, representing themselves as legitimate representatives of the diaspora community and organizing political protests. In 2009, as the Tamil Tigers were being crushed by the Sri Lankan military, significant high-profile protests appeared throughout Toronto–I photographed one myself.

Is it outside the realm of possibility that organizations associated with the Tamil Tigers might be perpetuating electoral fraud in areas with large Tamil concentrations to try to ensure the election of relatively friendly candidates? Notwithstanding the emergence of this complaint in the context of robocalling, I don’t find it at all implausible given past events. The coaching/intimidation of potential voters conducted in the Tamil language–spoken by very few non-Tamils in Toronto–fits. An investigation is clearly in order.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 15, 2012 at 12:04 am

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