By John-Henry Westen
SCARBOROUGH, ON, January 23, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Today LifeSiteNews.com spoke with anÂindependent eye-witness of the events that took place yesterday outside a Scarborough Catholic Church where Conservative candidate Vincent Veerasuntharam and his campaign workers physically threatened and harassed a family handing out a pro-life candidates evaluation sheet.
LifeSiteNews.com reported yesterday that the candidate took a swing at LifeSiteNews.com director Steve Jalsevac and laterÂcampaign workers attempted to steal from him the audio recording device with which Jalsevac was taping the threats. (see coverage: http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/jan/06012301.html )
John Corcoran, a parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine where the incident occurred told LifeSiteNews.com that he witnessed harassment of the family and said that the family did not provoke the attack.Â“Nobody that were handing out brochures were harassing anybody, they were taking all of this harassment I thought very well, because they weren’t striking back in any way that I could see, they were just refusing to give up the brochures that these people were trying to take,” Corcoran said.
Corcoran said he witnessed Jalsevac’s 16-year-old son Joseph being harassed.Â“One chap was harassing a young lad there something fierce, he was trying to get the brochures from him, he was speaking quite loudly right into his face,” said Corcoran.Â
For his part, Joseph Jalsevac recounts that the large, over six foot Conservative candidate Veerasuntharam threatened him saying, “I’m F….n going to punch you in the face”, simply because Joseph refused to leave as orderedÂby the CPC candidate.ÂÂHe recalls also that as things began getting violent,Âhis sisters on the street began crying and screaming.
According to Corcoran, Joseph was later physically assaulted by one of Veerasuntharam’s co-workers.Â“When I looked upstairs after a few minutes, somebody pushed the young lad, and he had nearly fallen down the stairs, he had to grab the banister otherwise he would have fallen down the stairs,” he said.
LifeSiteNews.com has learned that this was not the first intimidating confrontation staged by Veerasuntharam’s campaign workers.Â
Wayne Copeland, a local pro-lifer who had paid for the CLC evaluations to be printed, received what he called a “very intimidating” visit by three “pretty big guys” who knocked on his door in the wee hours of the morning at 1:45am Sunday.Â The men presented Copeland with a letter from Veerasuntharam’s lawyer claiming that the evaluation sheet defamed Veerasuntharam and demanding an apology before 8am that morning. CopelandÂstated that there were also at least two more men with them in a car parked on his street.
Another set of pro-life volunteers, this time at St. Dunstan’s Church in the riding,Âreported that they also were very aggressively harassed by Vincent V and his supporters. Michael Schaub reports that at three of the masses the Conservative candidate and his helpers were constantly “intimidating and trying to physically obstruct” the pro-life volunteers. SchaubÂtold LifeSiteNews that a young women yelled at the pro-lifers calling them names such as “fascists” and pulled allÂthe flyers out of his hands. Photos were taken of the pro-life people andÂthey were yelled at by the candidate and threatened with legal action for misrepresenting Veerasuntharam.ÂSchaub says heÂobserved the candidate harassingÂand talking loudly to another pro-life volunteer who was theÂvice-president of the parish CWL. ÂShe wasÂfrom Sri Lanka and knew of Vincent from his days at St. Andrew’s school in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She told LifeSiteNews she rebuffed Vincent’s demandsÂat the ChurchÂto support him because they came from the same country since sheÂwas not happy with his previous responsesÂon theÂissues.
Beyond that, LifeSiteNews.com spoke with two pro-lifers who handed out the election sheet at the Saturday-night Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Church. TheyÂwere also intimidated by Veerasuntharam and his campaign workers and wereÂvery concerned about going back the next day.
After hearing about the Saturday night incidents,ÂSteve Jalsevac decided he should bring his small LifeSiteNews recorder toÂtakeÂevidence in case anything occurred while he and his family was handing out theÂevaluationsÂsheet at the church. However, he related to this reporter he did not expect that things would get as violent as they did. In 25Âyears of doing this work, he said, he has never encountered such a situation at a church during an election.
Jalsevac relates that after Vincent and his first assistant were joined by at least four more also very large East Asian men,ÂwhoÂall confronted himÂat once, he felt that he wasÂfaced with a group ofÂenforcers or thugs and that he was right to have called 911 after Veerasuntheram had earlier physically threatened him. Unfortunately, he says, police did not come right away and only responded after a second call was made by a church employee after Steve and his son were attacked on the church steps.
Calls to Mr. Veerasuntharam’s office for comment were not returned.
LifeSiteNews.com spoke with Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) about the candidate’s accusations that they had misrepresented him, and that the evaluation sheet was grounds for legal action,
CLC President Jim Hughes contacted a litigation lawyer early Sunday morning who assured him there were no grounds for legal action from the one paragraph evaluation of theÂConservative candidate.
CLC workers told LifeSiteNew.com they had repeatedly contacted and spoken to staff at Veerasuntharam’s campaign office about the questionnaire questions without success. CLC was not able to obtain any other information on the candidate beyond a Scarborough Mirror article which noted Veerasuntharam’s responses at an all-candidates’ meeting.
The Mirror reported that the Conservative candidate attacked Tom Wappel stating, “I’m not a MP who is going to go around with his personal Catholic values hiding in Ottawa.” To a same-sex marriage issue question, Wappel responded he has long opposed the redefinition of marriage. The CPC candidate, however, was reported to take a non-position stating, “I will consult with you the constituents and I will do what you want.”
Vincent Veerasuntharam, a member of St. Bonaventure’s Catholic parish in Toronto, serves as a director with the Sri Lanka Business Council and is well known within the Toronto Tamil community. He has been President of Suvara Travels Canada Inc., Scarborough for the past 18 years.
See previous report on this incident
Conservative Candidate Physically Threatens, Harasses Family Handing Out Pro-Life Election Sheet at Church - Updated