Tamil gangs aren’t really gangs at all.
Typically, they don’t sell drugs or steal. There is no hierarchy or affiliated colours. And members, usually around 16 to 18 years old, don’t carry handguns. In fact, says one youth, these “gangs” are so unconnected, they don’t even know where to look for weapons.
“So they carry what they can get, kitchen knives and hammers or whatever,” said “J,” a 20-year-old who admits he joined a Tamil gang after immigrating to Canada two years ago.
Standing in the back parking lot of a grungy Scarborough plaza, where on Monday afternoon 19-year-old Annu Indrakanthan was beaten to death, J says teens join a gang for protection and to feel important.
The idea of gang violence in the Tamil community is not new, said Sri-Guggan Sri-Skanda-rajah, a board member with the Canadian Tamil Youth Development Centre. Gang violence peaked in the 1990s, he said, but the latest spate of violence has many in the community worried.
“We are now experiencing a resurgence of violence,” said Sri-Skanda-rajah. “We are very concerned.”
Some of the Tamil-on-Tamil fighting, he admits, could be the remnants of violence that many youth left behind in Sri Lanka.