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Home >Tamil Diaspora - a Trans State Nation - தமிழ் அகம் - ஓர் உணர்வா, அல்லது இடமா? > Canada > Canadian Tamils feel Marginalized and Muzzled
Canada & the Tamil Struggle
Canadian Tamils feel Marginalized and Muzzled
Dr. Sri Bavan Sri-Skanda-Rajah, PhD Cantab
Tamil Canadians number around 300,000, most arriving from Sri Lanka following the genocide of July 1983. Tamils are by nature enterprising and hard-working and they invest heavily in education. They have swelled the professional and business ranks demonstrating a commitment to Canada's growth and prosperity.
However, empathy for Tamils has been destroyed by sections of the media displaying an anti-Tamil bias in their regurgitated reports instigated by Sri Lankan propaganda. The media have ignored an indisputable outpouring of grief by Canadian Tamils at the burgeoning disappearances and killings of civilians at the hands of Sri Lankan state forces, even during ceasefire. When 4,000 Tamils gathered outside Parliament in Ottawa on May 28 and 30,000 gathered the following day in Mel Lastman Square to protest the rapidly escalating violence against Tamils in Sri Lanka, the media ignored them.
In April, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day bypassed debate in Parliament and decided in Cabinet to list the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a proscribed organization in Canada. He actually implemented a plan proclaimed through his website for years.
With this ban, Canada has shown a callous disregard for the suffering of Tamil civilians and tilted the balance in favour of Sri Lanka in the peace negotiations, hindering Canada's ability to be an honest broker.
Apparently the decision to ban was influenced by a report by Human Rights Watch, and 100 affidavits alleging extortion of funds for LTTE. The report relied on 12 interviews with known agents of the Sri Lankan paramilitary and those holding personal grudges against the LTTE, all networking in the diaspora. The affidavits have not resulted in any prosecutions so far.
Canadian Tamils feel marginalized, muzzled and denied their democratic right to express displeasure at the Canadian government. Tamils fear they have lost their right to fundamental freedoms of conscience, thought, belief, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Canadian Tamils have become victims of racial profiling and stereotyping as "Tamil Tiger terrorists," even in schools and by police. The terrorism label attached to the LTTE has made Canadian Tamils fearful of expressing their objections to the government's decision. Most Tamils consider LTTE members to be freedom fighters and heroes.
Tamils see an urgent need to educate Ottawa about the tragedy that's been unfolding ever since Sri Lanka's independence from Britain in 1948.
While previous European colonizers, the Portuguese (1505—1658) and the Dutch (1659—1796), maintained separate administrations for the distinctly different Sinhalese and Tamil nations, Britain arbitrarily imposed a unified administration over the island. This left behind a unitary constitution that ensured a perpetual stranglehold on power by the Sinhalese nation.
There were no safeguards for the Tamils and no chance for the Tamils to have decision-making and legislative powers or be part of the governing process, let alone live with security in their own homeland in the northeast or any other part of the island.
Britain chose to abandon the Tamils, preferring to secure from the Sinhalese a concession to station the British Navy's Indian Ocean fleet in the island's deep water natural harbour in Trincomalee.
Successive majoritarian Sri Lankan governments have employed every imaginable measure to eliminate the Tamil nation and transform the island into a Sinhalese-Buddhist state. They have used the legislature, the law courts, the police and the armed forces to pursue the cultural, linguistic, economic, educational, territorial and even physical demise of the Tamil nation. By using the 6th amendment to the constitution to block debate on an autonomous Tamil Eelam they have taken the freedom struggle to another dimension: armed resistance.
Sri Lanka invests billions to pull the international community to join in maligning and demonizing the LTTE that administers a "de facto" state in the Vanni (area in the north of the island), only because the LTTE has to date unflinchingly carried out the unanimous democratic mandate known as the "Vaddukoddai Resolution" passed in 1976; a well-reasoned call for an independent and sovereign Tamil Eelam to defend the rights of Tamils to self-preservation and self-determination.
Had the international community not been influenced by vested interests, taken timely action to stop the human rights abuses and deliver freedom and justice to the persecuted Tamils, the need to protect the Tamil homeland with arms could have been avoided. Canada should demonstrate moral leadership by forcing Sri Lanka to reach a political settlement reflecting Tamil aspirations, freeing it from sustaining an economically disastrous and unwinnable war. Canadian Tamils want their motherland to be freed.