Massive Canadian rally - more than 25,000 prticipated

Place: Toronto, Canada | Courtesy: Collection
| Date: 19980201

More than 25,000 Tamils staged one of the biggest procession and rally ever staged in Canada to condemn the 50th golden anniversary celebration of Sri Lanka's independence and the Genocide against the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. Within the last two and half years this is the biggest rally conducted by any ethnic groups in Canada, The march started from Nathans Square adjoining the Toronto New City Hall in down town at 11.00 a.m on Sunday the 1st February.

The people started moving in an orderly manner shouting slogans in English. Placards carrying slogans indicating the atrocities by the Sri Lankan government were carried by men, women and children. Pamphlets in English explaining the 50 year genocide against the Tamils were distributed to the pedestrians from other communities. Several floats joined the procession. There was a float portraying the atrocities committed by the army and the massacre in the Welikada Jail. The one that attracted the attention of the pedestrians most was the mock coffin carried by four young men to the deafening sound of parai-molams (drums). The coffin bore the epitaph " 80,000 Tamils killed in Sri Lanka - Try Chandrika for War Crimes." It took several hours for the procession to reach the venue only 2 km away where there was nothing but a sea of heads wound its way to Queen's Park in front of Ontario Provincial Parliament. A meeting in front of the Parliament commenced at 13.00 hrs with the singing of the Canadian and Eelam national anthems and the hoisting of the Canadian and Tamil Elam flags by the families of the Martyrs who scarified the life in the war against the Sri Lankan Regime. A two minutes silence was observed for the Martyrs and for those who were killed in the war.

The rally was addressed by members of Federal, Provincial Parliament and Toronto City Councilors. Mr.V. Thangavelu President of FACT made the welcome speech and said similar rallies are simultaneous taking place all over the world where Tamil Diaspora is present.

Mr. Bill Graham, M.P. (Toronto Centre) who spoke next declared that he fully support the national liberation struggle of the Tamil people and in his won mind the LTTE is like the African National Congress or the Palestinian Liberation Organization. His speech was punctured by heavy applause from the enthusiastic crowds who stood on ten centimeters deep snow in freezing temperature.

The other speakers who followed roundly condemned the Sri Lankan government's genocidal war against the Thamil people. They included Mr. Jim Karygiannis, M.P. (Scarborough Agincourt), Jim Brown, M.P.P. (Scarborough West), Mr. Tony Silipo, M.P.P. (Dover Court) and Deputy leader of Ontario New Democratic Party, Mr. Jack Layton, Toronto City Councilor, Ms. Pam McConnel, Toronto City Councilor and several others spoke.

A resolution asking the Canadian government to recognize the legitimate national struggle of the Thamil people under the leadership of the vanguard force the LTTE was proposed by the President of FACT and was carried by loud acclamation from the crowd. Mr. S. Sittampalam, President Thamil Eelam Society acted as the Master of Ceremonies. Mr. Sam Duraiswamy, Coordinator FACT proposed the vote of thanks.

More than 600 Tamil establishments remained closed to mark the Black Day. Local electronic media gave wide publicity to the rally. Artists from Vaanampadi entertained the crowd by signing liberation songs . Tamils living in far away cities like Montreal and Ottawa attend the rally.

Massive Canadian rally said 'significant'

[TamilNet, February 03, 1998]

A large number of Tamil people participated in a march and rally Toronto Sunday, to condemn the Sri Lankan government. According to the organizers, the Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils, this was one of the largest attendance of their rallies, with about 25,000 people taking part.

FACT said that the event was staged to "reiterate the message that Sri Lanka's 50 years of Independence meant freedom for the Sinhalese people but enslavement for Tamils".

The large crowd marched from Nathan's Square adjoining the Toronto New City Hall at 11.00 a.m. and wound its way to Queen's Park in front of Ontario Provincial Parliament, accompanied by several floats.

The marchers shouted slogans, declaring the 4th of February (Sri Lankan Independence day) as a 'Black Day' for Tamils, and condemning atrocities by Sri Lankan troops.

The Canadian and Tamil Eelam flags were raised in Queen's Park at the start of the rally, as the crowd stood in several inches of snow. Several Tamil and Canadian speakers addressed the crowd, including members of the Federal and Provincial Parliaments and Toronto City Councilors, as well as the President of FACT, Mr.V. Thangavelu.

The Canadian legislators included Mr. Jim Karygiannis, Jim Brown, Mr. Tony Silipo (the Deputy leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party), Mr. Jack Layton and Ms. Pam McConnel, (both Toronto City Councilors).

A resolution asking the Canadian government to recognize the "legitimate national struggle of the Thamil people under the leadership of the vanguard force the LTTE" proposed by Mr.V. Thangavelu was carried with vocal support from the crowd.

Some Tamil community members said that the large turnout at a political rally, particularly in support of the LTTE, was "a significant event", particularly in light of the 'Suresh Case' and the proscribing of the LTTE by the United States last year.

"Many of them [marchers] may have felt compelled to demonstrate their support due to Suresh's treatment by the Canadian government" said the editor of a Tamil periodical.

The Canadian government took Mr. Manickavasagam Suresh into custody in October 1995 on the basis he was head of a front organization for the LTTE. Moves to deport Mr. Suresh to Sri Lanka drew criticism from human rights organisations and protests from the Canadian Tamil community.

A Provincial Court Judge recently stopped the deportation, pending a resolution of Mr. Suresh's constitutional claims. A hearing in the Canadian Federal court is due on February 6th.