Canada turns blind eye on a 2 weeks continuous protest
It is estimated over 25,000 Canadian Tamils gathered in front of the Peace Tower on April 21, 2009 to ask for peace in Sri Lanka. Despite the cold weather thousands of children and elderly patiently voiced their concerns to the Canadian Government. Canada homes one of the largest community of Tamils from Sri Lanka, around 300,000.
The current humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka has taken over 5000 lives of Tamils civilians, and over 1000 of them are children. The actual number of casualties is feared to be much higher.
Although, there have been many Tamils humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, the current one exceeds all of them in one simple step - the Sri Lankan government has imposed an absolute denial of access to UN, aid agencies and journalists to Sri Lanka; the step itself has created gravely worries for Tamils Diaspora if a genocide is in progress.
Besides, leaking news from the zones do not offer much comfort to Tamils Diaspora either; these sources have accused the Sri Lankan Army of using of chemical weapons, using of banned weapons (such as cluster shells, napalm bombs and phosphorus bombs) and using exiting Tamils civilians as human shields. The fleeing Tamils civilians are escorted to concentration camps like “refugee camps”; torture, killings & rape by the Sri Lankan Army and paramilitary forces are afraid to be norm here. Involuntary disappearances are expected to peak way higher. Again, nobody knows as there is no free media allowed into Sri Lanka.
The protesters gathered at the Parliament hill on April 21, 2009 around 9:00 AM came with all these concerns and more; they had immediate family members missing; they had relatives died; they had friends missing. When grief strikes a community in Canada, these protesters have seen community, municipality, provincial and even sometimes federal support to grief and take action to remedy the situation. Hence these protesters came in solidarity to expect the same for them as Canadian citizens.
They have been out in the parliament hill of Ottawa continuously for the 15th day today, regardless of weather. There was a hunger strike of six people abruptly ended on last Saturday as a result of the Politicians saying they will listen and act on Tamils’ concerns if they come with out the flag.
The National flag of Tamil Eelam was secreted in today’s protest to acknowledge the Politicians concern that it also the flag of LTTE, which is an identified terrorist group in Canada. It is a sentimental flag to Tamils as it symbolizes their freedom and rights in Sri Lanka. Nonetheless, the Tamils swallowed the bitter pill, and veiled their flag for immediate and permanent ceasefire in Sri Lanka. The flag was replaced by black flags and holdouts.
The clock was ticking; the chants kept on coming “Canada Help Us”, “Stephen Harper Don’t be Silent”, “We want permanent ceasefire”, “Let the media in the war zone”, “Sri Lanka Don’t Use Chemical weapons”, “Sri Lankan Government Terrorist Government” and “Recognize Tamil Eelam”.
CTV Ottawa and other media were onsite.
NDP Leader Jack Layton addressed the crowd and expressed the need for action from the conservative party.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff did not address the protesters; however he met with the Tamil community leaders.
Governing Conservatives parliamentarians failed to meet with the protesters.
Around 3:30 PM, a representative for the Prime Minister came out to accept petition from the Tamils’ protesters.
The protesters wanted to see an elected MP from the governing conservative party or the current opposition party to acknowledge the presence of protesters and their requests. The clock was ticking. At 4:00 PM, the protesters are supposed to dissolve as the permitted time ends. Desperate cries of “Where are you?” were directed at the behind the wall Parliamentarians.
The Peace Tower clock ticked 4:00 PM.
The pleading, cries and desperation brought tears to many protesters. They could not believe it. They have been stood out by the Parliamentarian members behind the wall. They got nothing for concealing their flag from the politicians who said flag was the main impediment in addressing the Tamils’ concerns.
The organizers reminded the protesters that the Tamils came orderly and asked them do the same while leaving the Peace Tower.
Anger, loneliness, and resentment were high. The protesters started to dissolve peacefully.
Then, the national leadership of the Liberal party appeared at the podium to speak a few words to address the crowd; the speech essentially said that there are civilian casualties in the crossfire and it concerned the Liberal party; the message was too little, too late. The main requests of allowing UN access or free media got no attention.
The protesters started to break up in mourning regarding Tamils in Sri Lanka.
At the end of the protest, Canadian Tamils could not help but wonder how much Canada have actually accepted them as its own citizens.
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Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada