In October 2016 Parliament adopted a motion proposed by M.P. Gary Anandasangaree seconded by M.P. Peter Julien that declared every January to be Tamil Heritage Month in Canada. The motion declared:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the contributions that Tamil-Canadians have made to Canadian society, the richness of the Tamil language and culture, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon Tamil heritage for future generations by declaring January, every year, Tamil Heritage Month.
Thus, on this the occasion of the 5th Tamil Heritage Month in Canada, I offer my sincere congratulations and solidarity to all Canadians of Tamil origin and heritage.
Last year I was contacted by many young Tamils from across Canada. They told me of their hopes for a better future for Tamils and indeed everyone in Sri Lanka, Their emails noted the adoption in 2019 by the Ontario legislature of Bill 104, an Act to Proclaim Tamil Genocide Education Week.
In fact, the Tamil community in Ontario is one of the largest Tamil diasporas outside southeast Asia. More than 120,000 Tamils live in Toronto, playing an important role in the social, economic and political fabric of Canada’s largest metropolitan area. The adoption of that Bill was a significant statement of solidarity with the Tamil people by the Ontario legislature.
But it should be noted that the Tamil community here in Quebec while smaller is also very active, contributing to the well being of our province and country. Like new Canadians before them, many Tamils arrived in Canada with little and have worked hard to establish themselves and their families. I am fortunate to count Tamils among my friends and constituents.
On May 18,2020 I joined other elected officials from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government to mark the 11th annual observation of Mullivaikkal, the Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day remembering the brutality of the end of the civil war. I recall the credible reporting at that time of atrocities and indiscriminate shelling committed against civilians. The United Nations (UN) estimates that in May 2009 alone, in the days leading up to the end of the civil war, some 40,000 to 75,000 Tamil civilians were killed.
A panel of experts advising former Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon concluded that there was credible proof of violations of internationally recognized human rights and humanitarian law by the Sri Lankan military. Yet Sri Lanka has not acted to punish those guilty of these crimes. An international investigation into war crimes prohibited by the Geneva Convention, of which Sri Lanka is a signatory, was authorized by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014. This has yet to proceed.
Sri Lanka has over the years left unfulfilled numerous promises for credible and independent investigations that could lead to the charging of those deemed to have committed war crimes at the International Criminal Court. I again was able to join the Tamil community last November 27 to mark Maarveerar Naal, remembering those who died. That occasion asked, as it has in past years, that the undertakings given toward assuring justice is done, be respected. Justice is the first requirement on the path to true reconciliation.
In 2018 Michele Bachelet, the former President of Chile and now the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Human Rights Council that “continuing impunity risks fuelling communal or inter-ethnic violence, and instability in Sri Lanka”. I trust that her words will carry weight and that justice will prevail.
I am hoping that with justice will come change so that every citizen of Sri Lanka can live in peace and harmony and fulfill his or her full potential regardless of ethnic origin. I salute the Tamil students who ask Canada to play an important role in bringing the guilty to justice and in promoting memory so that the innocent victims will not be forgotten. Please accept my best regards for Tamil Heritage Month.
City of Montreal