Ottawa Tamil Heritage Month Gala 2023
“Thank You, Canada – A step forward for International justice for Sri Lanka’s Genocide against Tamils”
“Thank You, Canada – A step forward for International justice for Sri Lanka’s Genocide against Tamils” was the key message from the Ottawa Tamil Association at Tamil Heritage Month gala 2023. The celebrations occurred at the St Elias centre in Ottawa on Sunday, January 29, 2023. The evening was well attended by over 250 guests, including several federal, provincial, and city representatives and law enforcement members, to commemorate the ancient Tamil heritage values, art, and culture. The opening ceremony included First Nations blessings, the Canadian national anthem, Tamil Mozhi Valthu, and a moment of silence. A special tribute video was shared in memory of the late Mr. Vijayalayan Mathiyalaghan, an Ottawa Police Services constable and a former combat engineer with the Canadian Armed Forces.
The keynote speaker was Mr. Lorenzo Fiorito, a lawyer from the United Kingdom. He holds a Master of Law in international dispute resolution and is an activist at the UN Human Rights Council for Eelam Tamils. He seeks justice for Tamils through the right to self-determination and holding the Sri Lankan government accountable for war crimes and genocide against Tamils. Mr. Lorenzo shared with the audience that “the keys to justice and human rights can be found in the law, but the law alone is not enough to put these values into practice.” He reiterated nations and activists must bring economic pressures to bear if these laws are to have any meaning. He praised the Government of Canada on the declaration of May 18th as the Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day and recognition of the Tamil Genocide. He also applauded the recent sanctions imposed by Canada against two former Sri Lankan presidents and state officials who committed gross and systematic human rights violations during Sri Lanka’s civil conflict, which occurred from 1983 to 2009. Further, he echoed that Canada must re-visit and delist the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and international governments require more action to bring justice for Tamils. He also stated that Tamil Eelam is a state using the definition provided for statehood in customary international law—the Montevideo Convention and explained it in detail in his speech.
Liberal MP for Ottawa West – Nepean and parliamentary secretary to the Minister of International Development, Hon. Anita Vandenbeld delivered greetings from Prime Minister Hon. Justin Trudeau. The Prime Minister acknowledged the countless contributions made by Tamil Canadians to Canada, recognized the richness of Tamil culture and shared best wishes to the Tamil community on occasion.
Liberal MP for Ottawa Centre, Hon. Yasir Naqvi commended Tamil Canadians’ efforts to work with elected officials for Canada to announce sanctions against elected officials in Sri Lanka accountable for the genocide against Tamils. He also iterated that this is a small step in seeking justice and looks forward to working with fellow Tamil Canadians to bring justice and peace to Tamils living in Sri Lanka.
Conservative MP for Flamborough-Glanbrook, Hon. Dan Muys and Conservative MP for King-Vaughan, Hon. Anna Roberts shared greetings from Canada’s House of Commons opposition leader, Hon. Pierre Poilievre. The message highlighted Tamils’ plight for peace and justice against the unspeakable acts of evil and oppression since the Sri Lankan Civil War broke out in 1983. The address further demanded that the war criminals who perpetrated atrocities against the Tamils be brought to justice. Celebrations of Tamil culture and heritage show that the efforts to rob the Tamils of their origin have utterly failed. There was also an affirmation that Canada would be a friend and ally to the Tamil community.
Conservative MPP for Carleton Ottawa, Hon. Goldie Ghamari shared greetings from the Premier of Ontario, Hon. Doug Ford recalled that Ontario is home to one of the largest Tamil communities outside of Southeast Asia. He also reiterated the injustice, human rights abuses, and genocide faced by the Tamils. Further mentioned, Ontario is proud to be one of the first jurisdictions in the world to acknowledge the Tamil Genocide and proclaim week of May 18th as Tamil Genocide Week in Ontario, Bill 104.
The Ottawa Tamil Association thanked the Mayor of Ottawa, Hon. Mark Sutcliffe for joining with other levels of government in proclaiming January as Tamil Heritage Month in Ottawa.
New Democratic MP for New Westminster—Burnaby, Hon. Peter Julian brought forward greetings from the leader of the party, Hon. Jangmeet Singh. He also recognized the contributions of Tamil Canadians to Canada and that this year marks a solemn fortieth anniversary of Black July. Black July marks a remembrance for the victims of the anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983, when thousands of Tamils were killed by Sinhala mobs backed by the Sri Lankan government state forces. He emphasized that Canada must do more to bring accountability to the perpetrators of the Tamil Genocide and war crimes. Further, Canada is responsible for working with Tamil Canadians to bring human rights and equality to Tamils living in Sri Lanka.
Liberal MP for Scarborough—Rouge Park, Hon. Gary Anandasangaree mentioned that the Sri Lankan government leaders responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity must be held accountable, and the sanction on former presidents of Sri Lanka is a first step.
Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations accredited Mr. Wimal Navaratnam of ABC Tamil Oli, stating that the genocide crimes against Tamils and the cruelty shown by the Sri Lankan state should not happen anywhere in the world. He also mentioned that the Tamil diaspora has been and will be resilient and persistent in seeking justice.
Former MPP of Ontario, Hon. Jack MacLaren recalled his motion requesting the federal government to delist the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a terrorist organization under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act at Ontario Queen’s Park legislature. He called the ban a dark cloud on Tamil people.
Acting Superintendent Dave Zackrias and Sergeant Balasundaram Sathiyenthira of the Ottawa Police Services were present on behalf of the law enforcement community. They commended the discipline and unity of the Tamil community.
Tamil Canadians are one of the most active growing communities, proudly representing Canadian society’s diverse, multicultural concept. Tamil Heritage Month is an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of Tamil Canadians to Canadian society and Tamil culture.
Classical dances, Tamil vocal and musical performances, ancient Tamil martial arts practice, exhibits of Tamil culture, and insightful speeches by the youth kept the guests entertained. Performances were contributed by Tamil Canadian youth from Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa communities. The evening also ended Tamil Heritage Month festivities by Tamil Canadians from coast to coast.
The Tamil Heritage Month Act – Bill 156 was passed in Ontario on March 25, 2014. In October 2016, the House of Commons voted unanimously on a motion to recognize January as Tamil Heritage Month across Canada. The City of Ottawa proclaimed January as Tamil Heritage Month, January 2018.
Many Tamil organizations from Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Mississauga, and Brampton attended the event. The event was hosted in Tamil, English, and French.