SL Government must be held accountable for violence - Canadian Parliamentarian

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 26 July 2006, 11:05 GMT]
“We [Canada] should be using our influence as an aid donor, as a fellow Commonwealth nation to hold the SL government to a standard of conduct where extra judicial killings, bombing of civilian villages and human rights abuses do not continue with impunity.” said Albina Guarnieri, an opposition parliamentarian addressing a ten thousand strong crowd gathered in Dundas Square, Toronto on Monday July 24th to commemorate the anniversary of Black July. Raymond Cho, a Toronto city councilor, spoke about the need to redefine terrorism while Tim Dobson, from the Conservative Party, underscored the importance of educating people about the Tamil people’s struggle.



Representatives from major political parties in Canada were present to show solidarity with the Tamil community in Canada.

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Ms. Albina Guarnieri addressing the audience
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Tim Dobson
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Raymond Cho
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Vincent Veerasuntharam
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Dr Chandrakanthan
Canada black july
Speaking to a large audience Ms. Albina Guarnieri said she was there to join in the sombre reflections of the event, and said that Black July in 1983 was the worst of times for Tamils; the scale and horror was hard to imagine. Proud of Canada’s record as a nation that defends the defenseless – civilians, non-combatants, refugees, the victims she said “Canada has always tried to stand in the way of the next atrocity. And that’s what we should be doing in Sri Lanka she said.”

Guarnieri, who recently spoke out in the Canadian Parliament against the extrajudicial killing of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan government, noted that in the past two weeks, the world swung into action over Lebanon and Israel and the United Nations had called on the combatants to spare civilians or face the prospects of standing accused of crimes against humanity. "Meanwhile civilian victims in Sri Lanka have not inspired, sadly, the same action, the same concern or the same attention." she said.

Carrying a message from the Liberal Party leadership candidate, Micheal Ignatieff, she said Mr. Ignatieff wanted conveyed that "As a country, we must be vigilant in holding governments who deny the rights of their people to account."

Concurring with Mr. Ignatieff's message, Guarnieri added: "That’s the kind of nation that we have to demand. A nation that does its part so that the events of Black July are not remembered in vain."

Mr. Raymond Cho a Toronto city councilor empathizing with the crowd said as a South Korean Canadian he understood discrimination violence and torture. Lending his support for the Tamil cause for peace he said “we seriously have to redefine terrorism. A government can terrorize and kill innocent people saying it’s trying to bring freedom and democracy, law and order but if a small number of civilians try to protect their rights they’re labeled as terrorists. “No I don’t think it’s right” he said.

Paying tribute to a “great country” Canada for opening its doors to refugees Mr. Cho said he is a very proud Canadian but says he always remembers his homeland South Korea. “We are all citizens of a global village” he said.

Mr. Tim Dobson, who had contested the last federal election for the Conservative Party, recounted the “senseless violence against the Tamil people of Sri Lanka” that occurred in 1956, 1958, 1961, 1974, 1977 and in 1983.

"I believe that Canada can and must make a positive difference in the struggle [of the Tamils] and it starts with education," Mr. Dobson said commenting that most Canadians had a very limited understanding of the struggle of the Tamil people and added that events such as the commemoration of Black July will make a difference by helping to educate “us” the poorly informed citizens (of so many countries).

Meanwhile, Mr. Micheal Prue, a Member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament saluted the crowd for remembering what is happening in their former homeland and the struggle of their relatives.

"We all need to struggle for that peace and we all need to demonstrate that our parliament is the voice of all Canadians, including those who are here today at Dundas square. All Canadians demand peace in Sri Lanka. All Canadians want an end to the bloodshed," he said.

Mr. Prue read a statement from Hon. Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) saying that he was honoured to join with peace loving Canadian Tamils to commemorate Black July to mourn the Tamil men, women and children killed in that horror of July 1983. The NDP leader believed that Canada had a role to play, stating that the Tamil community had asked for leadership.

Human Rights Lawyer, Davies Bagambiire addressed the crowd and expressed his support. "I am here as someone who is not a member of the Tamil community, but someone that understands their struggle, someone that read 'Let my People Go' and believes in that philosophy and someone that is here to support you as you remember those riots and those massacres and as you call for human rights in your former country," he said.

Also addressing the crowd were opposition parliamentarians, Judy Sgro and Jim Karigiannis, Liberal Party leadership candidate Bob Rae, Councillor Raymond Cho, Dr. Chandrakanthan, President of the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), Tamil Conservative Party candidate Vincent Veerasuntharam, representatives from the Canadian Federation of Students, and more.

The event also included cultural events, dramas and poetry readings.

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