Justin Trudeau among officials expressing support for Tamil people’s struggle
Elected officials from the federal, provincial and municipal governments, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and representatives from the cities of Laval and Montreal, expressed support for the Tamil people during a major event for Tamil Heritage Month held at the Château Royal congress centre in Laval last Sunday which drew more than 1,000 persons of Tamil origin.
In a speech, Prime Minister Trudeau called out human rights violations against Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority. “Canada has one of the largest Tamil diasporas in the world,” said Trudeau, noting that Liberal government under his father in 1983 welcomed more than 1,800 Tamils who came to settle in Canada, starting a wave of further immigration to this country by the Tamil community.
Support from Trudeau
“Your contributions to this country are extraordinary,” he continued. “We know that even as we celebrate rights and freedoms and diversity and culture identity here in Canada, there continues to be challenging situations in Sri Lanka. And that’s why Canada will continue to stand with the international community, including at the United Nations’ human rights council, to call for accountability, call for justice, call for reconciliation.”
Trudeau said Canada will “continue to stand with the Tamil community” and that he stood by Canada’s decision last year to sanction several Sri Lankan state officials for gross and systematic violations of human rights during armed conflict in Sri Lanka from 1983 to 2009. He said it is important “to demonstrate that nowhere around the world will we put up with the kinds of human rights abuses that we’ve seen. We will continue to stand with the Tamil community.”
Celebrating the Tamils
First launched in 2010, Tamil Heritage Month celebrates the history of Canada’s Tamil community and its contribution to the social, cultural, political and economic strength of Canada.
The federal government declared January Tamil Heritage Month in 2016, recognizing the importance of the Tamil community on a national basis. Last Sunday’s celebration was Montreal’s sixth Annual Tamil Heritage Month event, organized by more than 50 organizations from all over the region. While recognizing the Tamil community’s accomplishments and tracing its roots, Tamil Heritage Month also provides opportunities to celebrate the Tamils’ history in Canada.
Pongal festival month
The month of January was chosen as Tamil Heritage Month for a number of reasons. The Pongal festival, the most important and widely-celebrated festival amongst Tamils around the world, falls in the middle of the month. Pongal is both a time of thanksgiving for the blessings of a past year and a time to look forward to the start of a new year. The first month of the Tamil calendar, Thai, begins in the middle of January.
Throughout the morning and early afternoon, members of Tamil cultural and community groups performed musical numbers and folk-dance routines. Short documentary film presentations were also projected, providing background on the history of the Tamil people, as well as more recent developments in Sri Lanka where a civil war raged and came to an uneasy conclusion more than a decade ago.
Understanding the Tamils
Delivering a message on behalf of Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilièvre, former Laval Tory candidate Agop Evereklian said that as an Armenian, he identified strongly with the Tamils who endured tens of thousands of fatalities during the 26-year-long civil war between Tamil and Sinhalese forces.
“As a Canadian of Armenian origin, I really feel the history, the pain and the wounds of the Tamil people and I will always be a friend of the Tamil people,” Evereklian said.
Laval city councillor for Chomedey Aglaia Revelakis, who tabled a resolution in June 2022 calling on the city to recognize the extreme violence committed against the Tamil people as a genocide, was presented by Montreal Tamil community representatives with a symbolic gift in thanks and recognition of her support.
Deros proud of the Tamils
From the City of Montreal, city councillors from the governing Projet Montréal party, as well as from the opposition Ensemble Montréal, also came forward to express their solidarity with the Tamil community in Montreal.
“It is always a pleasure participating in your community’s events,” said Parc Extension city councillor Mary Deros, a leading member of the Ensemble Montréal caucus. Deros’s district is home to a large number of people of Tamil origin.
“I want you to know that I am extremely proud of your community,” she added. “Why? Because you continue to teach your culture, your language to your children. Your children are being educated in both English and French, but you still continue to teach them about their roots and I congratulate you for that.”