Thousands of Tamils protested on the lawn in front of Queen's Park Saturday.
Credits: (MICHAEL PEAKE/Toronto Sun)
Roughly 5,000 Tamil Canadians - joined by Occupy Toronto protesters - flooded Queen's Park for the "Tamil Freedom Rally," intended to renew the community's call to social justice.
"The United Nations' report has come out saying there were war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the last conflict," said Krisna Saravanamuttu, spokesman for the National Council of Canadian Tamils. "During that time, 40,000 to 75,000 Tamils civilians were killed in four months alone. What we want to see is a lasting political solution for the island, so it doesn't get drowned in war again."
The Tamil dominated area of the island of Sri Lanka is heavily militarized with over 100,000 armed forces and Tamils are denied the right to return to their towns and villages, the NCCT said.
Around 20,000 members of the local Tamil community came to Queen's Park in May 2009 in an attempt to persuade all political parties and the provincial and federal government to pressure the international community for a war crimes inquiry.
"Similarly, today, we're here to call upon our leaders to pressure the island of Sri Lanka to accommodate the Tamil's demands for self-determination to ensure there's a sustainable peace," Saravanamuttu said.
Many in the crowd waved Tamil Eelam and Canadian flags.
Among other speakers at the rally included Toronto and York Region Labour Council John Cartwright and Liberal multiculturalism critic Jim Karygiannis, who criticized the government's "anti-refugee" Bill C-4.
"The Sri Lankan government, like an ostrich, has stuck its head in the sand," Karygiannis said. "If you were to come in by boat to this country and claim refugee status, we might put you away in prison for five years and might not allow you to land for another five years and when your family joins you, it will be another nine years."
The Gardiner Expressway came to a standstill for almost five hours when 2,000 Tamil protesters marched up the ramp to the highway and blocked lanes and ramps during the protests two years ago.
"I don't think (there are any more plans to do that)," Saravanamuttu said. "I will say at that time when the Gardiner occupation happened, it was out of pure desperation. Tens of thousands of our relatives were being killed."