Protesting Tamils in Toronto

Recently, 10’s of thousands of Tamils have been illegally protesting in Toronto, due to the current political situation in Sri Lanka. I must admit that even after following the news about this,


I am still left somewhat confused. I hope that someone can enlighten me on the following:

Are these people citizens, or landed immigrants or what? I certainly get that we embrace multiculturalism here in Canada, rather than the “melting pot”, but I’m wondering, how do these protesters self-identify? Do they have a meaningful personal connection to the country where they are currently living? Or are they Tamil’s first, Canadian second?

What do they hope to gain by the illegal protests in support of an identified terrorist organization, and by flying the flag of that organization (a flag that contains crossed AK-47’s)? In other words - HELLO! Look around you - you’re in Canada! I realize that they want the Canadian government to take a stand in support of the terrorists (or freedom fighters), but really - how much is that going to help their cause?

Do people think that it looks good that the protesters put women and children in the front lines of the protest? Or does this look a bit like the tamil fighters tactics of using women to carry suicide bombs, and using civilians as shields? Or are my facts about tamil tactics wrong here?

People are certainly entitled to legal protests, and they are certainly entitled to be concerned with a country that they recently immigrated from.
I’m unimpressed with these protests though - both the illegal nature, and the demands for Canada to get more involved in the internal politics of another country, in particular on the side of an organization that has been identified internationally as a terrorist organization. I know, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, but it looks to me like the Tamil organization is in the wrong here.


Death thores of a landed fish aka the Tamil Elam (homeland) movement.

What makes their protests illegal?

Well, for one, they blocked a highway with a crowd. It is illegal for pedestrians to even walk on a highway, much less deliberately block one.

Immigrants’ feelings about identity can be very complicated. It’s difficult to generalize. But I think it’s important to state that many immigrants feel no need to choose between identifying with the old country and the new country.

Immigration from South Asia since the 1960s might be quite different from previous waves of European immigration. They don’t want to cut themselves off from their personal histories; they’re not interested in remaking their identities 100 percent. They visit often, and stay close with extended families.

And remember, for many of the people protesting have close friends and families who are in the old country and are directly affected by what’s going on there.

And, for what it’s worth, I think the fact that the protest is “illegal” is a red herring.

The Sri Lankan government have expelled all international monitors. They’ve been shelling hospitals, there’s 50 000 civilians trapped. The US and UK governments have called for a cease to hostilities. Amnesty International has demanded “immediate and unhindered” access to the war zone for international monitors and humanitarian agencies.

i’m not surprised they’re upset.

Sure, I understand that the situation in Sri Lanka is terrible, but the fact is that the Canadian government is not obliged to step into international conflicts just because a country is home to relatives of Canadian residents and citizens. We’re already doing our part by acting as a safe haven for refugees who are fleeing conflict at home, and by sending our troops out on UN peacekeeping missions.

Besides, what makes the Tamils more deserving of Canadian support than say… We have refugees living here who fled Palestine, Darfur, China, Tibet, Iran, Korea, and hundreds more places around the world where a minority is being persecuted by a majority government.

So, given that they have as much right as anyone else to ask for help from the government… should they begin blocking off access to the airport or forming human chains across the subway lines to express their displeasure? From there, it’s a slippery slope to days-long riots complete with tear gas, burning cars and looting from there, and I’ve always believed that Canada should be above this sort of thing.

(On a related note, anyone who brings a small child out to a political protest like it’s a day at the county fair deserves a beating. There is no cause in this world that’s so important that it justifies risking your child’s well-being like that.)

I’m not surprised they’re upset either. That’s not the point. I’m surprised that they are blocking major roads illegally, and the police are doing little. I’m surprised that they are waving flags of a recognized terrorist organization that depict crossed AK-47’s.

This is not a peace-loving cease-fire promoting group we’re talking about. I notice that the Tamil supporters were not blocking highways when their people back home were targeting civilians using suicide bomb vests. Or in 1998 when they bombed a Buddhist Shrine.

There are no “good guys” and “bad guys” here. Demanding that the Canadian government support “their side” offends me.

ETA: I agree with Mahna Mahna’s comments

Thanks for this insight ascenray. I wonder if part of the difference between past immigrants and “new” immigrants is the advent of quick and relatively cheap travel. In the past, an immigrant from Europe to Canada pretty much had to identify with the new country , because there was no way in hell they were traveling back to Europe in steerage in the bottom of a ship for weeks just to see momma.

…and the drama continues, according to The Globe and Mail.

Today’s protest at Queen’s Park may shut down two major streets (Yonge St & University Ave), delay surface transit for streetcar routes passing through the protest area, and may even spill over into subway stations along the southern portion of the Yonge/University line.

Talk about a PR nightmare. I have no idea how they expect to gain public sympathy with this kind of behaviour, except maybe with the folks who hate Toronto so much that they get a kick out of seeing Torontonians suffer. :stuck_out_tongue:

So, pretty much everyone in the country outside of Toronto, then? Doesn’t seem like such a bad strategy to me. :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s worth noting, by the way, that while the Sri Lankan government is not nice, the Tigers are arguably much worse, and may well be guilty of causing the Sri Lankan gov’s hardline stance. The Tigers have a bad reputation for using brutality and propganda together to hamstring opponents with no compunctions about murder themselves. I do not judge, but there is a distinct and respectable argument there.

Indeed smiling bandit. I really do not think that the Canadian federal government should have to choose between two sides of a conflict half way across the world, when neither side has clean hands.

Our foreign policy towards Sri Lanka at the moment should be to condemn violence on both sides and encourage a peaceful resolution. Period. That’s about all we can do - I still have no idea what else these protesters think they will accomplish, other than call attention to the violent means the Tamil Tigers have used in the past.

The issue isn’t the brutality of the Tigers, of course they are a viscous terrorist group, but the tactics of the Sri Lankan government and the damage they are doing to Tamil civilians. I don’t think it’s legitimate to assume that all or most protesters are supporting the Tigers per se; they may just be expressing support for the Tamil population of Sri Lanka. Also you can’t single out non-Western immigrant groups for having multiple identities. For example Irish-Americans and Jewish-Americans have a strong attachment towards Ireland and Israel and some have supported extremist groups in the two countries.

If these protesters are that concerned with civilians, I wonder where they were when the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) were responsible for he Aranthalawa Massacre where the LTTE killed 33 Buddhist monks, or the Anuradhapura massacre where the LTTE killed 146 men women and children with automatic weapons, or the Kattankudy mosque massacre where over 147 men and boys were killed, or the Kebithigollewa massacre which killed 60 people riding on a bus or of course the Dehiwala train bombing which killed 64 and wounded 400.

I don’t recall the Tamil community in Toronto condemning the massacre of innocent civilians by the Tamil fighters in Sri Lanka, or calling for a cease fire then……
I have also not heard the protesters in Toronto calling on the LTTE to release the civilians that they’re currently holding as human shields at gunpoint. That might be a nice gesture.
Of course, the Sri Lankan Government is does not have clean hands either. Every story has two sides, however these protesters only seem to be concerned with one of them.

I’m not singling out non-Western groups. I think your agenda is showing. acsenray had a good point - I think that recent (note: not necessarily non-Western) immigrants have more access to cheap and fast world travel and communication, which makes them more likely to retain stronger connections with their original homeland compared with immigrants from years past.

So Tamil protesters are more concerned about Tamil civilians than Sinhalese civilians. How does that make them different from zillions of other ethnic groups? And how does that make them supporters of terrorism?

I don’t have any “agenda”. I am just pointing out it’s quite common for ethnic groups in North America to take a deep interest in the events of their home regions and Tamil protestors aren’t unique in this regard. And that marching in protests against the Sri Lankan government’s actions doesn’t imply support for terrorism.

It does not make them different. Nor does it make them right.

What makes them different is that they are currently blocking public access of roads, and demanding that a government half a world away intervene on THEIR side of a complex fight where no party can claim total innocence.

Tamils in Toronto are well known for their financial and moral support of the LTTE. Again, if the protesters cared about Tamil civilians, they might think of getting the LTTE to allow these civilians to leave the war zone instead of using them as shields.

Look if all your were complaining about is the blocking of roads I would agree with you. But you made the additional statement that the protesters were supporting a terrorist organization and then questioning their commitment to Canada. Neither of the two follows from the act of protesting. It perfectly possible that many of the protesters are proud Canadians who oppose terrorism.

OK, I’ll go along with that. Perhaps many of the protesters feel that way. Many others, particularly the organizers - I think not so much.

Yes, but based on the amount of flags and shirts and signs being waved around with the Tiger logo, there’s clearly a lot of support for the LTTE among the protestors even if the feeling isn’t unanimous.

This doesn’t make them bad Canadians, by any means, but it does mean they have seriously misplaced affiliations… not to mention they’re hurting their cause by blurring the line between stopping the conflict and supporting the Tigers. The gov’t may be okay with helping out with the former, but no way they can do the latter.