Welikade survivor addresses Black July ceremony in Canada

[TamilNet, Friday, 27 July 2007, 00:52 GMT]
More than 5000 Tamils attended the Markham Civic Centre, Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m. to attend a rally to commemorate the pogrom of July 1983 and to pay homage to the hundreds of Tamils who lost their lives during the state sponsored violence. Mr.Anton Philip Sinnarasa, a survivor of the 1983 Welikada prison massacre, said that 53 Tamils killed during orgies of violence on 25th and 27th of July, lived for their conviction and their dream, and died in pursuit of a just cause.


The event also paid tribute to Canada for opening its doors to thousands of Tamil refugees providing a safe refuge at the time of need.

John MacCallum
John MacCallum, MP Markham- Unionville, and former Federal Minister of National Defence
John McKay
John McKay, Liberal MP for Scarborough-Guild wood
Marilyn Churley
Marilyn Churley, NDP federal candidate for Beaches-East York
Steve Gilchrist
Steve Gilchrist, Former Ontario provincial Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing
"Canadian Government will use its diplomatic channels to engage and reiterate that there would be lasting peace in Sri Lanka only through Just and honorable power sharing. Though July 83 is a dark page in your history, these events could not prevent you from becoming a force through actively participating in the civic process in your adopted Country," said Steve Gilchrist, former Provincial Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Present federal Conservative Candidate for Ajax-Pickering.

Sadly, in Sri Lanka, they are deteriorating," Marilyn Churley, NDP federal candidate for Beaches-East York (Former Ontario provincial Minister for Consumer and Commercial relations), told the crowd. She spoke of killings, abductions and reports of torture in police custody.

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, Hon. John McCallum MP Markham-Unionville and former Federal Minister of National Defence, Hon. John McKay MP Scarborough Guildwood, Hon.Derek Lee MP, Scarborough-Rouge River, Hon. John McKay Liberal MP for Scarborough-Guild wood, Sheila White, provincial candidate for Scarborough -Rouge River representing Hon. Howard Hampton-leader of NDP, and Jack Heath, Regional Councillor for Town of Markham, spoke at the event expressing their support to the

Prof.Fr.Joseph Chandrakanthan of University of Toronto said that we all carry the burden of memory and we should remember the dead for the sake of living. "We should revive our memory for the sake of our future. The deep scars of the state-sponsored pogrom "Black July" of 1983 still remain," he said.

A number of student representatives from Universities and representatives of various communities also attended the event.

Full text of the address by Mr. Steve Gilchrist follows:


"I think it's reasonable to assume that a vast number of Tamil people did not come here as their first choice, rather they were forced out of their homeland. And as a native born Canadian, I don't think I could ever fully understand the pain and the suffering the Tamils have undergone not just since 1983 but particularly since 1983. I was very fortunate back about 5 years ago when I was a member of the provincial parliament when a number of my Tamil friends and I decided to go back to Sri Lanka. I thought it was important for me to do that - at my own expense, it's important to say, not using government dollars - so that I could get a better appreciation of exactly the kind of issues facing Tamils in my riding when they were trying to deal with relatives back home and, in some cases, weren't even able to visit them themselves or to bring visitors over to Canada. I went there to have a better appreciation of the whole situation, as there was supposedly a ceasefire, if the Sinhalese government had allowed me to go to Jaffna. But they stopped us half way down the road at a military check-point.

"So my goal is to go back to Sri Lanka, very soon, and try to develop a better appreciation by being able to get into the Tamil portions of the country. When you read just in the last few weeks of the special security zones in Trincomalee and how they've prevented more people from moving back to the Tamil homeland ˆ actually, not true, how they've prevented more Tamils from moving back to their community - this is unacceptable, it's unacceptable as Canadians and, as members of the Commonwealth, in a way, therefore, as partners to the Sri Lankan people.

"The Sinhalese government, if it continues to practice this sort of behavior, is unacceptable in our civil society, unacceptable in our democracy; unacceptable to us.

"I guess we could stand here and talk, as politicians have, of how much we share your pain; the practical reality is learning from the example of black July - we should be finding a way to reverse the problem. We need to seek action and that's why I am as encouraged as I am standing here before you today that the new government of Canada is far more realistic when it comes to the need not just to talk about them but to do them. Earlier in the year you may have heard the Prime Minister when he redressed the kind of issues that faced the Chinese community, the issues in the Japanese community right here in Canada. It's not widely known that the Liberal government had brought a law that if you were born to Chinese parents you weren't a Canadian Citizen. In 1948 the Conservative government threw out that law. And Mr. Harper this year redressed the head tax issue. Imagine here in Canada we actually had, 70, 80 years ago, a practice of charging you more if you were a visible minority and when that didn't stop them they raised it higher again. It took until the past year - just over one year ago - for our government in Canada to finally apologize and to pay compensation back to those people who had to pay the head tax.

"And that's why I am very confident, we saw the announcement from the current government that they strongly oppose the deportation of 300 Tamil families from Colombo about a month ago, you had one of our members stand up here in Toronto and say the government will not accept that. And that's just the starting point. As just one member of our party I am not going to stand here and make all sorts of grandiose promises, but Canada can play a significant role in reversing the last 24 years of genocide and tragedy for the Tamil people.

"We need to be applying economic sanctions; we need to be applying diplomatic sanctions; we need to make it clear to the Sinhalese government that if they continue their practices, it would be unacceptable to a democracy like Canada.

"I would be remiss for not pointing out one thing though I guess there was one silver lining to this tragedy. And that is the fact that Canada has been blessed by 300,000 Tamils having immigrated to our country. My guess is that an awful lot of you wouldn't have moved to a colder climate up here if it hadn't been for circumstances back in your home country. We are a better country because you joined us - but that does not mean we still don't want to see justice in your homeland. Thank you again for the opportunity to say a few words.

"Nanri Vanakkam."



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