Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, alongside the Federal Liberal Caucus, held a virtual Thai Pongal and Tamil Heritage month celebration, showing their gratitude for Tamil frontline and essential workers on Thursday.
The Facebook live event included a joint speech from several Canadian MPs, dance and singing performances and a sombre moment of silence for the lives lost due to COVID-19.
The event’s host, Radheyan Simonpillai, highlighted that Tamil Canadians are highly represented on the frontlines, from doctors and nurses to working in restaurants and public services. “The flip side to that is that we [Tamil Canadian’s] are often over-represented when it comes to catching COVID-19… in terms of hospitalizations,” Simonpillai went on to state.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also spoke at the virtual event stating, “Tamil Canadians have made our country stronger and our neighbourhoods more vibrant… tonight I want to give a big shoutout to the many Tamil Canadians who are working day in and day out to keep us safe.”
“We must reflect on and honour the past, for this community that includes remembering those who were lost during the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, I know the destruction of the Mullivaikkal memorial at the University of Jaffna hit hard for many Tamil Canadians, we’ve heard that the monument will be rebuilt, that’s encouraging news because peace in Sri Lanka cannot be achieved without accountability. Canada remains committed to seeking reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka and will continue to work with our partners in the core group in the UN Human Rights Council to help achieve lasting peace and stability” PM Trudeau went on to state.
In a joint statement, the Federal Caucus said, “Since 2016, Tamil Canadians from across the country have celebrated January as Tamil Heritage Month in Canada… Canada is the proud home to one of the world’s largest Tamil diaspora’s… we especially recognize the Tamil Canadians who have stepped up in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic… when most Canadian’s had to take a step back, you took a step forward you serve our communities protect our loved ones and keep us all safe and healthy, we thank you all.”
Gary Anandasangaree, MP for Scarborough-Rouge Park, Canada, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, who spoke both in Tamil and English, thanked the Canadian Frontline and essential workers who worked hard to keep the community safe.
MP Anandasangaree also spoke about the “enormous responsibility we have to be a voice… of justice and accountability and peace. At the University of Jaffna, we’ve seen the desecration of the Mullivaikkal genocide memorial two weeks ago. It’s a pattern of ongoing violence against the Tamil people that is meant to erase our places of remembrance, our heritage, our identity as a people and our place on the island. Our memory is etched in our hearts and souls. We will never deter from seeking truth, justice, accountability and peace.”
PM Trudeau also went on the thank MP Anandasangaree for his efforts in declaring January Tamil Heritage month. In 2016, the Canadian parliament passed a motion, put forth by MP Anandasangaree, officially recognizing January as Tamil Heritage Month. All parties across the political spectrum widely supported the motion.
Several members of the Federal Liberal Caucus joined the live event including, Minister of Public services and procurement Anita Anand, Mayor John Tory, MP Sonia Sidhu, MP Maninder Sidhu, MP Kamal Khera, MP Ahmed Hussen, MP Iqra Khalid, MP Ruby Sahota, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Mary Ng, MP Annie Koutrakis, MP Peter Fonseca, MP Helena Jaczek, MP Salma Zahid, MP Marci Len, Councillor Jennifer McKelvie, MP Jennifer O’Connell, MP Shaun Chen, MP Jean Yip, MP Fayçal El-Khoury, MP Bardish Chagger, MP Gary Anandasangree and PM Justin Trudeau.
Watch the recorded event here.
Recently, Patrick Brown, Mayor of Brampton, Canada, announced that Brampton City Council would build a Mullivaikkal memorial to commemorate the estimated 75,000 Tamil civilians murdered during the Tamil Genocide.
Further, several Canadian MP's publicly condemned the destruction of the Mulivaikkal memorial, including Canada's Foreign Minister, François-Philippe Champagne (FPC), and Canada’s Chief Government Whip, Mark Holland.
Tamil's in Toronto also held a socially distanced car rally earlier this month, condemning the destruction of the Mulivaikkal monument, with reportedly over 4000 cars seen protesting in solidarity with Jaffna university students.