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Canadian school board apologises to Tamil community and pledges to support Tamil Genocide education

The Peel District School Board has apologised to the Tamil community for the “significant hurt” it caused when it issued a clarification on a statement made on May 18 to commemorate the Mullivaikkal Genocide, and has now pledged to support Tamil genocide education efforts.

In a letter issued to the Tamil community, Peter Joshua, Director of Education at the Peel District School Board, said,

“I simply cannot imagine what it would be like in this day and age to either live through, be the victim of, or suffer through the loss of loved ones as so many in the Tamil community have in the genocide perpetuated by the Sri Lankan state against the Tamil people during that country’s civil war ending in 2009”. 

“The Peel Board was proud to recognize Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day with our public statement and tweet of May 18th,” he added. 

“We stand by our statement honouring “the innocent lives that were lost, those who were displaced, and those who suffer trauma to this day.” It is an important day that should and will continue to be publicly recognized by the Peel Board. I will ask, and have every reason to expect, Peel Board staff to be supportive of those activities and to engage in meaningful learning from them.”

The board issued a “clarification” tweet just days later after receiving backlash from the Sri Lankan embassy in Canada and a campaign by the Canadian Sinhala community.

After Peel’s tweet, the Tamil community started a campaign calling on the school board to apologise, with hundreds of people around the world posting on social media that genocide was part of the Tamil identity.

The clarification “resulted in pain to Tamil students, their families and the Tamil staff causes me great sorrow,” admitted Joshua.

“For that I offer an apology, not just on my behalf, but also on behalf of the Peel Board as a whole. I am sorry, and we will remove the tweet posted on June 4, 2020.”

“It is important for people to know that the tweet was not intended to back away from our recognition of the Tamil genocide,” he continued. 

“We were wrong to not repeat the words “Tamil Genocide” in that second tweet and it was an even more significant mistake to imply that perspectives on a genocide needed to be balanced. That was not the intention.” 

The board also pledged to "establish a transparent mechanism to support the impacted Tamil students, educators and parents/guardians in an ongoing manner". "We must, as a board, strengthen our community ties to help us move our important work forward to eliminate anti-Black racism and other forms of discrimination," it added.

“That is why I am pleased to add my name to those who support the passage of Bill 104, an Act to proclaim Tamil Genocide Education Week.”

“It was great to see the Tamil Genocide Education Week Act, 2019, introduced by ScarboroughRouge Park Member of Provincial Parliament Vijay Thanigasalam and supported by Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, receive unanimous support at Second Reading.

We look forward to Bill 104’s passage to help ensure the heinous acts of the Tamil Genocide are learned, remembered and never happen again.”

See the full text of his letter here.