With the 2011 Ontario general elections set to take place this week, the Canadian Tamil community looks set to hold considerable sway on the outcome, as candidates are in the height of campaigning for their votes.
The elections, set to take place on Thursday the 6th of October, have given the Tamil community the opportunity to make their voice heard and it seems that the candidates have sat up and listened.
See report from Digital Journal here.
After the Canadian government’s lack of criticism of Sri Lanka’s war on the Vanni in 2009 and allegations of human rights violations and war crimes, there was considerable frustration from the Tamil community.
“It was devastating. They weren’t saying anything,” said 21-year old Aranee Muru a university student who had to take a year out because of the protests.
“Democracy needs to speak louder.”
More than 2 years on however, all the major parties have come forward vying for Tamil votes.
Current Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty gave an exclusive interview to Tamil Canadian, speaking on the issues of refugees, protests and local issues.
Ensuring that the Liberal Party has not taken the Tamil vote for granted, he stated,
“I am very proud of the relationship that we’ve had with the Tamil community, both as a party, as a government and me personally.
It’s been an honour working with the Tamil Canadian community. I am delighted to have your presence here in Ontario.”
Both the New Democratic Party and Progressive Conservative Party have also fielded Tamil candidates this year, as issues which affect the community have received more attention.
Members of both the Liberal Party and the NDP stood side by side with the Tamil Canadian community as they commemorated the two-year anniversary of the end the war and both called for independent investigations into war crimes.
Earlier this year, Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray also established a commemoration site at the Evergreen Brick Works Park “for the Tamil lives lost in the pursuit of justice and freedom” from July 1983 up until May 18 2009 - the first of its kind in Canadian history.
One of the highlights of the Tamil community’s achievements, demonstrating the considerable sway they hold in Toronto, was the election of Canadian Tamil Rathika Sitsabaiesan to parliament, becoming the first of Tamil origin to have done so.
She was also the first female and person of colour to be elected to parliament from the Scarborough-Rouge River district and the current youngest Member of Parliament from the Greater Toronto Area. Even her inaugural speech in English, French and Tamil was the first time Tamil was spoken in the House of Commons and drew a standing ovation.
Canada’s recent statements on Sri Lanka seem to reflect a shift in policy, pressing the island for accountability for war crimes and calling for its suspension from the Commonwealth. Prime Minister Harper even stated that he would boycott 2013’s Commonwealth heads of Government Meeting scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka.
But it’s not just the Canadian foreign policy that will affect how the Tamil community will vote; domestic issues are just as important.
University student Nanthivarman Jeganathan, said that issues such as university tuition fees as well as work restriction policies affect the Tamil community which includes engineers, doctors, nurses and accountants.
Jeganathan went on to say,
“But even though Tamils are really doing good in both education and jobs they still want justice for them and their relatives, friends and siblings living in back in home, for whatever happened in the past in Sri-Lanka.”
“Overall, the provincial election is a most anticipated election for Tamils in Ontario, as all of us look forward to a change.”
With elections looming, there is no doubt that the vibrant Canadian Tamil community will weigh in heavily on the results.