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Ontario’s Legislative Assembly unanimously votes in favour of Tamil Genocide Week Act 

Canadian parliamentarians from across the political spectrum debated a bill that would proclaim the week ending May 18th as Tamil Genocide Education Week, unanimously voting in favour of it.

The bill, put forward by MPP Vijay Thanigasalam, was voted for by 59 parliamentarians with none opposing and has been sent to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills.

Several parliamentarians spoke in support of the bill during the debate, with members from different parties calling for more legislation to recognise the Tamil genocide.

Excerpts and videos from the debate have been reproduced below.

See the full text of the bill here.

“In May 2009, dubbed the May Massacre, the Sri Lankan government engaged in a heightened program of genocide marked by indiscriminate shelling towards civilian targets such as government-declared no-fire zones and hospitals, cluster bombings, chemical bombings, abductions, rape, murders and denial of food and medicine to Tamils in Mullivaikal,” said Thanigasalam. “Through this bill, the House would help in honouring the memory of and naming the atrocities faced by the Tamils in Sri Lanka as genocide. Furthermore, an education week provides an opportunity to reflect on and to educate the public about the enduring lessons of the Tamil genocide and other crimes against humanity.”

 

The bill was also supported by the NDP’s Gurratan Singh who highlighted the long history of genocide that the Tamil people have faced. 

“Trauma is intergenerational,” Singh added. “That means the next generation of Tamils will experience the pain of those before them. That is why it is so important to name the Tamil genocide, recognize it and continue to remember it, so the Tamil people can share their memories of those whose lives were lost to make sure their stories are told and to educate the community for generations to come, because we can only heal from trauma once we confront it.”

 

“It is incumbent on political leaders to name it and to shame it, to acknowledge the genocide that was committed, to acknowledge and recognize,” added Stephen Lecce.

 

Rima Berns-McGown said that, “It’s really important that we have genocide education, because it is often in the interest of states who perpetrate these acts to deny them, and trauma is very, very difficult to speak about”.

 

“There are few words, if any, that can really capture the kind of devastation and crimes against humanity that took place, but “genocide” is one of them, and of that there is no doubt,” Natalia Kusendova told the Legislative Assembly. “In declaring the week of May 18 to be Tamil Genocide Education Week, this bill will memorialize all of the innocent lives that were taken. It will make sure that current and future generations reflect on and educate the public about the enduring lessons of the Tamil genocide and other crimes against humanity.” 

 

“I know that our communities are strong and resilient and will not give up the fight for peace and justice,” said Suze Morrison. “That’s why I’m proud to stand in support of this motion to create an education week on the Tamil genocide.” 

 

“The recognition of the Tamil genocide and further education about it will serve to be an enormous milestone in this healing process,” said Kaleed Rasheed. “Recognizing such atrocities can help strengthen the Tamil community.”

 

“I, as an individual—and we all—should carry a moral obligation and a sense of duty to stand against all kinds of mass killings, genocides and atrocities,” added Doly Begum. “We must unanimously and unequivocally denounce any and all acts of terrorism, atrocities and mass killings.”

 

Mitzie Hunter also wanted to mark Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day in her address in support of the bill. “This day marks the end of the 25-year-long civil war where thousands of innocent civilians were killed during the Tamil genocide in Sri Lanka,” she said. “Although it has been a decade since the end of the war, the wounds are still fresh.”

 

“When you look at what the Tamil people have endured when they came to this country, I think you would agree with me that they are one of the most successful immigrant communities that we have ever had in this country,” said Paul Calandra.

See the full text of the debate here.