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Canadian government grants $26.3 million for Tamil Community Centre in Toronto

The Canadian government has announced that it will grant tens of millions of dollars in funding towards the construction of a ground breaking Tamil Community Centre (TCC) in Toronto, marking a milestone in decades of committed work from local community activists.

After getting approval from the federal government's Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), the Canadian government has agreed to pay 73% of the $26.3 million needed to launch the community centre. The funding for the construction of the Tamil Community Centre, including taxes, is estimated to be worth at least $40 million.

The share of this investment will be approximately $14.3 million from the federal government, $11.9 million from the state government and $ 9.6 million is expected to be raised from the community. The Toronto Bailiff has already leased $25 million worth of land on a long-term lease on the basis to aid community projects, such as the TCC, at a modest rate of $1 per year for rent, taxed accordingly.

"When we applied for funding in November 2019, in just two months the group members volunteered to donate $ 11.2 million. We will now contact the affiliated group members and organisations and seek to turn their commitments to donate to actual fund the rest of the project. We thank the 120 Tamil community organisations and NGO’s who have helped in jointly approving this project and believed in its purpose," stated the TCC.  

Speaking to the Tamil Guardian, Neethan Shan, a member of the TCC Steering committee, said that the centre aims to assist the Tamil community in particular, by addressing the lack of services accessible to local Tamils as well as the broader Tamil community which includes Pickering, Ajax and Markham.

The Tamil Community Centre's Steering Committee 

"The next generation of Tamils will have a place to go […] A hub for Tamil Canadian heritage and histories" and a “one-stop place providing socio-political and economical support particularly to oppressed and marginalised communities," Shan stated.

Canada is home to one of the largest Eelam Tamil diaspora communities in the world and has existed in the country for generations.

‘One of the biggest dreams of Canadian Tamils’

Shan further added that this was “one of the biggest dreams of Canadian Tamils," noting that:

“It will bring a sense of belonging, a sense of identity and connectivity to the land that we are in. The TCC will be a signature of growth as a community in this ‘identity as Tamil Canadians’ and a way to give back to the region.”

Included in the facility is an auditorium for cultural performances/forums/seminars, an indoor gymnasium, mental health services, history and archival space/museum, a library, language services, meeting rooms, recreational/educational space, women’s services and disability programming.

He further noted that the centre intends to be “a dynamic, innovative, multi-purpose, and nondenominational facility incorporating spaces and services to help address the current and growing needs of the diverse Canadian Tamil community, as well as Black, Indigenous and other equity-seeking groups by acting as a community hub."

“It will be a secular centre where people can express themselves; which doesn’t pre-define the Tamil identity and will allow the Tamil diaspora to grow into a very dynamic group. The centre will look at differences as strength (e.g. nationality/generation) and will be an essential location to gather in urgent situations e.g. during the Tsunami and the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka in the past. The TCC will be a welcoming space for men, women, the LGBTQ community, disabled persons and for all generations from toddlers to seniors and everyone in-between," he added.

Gary Anandasangaree, MP Scarborough Rouge Park, said the TCC "will be a unifying space that will bring this vibrant community together under one roof. It will be a space to learn, to showcase, to gather and to reflect."

"This is a result of all governments working to together, and lead by the Tamil community. Generations of Tamil-Canadians have worked for this day, and generations of Canadians of all backgrounds will be well served by the Tamil Community Centre," he told the Tamil Guardian. 

Speaking at the event today, Anandasangaree, said that "while this community grew and perserved, we’ve also faced enormous loss that brought waves of Tamil refugees to Canada [...] The needs of the Tamil community continue to grow, which includes support for mental health, counselling, youth, seniors, members of the LGBTQ+ community, women and those with disabilities."

"The need to remember those who perished in the Tamil genocide, the need for survivors to gather and mourn has been a constant unfulfilled need," he added. 

Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, also joined the event to announce the funding for the contruction of the TCC. In a press release, she stated:

“Community centres are vital social infrastructure that help our communities, and local economies, grow stronger. Our recovery plan is focused on making sure we have an inclusive recovery, that brings all people along and builds stronger, more resilient communities. The new Tamil Community Centre will create jobs, give the community access to recreational and cultural spaces, connect the community to quality programs and services, and provide access to educational opportunities for everyone in the community.”

Nedra Rodrigo, member of the TCC steering committee, said the centre "will help streamline services not only to the Tamil community living in the neighbourhood, but also to our other family members -- to Indigenous, Black, Caribbean, South Asian and other communities."

"The TCC will offer Scarborough families the recreational and cultural spaces they need -- such as an auditorium, a gymnasium, multi-purpose rooms, a community library, archives and museum," Rodrigo added. 

Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who also attended the event, acknowledged "the contribution the Tamil Canadians make to the incredible fabric of this diverse country." 

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