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Photos by James Clark, Megan Hope and Enid Godtree.
1. Thousands of Tamils converge on Toronto's Gardiner Expressway on May 10th for almost 4 hours shutting down a key artery in the City's road network. The protest was part of a series of actions in Toronto contesting the war in Sri Lanka and the Canadian governments actions or lack thereof.
2. People get a unique view of a section of the City normally over-run with cars going 80 kph. Tamils had previously shut down major sections of the City including a 4 day protest on University Ave.
3. One of many Tamil Tiger flags at the event. Tiger supporters were prevalent amongst the protesters, many of whom were calling for a separate Tamil state in addition to an immediate ceasefire.
4. Police tactics at the event were relatively non-confrontational. Protesters were allowed to come and go from the ramp and bring in supplies (coffee,food, blankets). Protesters who biked to the event to join the demonstration created the rare sight of bikes locked up to the guard rails on the Expressway.
5. One of many vigils. Protesters were totally peaceful.
6. Toronto Police, OPP and RCMP were called into the protest. Police discussing tactics with other units.
7. Riot Police form at one end of the protest.
8. A small group of police begin beating protesters before other police order them to stop. 4 are arrested.
9. Tamils agree to end the demonstration peacefully and march to Queen's Park (the Ontario legislature)...but not everyone gets away unscathed.
10 days later, the Sri Lankan government declares a conventional victory over the Tamils. The leader of the Tamil Tigers is declared killed.
The following are words from Tamil-Canadians who have been part of an ongoing protest in downtown Ottawa since Tuesday afternoon. The Tamils protests have continued day and night, bringing downtown traffic to a standstill. Demonstrators have focused upon attacks carried out by the Sri Lankan government in the so-called "safe zone" in the northwest region of the country, within which are situated as many as 190,000 civilians and internally-displaced people.
Photo #1: Senathan Nadarajah
"Since January, hundreds have been killed every day, including civilians – women and children! The dead are being left on the ground. There is no burial. The bunkers are full of blood because it is the rainy season so people cannot go inside the bunker. The Safety Zone is not being respected. The Sri Lankan Defense Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been saying that hospitals are a legitimate target, which is a war crime under the Geneva Convention."
"We have asked the Canadian government peacefully over the last four months by writing letters and petitions, gathering in numbers peacefully but nothing has happened. After the news [last week] that 1800 people had been killed, we could not stand it any longer. So we had to come and bring it to their attention. Until the Canadian government takes political and economic action and declares an embargo on Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan government is not going to listen."
Photo #2: Kumughan Nallarhenm
Approximately 500 Tamil protestors from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and elsewhere converged on downtown Ottawa, blocking several major intersections and bus routes. Beginning with a rally on Parliament Hill, protestors broke off into several coordinated groups and proceeded to squat several intersections throughout the afternoon and evening until approximately 7:30 PM, when they were pushed onto the sidewalks by police. Up until late tonight, 100-150 demonstrators continued to rally at the corner of Metcalfe and Wellington in front of Parliament Hill. Many said they would continue an "indefinite protest" until the Canadian government brought "forth an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka."
Protestors decried the heavy civilian toll in the so-called "safe zone" in northern Sri Lanka, which UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay has estimated at 2800. Many decried the banning of access of NGO's and journalists from the 14 kilometre-wide "safe zone" by the Sri Lankan government, within which 100,000 civilians are trapped.
The demonstration was vocally supportive of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam(LTTE). In recent days, the Sri Lankan military has claimed that it has killed hundreds of LTTE fighters, and that the rebel force has been cornered.
Although the recent death toll has been overwhelmingly composed of Tamils, various human rights groups have accused the LTTE of committing human rights abuses over the course of Sri Lanka's 26 years of civil war.
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.