SRI Lanka: Canada Should Learn from Rwanda

Published on 16th June 2009

The Canadian government's silence on the ongoing genocide in Sri Lanka against the Tamil people only helps the oppressor-the Sri Lankan regime.  This is the same regime that deported Canadian Member of Parliament Bob Rea. Canada’s silence demonstrates an attitude of indifference, lack of humanity, inaction.

The silence  of  the international community allowed the death of thousands of Armenians who lost their lives under the Turkish government in 1914. Six million Jews were isolated, denied food and finally killed by Adolf Hitler in 1930s. 750,000 Cambodians were put to death under the Khmer Rouge leadership in 1975; thousands of Tibetans humiliated under the Chinese regime; almost a million Tutsi Rwandans massacred by the Hutus groups in 1994 and 400,000 of the African tribes burned to death by the Khartoum regime in Darfur.  No one came to rescue them.

World leaders still sing Never Again, but Never Again is taking place in Sri Lanka, Burma, Tibet, and Darfur.  The truth is written on the New England Memorial, but today it remains unexercised in the face of genocide:

“When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent;
I was not a communist. Then they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
I did not protest;
I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out for me” -Arif Jinha

Like Darfur Genocide, the Sri Lanka Genocide happened right before our eyes on TV and the internet.  World leaders watched with knowledge of the intentions of the perpetrator - the intent to kill, to eliminate Tamil people, starve Tamil children and women,  rape Tamil women and girls and  isolate Tamil men.  The international community including Canada, the author of the Right to Protect (R2P), failed to prevent, protect, and to save innocent lives. Has the Canadian government learnt any lessons from the Rwanda Genocide? The Darfur Genocide in slow motion?  It is time the Canadian government left  indifference and took lead in preventing the ongoing Genocide in Sri Lanka, Burma, and Tibet, and Darfur, and showed that R2P can save lives.

The Canadian government needs to discern between Tamil freedom fighters and humanity. Humanity has no political colors. Humanity is about preventing death, protecting and saving  life. The Canadian government should take the position of upstander, not that of the bystander who does nothing when Genocide is happening in Sri Lanka, Darfur, Tibet and Burma. The failure to do so means creating mass refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps without food security and medical attention, raping of women and girls. It means that human rights abuses will continue against the Tamils, deportation of government officials will increase, and Tamil freedom and self-determination will be lost.

As a middle power, Canada needs to show leadership in the world so that the victims of the ongoing Genocide in Sri Lanka will know that they’re not alone, not forgotten.  Their voices shall be heard, and Canada will not be on the wrong side of History. The Harper government should do the following:

a) Fast track immigration process to the refugees so that they can join their love ones in Canada by send in additional immigration officers;

b) Table peace talk resolutions to the UN Security Council to determine the future of Tamil under the federal state of Sri Lanka, or a two state alternative;

c) Send in Non-Partisan Fact Finding Mission to visit the refugees, and IDPs and assess their needs; consult with other governments to put pressure to Sri Lanka regime to allow humanitarian aids to IDPs and refugees, and;

d) Form a committee of elected officials from European Union (EU), Canada, and the U.S to listen to the aspirations of Tamil peoples.

Can Stephen Harper help make this injustice against innocent Tamil children, women, and men visible?

By Justin Laku

University of Ottawa


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