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Groups show solidarity with pro-Tamils

With thousands of pro-Tamil supporters expected on Parliament Hill Tuesday, three groups have indicated their solidarity with the protesters.

With between 10,000 and 25,000 pro-Tamil supporters expected on Parliament Hill Tuesday, three groups have indicated their solidarity with the protesters at a news conference Monday.

"We're here to express solidarity with the cause," said Christine Jones, co-chair of the Canadian Peace Assembly, who spoke alongside representatives of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) and the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario at Parliament Hill.

"This is not just a Tamil-Canadian issue," said Jones. "This is an issue for all Canadians. This is a human rights issue. This is about genocide and a right to life and rights to education. This is about the Sri Lankan government being able to perpetrate crimes against its own people."

The Canadian government must press for an immediate ceasefire in the decades-long war in Sri Lanka, said Jones.

The groups are hoping to bring the issue to the attention of both Parliamentarians and Canadians and asking the Canadian government to recall its high commissioner in Sri Lanka. They are also asking the Sri Lankan government to allow access to journalists, humanitarian aid workers and international observers.

"As students, we're always concerned about two specific things — education and human rights," said Seamus Wolfe, vice-president of university affairs with the SFUO. "And those things are under attack."

Speaking on behalf of the Tamil-Canadian protestors yesterday, York University student Sarva Jeyapalan called the two-week-long protest "historical."

"Hopefully, we can sit down with our foreign affairs committee and have a discussion about what people's views around the world, and in the Tamil community," he said.

Jeyapalan is hoping the national effort — "with people coming from Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Kingston, Cornwall, and even from across North America" — will show "the will of the people," he said.

"We have to ensure that we put pressure on the government," Jeyapalan said. "In a crisis situation, the government does act. They acted during the tsunami and in the crisis in New Orleans. This is a humanitarian crisis and we expect the government to act."

From the reaction of people driving or walking by the protest, Jeyapalan believes that most Ottawans are in support of the cause.

 
 
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