TORONTO - The Conservative government says Tamil-Canadian protests, including one that shut down a Toronto highway on the weekend, are giving people the idea that a terrorist group is part of the demonstrations.

Minister of International Co-operation Bev Oda says she noticed Tamil Tiger flags being flown at the protests.

The Tamil Tigers are considered a terrorist group by the Canadian government.

Oda tells a national news agency that the flags being flown "would say to Canadians that ... the terrorist organization is part of the demonstrations that happened."

Some protesters chanted their support for the Tamil Tigers at Sunday's highway protest.

The thousands of people who flooded onto the Gardiner Expressway left only after receiving assurances that the Liberals would raise their plight in Parliament.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he will continue to press the Harper Conservatives on the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka but is distancing the party from the demonstration itself.

Today, Ignatieff issued a statement urging that future protests be lawful and stressing that Liberal MPs took no part in the protest.

He also says the Liberals unequivocally condemn the Tamil Tigers.

Premier Dalton McGuinty also assailed the tactics of the protesters who shut down the highway, saying the bloodshed in Sri Lanka does not justify such action.

The rage and frustration over Sri Lanka's civil war boiled over after reports that an all-night artillery barrage in the country's war zone killed more than 370 people and forced thousands to flee to makeshift shelters along a beach.

McGuinty says Sri Lanka should open the northern part of the country to journalists, aid workers and international observers.

The highway protest trapped dozens of motorists and forced police to close it and the adjoining Don Valley Parkway for up to six hours.

"My daughter worked in Sri Lanka for close to a year as an aid worker, so I have some understanding of the nature of the challenges," McGuinty said.

"I understand the passions which are here, but having said that, there is a right way and a wrong way to protest."

A small handful of Tamil protesters gathered on the front lawn of the Ontario legislature Monday, which is exactly the place McGuinty said they should take their concerns rather than blocking city streets.

"They're always welcome to protest on the front lawn of Queen's Park or Parliament Hill," he said.

However, other Tamil protesters gathered outside the Sri Lankan consulate in Toronto, and police blocked off a section of University Avenue, just south of the legislature, in an apparent bid to prevent another protest from forming outside the U.S. Consulate.

A series of Tamil protests had closed the busy downtown thoroughfare for more than three days in late April.

McGuinty also said he would not second-guess police who closed the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway for hours Sunday to accommodate the protesters.

"I believe they've made the right kind of decisions to deal with these kinds of issues," the premier said.

As temperatures plunged to just above freezing Sunday, protesters huddled together, holding candles and placards and shouting chants through a megaphone.

"Tamil Tigers, freedom fighters," they yelled, and "no more genocide."

The highway protest ended just after midnight after the federal Liberals promised to raise the Tamil concerns in Parliament.

Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis, whose east-end Toronto riding is home to a large Tamil community, said early Monday that staging a protest on a highway was not a wise move.

"I understand the frustration and I understand their concern, but taking over a highway is not the way to go," he told a national media outlet News.

Karygiannis added that as a result of the highway protest, "a lot of people (have) turned against the Tamils - I got a lot of phone calls last night."

Karygiannis said the prime minister should "get on the blowhorn" and speak to members of the UN Security Council because "we need solutions, we need action, we need it today - people are dying on those beaches."

Three people were arrested during the highway protest and the charges against them include assault on a peace officer.

The expressway was fully opened for the morning rush hour, and the protest outside the legislature was being monitored by just a handful of police officers.

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