Jeavana Sritharan has never been to Sri Lanka.
But the 20-year-old University of Ottawa student was among more than 800 protesters with Tamil roots who spoke out against violence in the war-torn country on the steps of Parliament Hill Wednesday afternoon.
Protesters, who waved banners and signs, shouted, “We want justice,” and “help us,” and “stop the war” at the Day of Mourning.
“I’m here because there’s a genocide going on in Sri Lanka,” said Sritharan, who is a member of the Tamil Students Association at uOttawa. Civilians, including children, are in danger, she said.
“We’re here to fight for the Tamil people’s rights,” she said.
“We want the government to take immediate action to stop the violence,” said event organizer and Canadian Tamil Congress spokesman Samuel Lawrence.
“I know all of you are suffering to the depths of your souls as you think about what’s happening to your families,” said NDP Leader Jack Layton, who attended the rally with MPs across the country Wednesday.
“That’s why I’m here in support. The Tamils are often forgotten by governments in the western world,” he said.
Canada should be a leader in stopping this from happening, he said.
Layton said he was going to ask the Canadian government to ask the Sri Lankan government to cease violence immediately to “end the humanitarian crisis.”
Sritharan also hopes this event teaches Ottawa residents, and Canadians in general, more about the situation in Sri Lanka.
In addition to the Ottawa event, there were also candlelit vigils in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal yesterday.