Toronto is home to the largest concentration of Sri Lankan Tamils (250,000 plus) outside that island.
Thousands of Tamil Canadians, mainly youths, have participated in rallies, processions, vigils, street demonstrations, sit-ins, fasts, slogan shouting, and the blocking of traffic at peak hours.
Primarily, it is an effort to draw attention to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka.
More than 50,000 Tamil civilians are trapped on a coastal strip in the north.
They are virtual hostages of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an organization proscribed as “terrorist” by Canada.
After fighting for decades, the armed forces are poised to overrun the cornered Tigers.
The Tamil Tigers, as they are known, are waging a fierce war to establish an independent state, “Tamil Eelam.”
Protests in Toronto and Ottawa are but part of a concerted global campaign by the Tamil diaspora.
The underlying cause is the civilian predicament back “home.”
There are daily reports of civilians being killed and injured by aerial bombardment and artillery shelling.
Nearly 200,000 civilians were recently displaced and are housed in camps under abysmal conditions.
In this situation, the concern and anxiety of Canadian Tamils for their kith and kin are understandable.
They want Ottawa to exert pressure on Sri Lanka and prevent the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe.
Problematic here are the methods adopted to bring about intervention by the Canadian government.
Strident protests are becoming a public nuisance. Motorists and pedestrians are inconvenienced greatly.
Demonstrators are increasingly on a collision course with police. Besieging the Gardiner Expressway Sunday was dangerously controversial.
Instead of winning sympathy from mainstream Toronto, the abrasive protests are incurring resentment and hostility.
Complicating matters further is the identification with the banned LTTE — carrying Tiger flags and chanting slogans for the LTTE raise doubts about a hidden agenda.
Are the protests concerned about the civilian plight alone or getting a reprieve for the LTTE also?
In any case, linking the protests to the Tigers is proving counterproductive as neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals want to be identified with a banned outfit.
There is also the fact that Canada has little clout with Sri Lanka.
We are not a major trading partner or aid-giver. And Canada is not on the UN security council.
Perhaps it’s time for Canadian Tamils to review the situation realistically and do a course correction.