Canada calls for Sri Lanka truce as Tamils hold candlelight vigils


Toronto : Tamil Canadians observed Sri Lanka’s Independence Day as a “protest day” by holding candlelight vigils even as the nation’s parliament held an emergency debate on the situation.

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In Toronto, the Tamils and their Canadian supporters held the candlelight vigil at the Sri Lankan consulate, demanding an end to the “genocide” of civilians in the conflict zone of the island nation.

Similar candlelight vigils were also held in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg and other cities.

The first-ever debate in parliament on the issue was held after Tamils staged a rally at the House to lobby over 30 MPs to force Canada to pressure Sri Lanka to stop “the genocide” of civilians.

Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) which moved the motion for the debate, said over 250,000 Tamils faced “crisis level” situation in the conflict zone and urged the Canadian government to take immediate action to help them.

He said Canada should join Britain and Germany in seeking a ceasefire and offer humanitarian aid with guarantees from the Sri Lankan government that it will reach the affected civilians. He said Canada must press for unhindered access for international monitors and media to the conflict zone.

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon also called upon Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to declare an immediate ceasefire to allow evacuation of the injured and aid to civilians.

In a statement, the minister said: “Canada endorses the statement released yesterday (Wednesday) by the co-chairs of the Tokyo Donor Conference on Reconstruction and Development of Sri Lanka (Norway, Japan, the United States and the European Union).

“The statement proposes conditions to prevent further civilian casualties and human suffering and to achieve a just and lasting political solution.”

Cannon said Canada strongly condemns shelling of the hospital in Puthukkudiyiruppu and rebel firing into the government-designated safe area.

“We continue to believe that the conflict cannot be resolved militarily and can only be settled through a durable political solution that meets the legitimate aspirations of all the people of Sri Lanka,” the minister said.

The Canadian Tamil Congress welcomed the debate, saying: “We are pleased that Canadian parliamentarians recognized the urgency and gravity of the humanitarian crisis taking place in Sri Lanka by calling for an emergency debate on Sri Lanka.

“We hope that this is a signal that Canada will take an active role in bringing a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Sri Lanka that takes into account the aspirations of the Tamil people.”