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May 12-18 Genocide Education Week – May 18th Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day

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May 12 -18 Genocide Education Week

This Explanatory Note was written as a reader’s aid to Bill 104 and does not form part of the law. 
Bill 104 has been enacted as Chapter 11 of the Statutes of Ontario, 2021.

The Bill proclaims the seven-day period in each year ending on May 18 as Tamil Genocide Education Week.

Bill 104 2021

An Act to proclaim Tamil Genocide Education Week

Preamble

The Tamil community in Ontario is one of the largest concentrations of Tamils outside southeast Asia. It stretches across the province but the highest concentration is in the Greater Toronto Area. Tamil-Ontarians play an important role in the social, economic and political fabric of the province.

Tamil-Ontarians have families still suffering in their homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka. They have lost their loved ones and have been physically or mentally traumatized by the genocide that the Sri Lankan state perpetrated against the Tamils during the civil war which lasted from 1983 to 2009, and especially so in May of 2009. Genocide is the deliberate and organized killing of a group or groups of people, with the intention of destroying their identity as an ethnic, cultural or religious group. Acts of genocide against the Tamils started in 1948 after Sri Lanka gained its independence and were perpetrated through Sinhala-Buddhist centric government policies, pogroms, land grabs and ethnic cleansing. The United Nations Organization estimates that in May 2009 alone about 40,000 to 75,000 Tamil civilians were killed. Other estimates place the death toll at 146,679 civilians. These figures only reflect the death toll in 2009 leading up to May 18, the day on which the civil war ended. The loss of Tamil civilian lives during the genocide, which continued for decades in Sri Lanka, is much higher.

In addition, the Sri Lankan state has systematically disenfranchised the Tamil population of their right to vote and to maintain their language, religion and culture. For example, the Sinhala Only Act of 1956 made Sinhalese the official language of Sri Lanka ignoring the 29 per cent of the population whose primary language was Tamil, thereby putting them at a serious disadvantage for participating in the public service of Sri Lanka.

It is important for many reasons to acknowledge publicly that the killings and all aspects of the genocide constitute a heinous act. Not only does this acknowledgement honour the lives that were lost, but it gives a sense of hope to those who have suffered since it represents the first step to healing and reconciliation. Most importantly, by recognizing the Tamil genocide, we affirm our collective desire to maintain awareness of this genocide and other genocides that have occurred in world history in order to prevent such crimes against humanity from happening again.

Therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:

Tamil Genocide Education Week

(1)  The seven-day period in each year ending on May 18 is proclaimed as Tamil Genocide Education Week.

Same

(2)  During that period, all Ontarians are encouraged to educate themselves about, and to maintain their awareness of, the Tamil genocide and other genocides that have occurred in world history.

Statement by the Prime Minister on the first Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day
May 18, 2023
Ottawa, Ontario
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day:

“Today, we reflect on the tragic loss of life during the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, which ended 14 years ago. Tens of thousands of Tamils lost their lives, including at the massacre in Mullivaikal, with many more missing, injured, or displaced. Our thoughts are with the victims, survivors, and their loved ones, who continue to live with the pain caused by this senseless violence.

“The stories of Tamil-Canadians affected by the conflict – including many I have met over the years in communities across the country – serve as an enduring reminder that human rights, peace, and democracy cannot be taken for granted. That’s why Parliament last year unanimously adopted the motion to make May 18 Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day. Canada will not stop advocating for the rights of the victims and survivors of this conflict, as well as for all in Sri Lanka who continue to face hardship.

“In October 2022, we joined our international partners in adopting an United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution that calls on the Sri Lankan government to address the human rights, economic, and political crises in the country. Canada has been a global leader in the adoption of other UNHRC resolutions calling for freedom of religion, belief, and pluralism in Sri Lanka – essential elements to secure peace and reconciliation in the years to come – and we will continue our work to safeguard human rights across the world. And in January 2023, our government imposed sanctions against four Sri Lankan government officials in response to human rights violations on the island.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I invite all Canadians to recognize the many contributions that Tamil-Canadians have made – and continue to make – to our country. I also encourage everyone to learn more about the impact of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, and express solidarity to all those who suffered or lost loved ones.”

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