Labeling the situation in Sri Lanka as bad is quite an understatement. It’s dire, dreadful and alarming. Even that’s an understatement. It’s hard to describe, through language, the emotional distress and pain Tamils are going through as their friends and families are being systematically killed back home. They’re a minority, it’s tough. The civil war between the majority Sinhalese government and the minority Tamil Tiger rebellion calling for an independent state has been going on for more than two decades. The end isn’t near.
Neither side is exactly peaceful. A recent attack, blamed on the government by the Tamil Tigers and the Tamil Tigers by the government, fired artillery shells that have killed 300, including more than 100 children, and injured nearly 1,000.
The government can be violent and the Tamil Tigers have been branded a terrorist organization in the U.S., Canada, India and 29 other countries. They’ve use child soldiers and suicide bombs. But their government kills their supporters too, so the real tragedy here is not the deaths of the Tamil Eelam fighters or soldiers, but of the civilians caught in the crossfire.
And while I’m not Tamil, I understand and recognize the hurt the innocent are going through, though I could never truly imagine or begin to comprehend the veracity of it. Hell, I can’t even describe it using language.
But here’s where it gets tricky. Some of you may have heard that a 2,000-strong five hour Tamil protest blocked off the Gardiner Expressway until midnight last night, the city of Toronto’s major highway which sees between 200,000 and 300,000 cars daily. It’s been called an artery at times as it transports citizens from the beating heart of the city out to the western suburbs, which are inhabited by more than 1,000,000 residents.
Imagine driving along a major highway when a Tamil mother and child suddenly pop up beside your car. Yes, they brought their children too. And yes, as you can see above, they actually walked up the ramp onto the highway. How? I have no clue.
At its height, the protest blocked off traffic in either direction for a few miles. It could have been quite dangerous if there had been a medical emergency, miraculously though, no ambulances reported to have been caught in the jam. No babies were delivered in taxis. Just some pissed off residents and a few missed flights (a friend of mine missed his).
Some might be saying, so what? How dare you compare a five hour inconvenience to the deaths of innocent Sri Lankans?
Well, I’m not doing that. But I am struggling to understand how in the world blocking off traffic and angering every Torontonian could possibly help the cause? Only those who hate Torontonians would laugh at us, and in Canada, there are a lot of those. But who cares about those haters, that’s beside the point.
Up to now, Tamil protests in Toronto have been pretty peaceful and sane. They walk down large streets in large numbers, disrupting traffic a bit in the downtown core but only for a little while. No big deal.
And I understand that the goal of this protest was to garner media attention so that the demands made would be heard by as many as possible. That’s fine.
But now everyone is angry at you. Torontonians are mad, many (as I read in the comments section on the CBC website) believe that the Tamils should respect Canadian society and protest in a way that doesn’t disrupt it. Or at least protest more at Parliament Hill, not downtown Toronto. Remember, the Prime Minister, that guy who runs our country (poorly) lives in Ottawa not Toronto.
The point of protesting is to get people to rally behind you and support you, not be angry with you.
And please, the next time you want to block off a highway or walk onto the court during a basketball game or something, don’t bring your kids. Someone could easily have gotten hit by a car last night, and the last thing anyone wants is to harm an innocent child.
I support the cause; the civil war should end or at least stop long enough to get the civilians out of there. Bring them to Canada, we’d love to take them. But seriously, angering Torontonians creates hate, and Torontonians are like the New Yorkers of Canada. Just waiting for something new to be pissed at.