Despite the bitter cold, a small group of walkers carrying Canadian flags made their way along Yonge Street in the Town of Innisfil on Monday.
It was Day 2 of a five-day Walk for Justice, to highlight the ongoing discrimination and persecution faced by the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
“We are walking for justice for Tamil people,” said Mahajayam Mahalingam, and in support of a 56-year old mother in England, Ambihai Selvakumar, whose hunger strike has continued for 17 days.
Like Selvakumar, the walkers are demanding that Sri Lanka be referred to the International Criminal Court and that charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, directed against the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan state, be investigated.
The walkers carried not only flags but a petition, calling for the establishment of an International Independent Investigative Mechanism to collect evidence of international crimes and human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
They are also asking that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights appoint a Special UN Rapporteur to monitor Sri Lanka for ongoing violations; and that a UN-monitored Referendum be held to determine the aspirations of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, in support of self-determination in the traditional north-eastern Tamil homeland.
The Walk for Justice left the city of Barrie on Sunday. The walkers plan to travel 25 km per day and expect to reach Toronto and Queen’s Park by Wednesday.
They will be stopping at the Indian and British Embassies, as well as the office of the UN, and on Thursday, hope to present their petition to Premier Doug Ford, said Mahalingam.
This isn’t the first Walk for Justice mounted by Tamils living in Canada. Last year, four members of the Tamil community walked 425 km from Brampton to Ottawa, to bring attention to “Victims of Forced Disappearance by the Sri Lankan State.”
“We are in Canada, safe. The people over there are suffering,” explained Vaiseegamagapathy Yogendran. “For 72 years (since 1948) we are suffering in Sri Lanka.”
In addition to the petition, the walkers also handed out postcards, addressed to The Right Hon. Justin Trudeau, calling on Canada to support their demands for justice and the investigation of war crimes.
Whatever happens, Tamils living in Canada are determined that, even during the pandemic, their cause won’t be forgotten, said Yogendran.
“The world will know who we are," he said, as he and the group made their way through Churchill.