Tamil Protest in Toronto

On Sunday, May 10th, Sri Lankans upset about the terrible tragedy happening in their homeland – UN Condemns ‘bloodbath’ – held a rally which spilled over onto the Gardiner Expressway, a major downtown traffic artery.

In most cases, I admire those who get out and protest. I have spent my own time protesting for Israel and other causes. So I wondered why the activities on Sunday so disturbed me. Here’s what I have:

1. The nature of the fight.
My understanding of the fight in Sri Lanka is that the Tigers have been fighting for a separate homeland. To this end, they have used guerrilla action, including killing civilians, suicide bombing and other methods made more famous by middle-eastern terrorists.

The LTTE is now cornered. Sri Lanka is trying to wipe them out. The civilians are stuck in the middle because their own LTTE will not let them leave.

I do not like the idea that if a group like the LTTE is responsible for enough deaths, they will get what they want. I don’t like the idea that the world must push for a ceasefire, so that civilians around the world live in fear of the next LTTE incident.

What we are seeing is the inevitable end to a military response to terrorism. It makes the western stomach sick. I wish we could offer a better suggestion.

2. Definitions
On Sunday night, I kept hearing reporters discuss the protest having moved to the Gardiner. It bothered me but I could not put my finger on why. It struck me the next day. The Tamils were PROTESTING earlier in the day. When they took the Gardiner, they were RIOTING. Not that they were being terribly violent, excluding pushing around some cops, but they were illegally taking over a public thoroughfare.

Rioting might, in hindsight, be an effective technique. However, in the present, it is used not as a discussion but as a monologue – “Agree with me or else.”

3. Western Isolation
Those born in the Western world have the luck to be born into countries that function on the rule of law. In Canada, we offer a stable society which allows us extraordinary freedoms in exchange for the respect of certain boundaries. Our minority difficulties are fought politically, in Parliament. We collectively remember the deaths at the hands of the FLQ, because they are so alien to our culture. Looking at other parts of the world, they seem alien and frightening. We view them through our lenses. Sri Lanka becomes the oppressor, slaughtering the helpless minority who are only asking for a homeland. Sounds much like a common view of Israel.

I know Canada  needs people. We are not making enough of our own. However, I do not want to import the wars and enmities of the old countries to Canada.