Canada’s myopic view on genocide

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Refusing to take any more nonsense from Canada with their myopic views on genocide, Sri Lanka lodged a strong protest adding grave concerns over the Canadian Parliament’s adoption of a motion last week, on the alleged ‘genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka’. On 20 May, Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris summoned Amanda Strohan the Acting High Commissioner of Canada to the Foreign Ministry, and handed over the démarche.

Prof Peiris categorically rejected the blatantly false content of the motion, and highlighted that its erroneous substance is fundamentally inconsistent with and contradicts the position of the Government of Canada that “it has not made a finding that there was genocide in Sri Lanka.” Minister Peiris also pointed to the need for such technical terms with specific legal connotations to be used with caution and responsibility, as well as to the dangers of its seeming endorsement by any senior members of the Canadian Government.

In this backdrop it is interesting to note Canada’s history of genocide as described by the Canadian Encyclopedia; “Genocide is the intentional destruction of a particular group through killing, serious physical or mental harm, preventing births and/or forcibly transferring children to another group and this term has been applied to the experiences of Indigenous people in Canada, particularly in the final reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry. (The Canadian Encyclopedia – https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/genocide-and-indigenous-peoples-in-canada)

Using the liberal use of the term ‘genocide’ to hoodwink the gullible Canadian public, Sri Lankan asylum seeker-turned Scarborough-Rouge Park Member of Parliament Vijay Thanigasalam influenced the Ontario Legislative Assembly to adopt this resolution stating that Sri Lanka subjected the Tamil community to genocide during the armed conflict.

Thanigasalam an open supporter of the dreaded LTTE terrorists, was compelled to apologise for his infamous facebook post: “Happy 57th birthday to our national Leader V. Prabhakaran.” He identified himself with the banned terrorist organisation even after the end of war in 2009. As the protests mounted from Canadian democrats, he said, “In the past I shared material related to the Tamil Tigers. I apologise and I no longer hold those views.”

After the Bill came up in Canadian Parliament Minister Peiris urged the Canadian Government to take appropriate action to correct the fallacies contained in the motion. This request was conveyed in the context of the strong bilateral relations of over six decades existing between Sri Lanka and Canada.

When this was first passed by Ontario Legislative assembly, the then Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena summoned Canadian High Commissioner David McKinnon and expressed Sri Lanka’s deep concern over the adoption of Private Member Bill 104 on ‘Tamil Genocide Education Week’. Minister pointed out that the position taken by the Ontario Legislative Assembly contradicted the Canadian Government’s stand.

Canada’s black history

It is strange that Canada, a country with a black history of genocide of indigenous people, accused Sri Lanka of genocide when islandwide millions of Tamils live in harmony with the Sinhalese, the Muslims and the Burghers.

Many scholars have accused Canada of cultural genocide. Due to the objections of various nations, the 1948 UN Genocide Convention does not use the term cultural genocide, nor does the 1994 UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Within Canada, however, indigenous people and some scholars have argued that programs and policies of colonisation, such as residential schools were intent on destroying Canada’s indigenous people as a distinct group and were therefore acts of cultural genocide.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission labelled the residential school system as a case of cultural genocide. The final report defined cultural genocide as the “destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group.” It stated that residential schools “were part of a coherent policy to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will.”

According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, the forced sterilisation of indigenous women in Canada has also been viewed as an act of genocide. Sterilisation legislation in Alberta (1928–72) and British Columbia (1933–73) attempted to limit the reproduction of ‘unfit’ persons, and increasingly targeted indigenous women. Coerced sterilisation of indigenous women took place both within and outside existing legislation, and in federally operated indigenous hospitals. The practice has continued into the 21st century. Approximately, 100 indigenous women have alleged that they were pressured to consent to sterilisation between the 1970s and 2018, often while in the vulnerable state of pregnancy or childbirth. Professor Karen Stote has argued that, in these ways, the coerced sterilisation of indigenous women can be viewed as an attempt to undermine the ability of a group to exist.

A landmark report on missing and murdered women in Canada has concluded that Canadians can no longer turn a blind eye to the “genocide” of indigenous people in the country. Indigenous communities across the country have for decades attempted to convey the depth and scope of a tragedy that has haunted thousands of families. As many as 4,000 indigenous women and girls are believed to have been killed or gone missing in Canada over the past 30 years – although the true number of victims is unlikely ever to be known. The findings of a three-year inquiry were released at a solemn ceremony in Quebec, attended by victims’ families, survivors, indigenous leaders and senior Government officials. This was acknowledged by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau too. “This is an uncomfortable day for Canada,” said the Prime Minister, “We have failed you.”

Disinformation campaign

While, LTTE activists such as Vijay Thanigasalam carryout disinformation campaign to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka, so-called ‘Khalisthan’ supporters in Canada continue their mud-slinging against India. Anita Lal, director of the Canada-based World Sikh Organisation, and co-founder of Poetic Justice Foundation, Canadian Parliamentarian Jagmeet Singh gone to the extent of hiring publicity firms to promote their ‘separate Khalistan’.

Infuriated by the Canadian double standards, Indian External Affairs Minister Subramaniam Jaishankar cancelled his scheduled appointment with Canadian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee in 2019, objecting to the presence of Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (Democrat), who had introduced a Congressional Resolution urging India to lift all the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir imposed after revoking Article 370.

When the PJF held a webinar discussion on the Sikh separatist movement titled, Khalistan, a conversation on trauma, racism and sovereignty,’ the Indian Police filed a case booking unknown persons under sections for sedition, criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity between religions, and provocation with intent to cause a riot.

In addition to lodging the démarche Sri Lanka too should consider legal action against the Canadian Tamil MP Vijay Thanigasalam for sedition, criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity between religions, and provocation with intent to cause a riot.

By Sugeeswara Senadhira