Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Tamil Protests

Tamil protests have been going on in downtown Toronto for a long time now - certainly throughout the last five months that I have been working there. Torontonians are getting fed up, and a media backlash is starting with the message that the negative public reaction is due to racism, xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiments, or just plain insensitivity. The media is wrong.

The protests are way out of line. The blockage of the Gardiner Expressway last week was not the first time the protesters have blocked roadways. Back in January they formed a human chain down Front Street during a Friday rush hour, preventing people from getting home. I have had to walk past numerous huge rallies of protesters screaming aggressively, all with the disturbing aspect of including small children, even late at night. Many of the rallies have blocked sidewalks and roads.

Last week I walked past at least a hundred police officers in full riot gear, many imported from Durham Region, waiting at Front and York in case the protesters came that way. Presumably there were similar pockets of police throughout the downtown core. That's expensive and it diverts resources from important activities like preventing crime.

When people say that the protests are terrorist acts, they have a point. Downtown workers are being held up from getting home and are being subjected to aggressive behavior in an attempt to force our government to do something about the situation in Sri Lanka. (Although it's not clear that the Canadian government can do much of anything.) That's a mild form of terrorism, but it's the same strategy.

This is not a one-off demonstration that aims to get media attention. This is months and months of disruption. Among other things, it is counter-productive for the protesters, as it is turning public opinion against their cause.

And the cause is a lot more complicated than the fact that Tamils are dying in Sri Lanka. The Tamil Tigers (LTTE) is a vicious terrorist organization. It employs child soldiers, has killed thousands of people, and has links to al Quaeda - and it wants to become the government of part of the island of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government is by most reports close to finally crushing the Tamil Tigers after decades of conflict; it has not taken enough precautions to protect the Tamil population while doing so, causing a huge humanitarian crisis. The humanitarian crisis should be decried, but the cause of the Tamil Tigers is hard to support, and the protesters seem to be supporting the Tamil Tigers, not just by carrying LTTE flags, but also by carrying signs saying that the LTTE is the legitimate government of parts of Sri Lanka.

We need to be careful not to assume that all protesters support the LTTE. We need to be careful not to assume that all in the Tamil community are protesters. And we need to be sensitive to humanitarian crises. But there is nothing racist or insensitive about not supporting every protest. I do not support the Tamil Tigers, and I do not support months of disruptive protests. If the conflict really is nearing its end in Sri Lanka, this may be a very bad weekend in Toronto.



Anonymous said...

What's absolutely amazing is how the state of Canada has created this mess.

This is a manufactured crisis under the slogan "multiculturalism".

It's quite obvious that the Liberal Party of Canada is responsible for everything the tamils have done.

No one seems to want to touch the issue though.

Yappa said...

To anonymous at 1:21...

Ummmmmm... Care to argue that point, even a little? Or is this just a drive-by mud slinging?

Anonymous said...

I have no patience for these people. I agree with you, they're way out of line.

However, Canadians should take note - I'd like to see everyone push this hard to improve healthcare. Now that is something we ALL want and need improved! Imagine what we could do if we stopped being apathetic and stood strong for ourselves?