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Event Reports

August 24, 2010
Public Forum

Let Them Stay:
The Case of the 490 Tamil Refugees

Organized by Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO)


August 24 MAWO Forum Report

On Tuesday August 24th, Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO) organized a forum titled “Let Them Stay! The Case of the 490 Tamil Refugees” at the Britannia Community Center in Vancouver. On August 14, 2010, 490 Tamil Refugees from Sri Lanka arrived on the BC coast aboard the MV Sun Sea. Before the MV Sun Sea had even neared BC’s coast, the Canadian and BC governments had already begun a negative and deceptive campaign against the refugees, labeling the asylum seekers as ‘terrorists’ and ‘human traffickers’. The forum was a great opportunity to ask three very important questions: What is behind the government of Canada’s campaign against the refugees? Why were these Tamil refugees forced to leave their home in Sri Lanka? How should the antiwar movement respond to the case of the 490 Tamil refugees?

MAWO co-chair Andrew Barry opened the evening and introduced the first part of the program, a series of film and documentary clips. The film clips gave a history of British colonialism and its tactics to divide the Sri Lankan people and the ongoing struggle since 1948 for the Tamil people’s right to self-determination. The videos moved to last years war by the Sri Lankan government against the Tamil people, and on to the recent developments in Canada with the arrival of the 490 Tamil refugees. The last film clip, about attacks by the government of Canada against Indigenous people here at home, drew a connection between the struggle of the Tamil people and Indigenous people for justice, human rights, and self-determination.

After the films, MAWO outreach coordinator and MC of the forum Janine Solanki introduced Waran Vaithilingam, Ontario East-Canada Representative for the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE). Waran gave an outline of the injustice and brutality that the Tamil people face in Sri Lanka and why Tamils are forced to leave their country and become refugees. Waran also spoke about his visit to Vancouver, and how Tamil organizations such as the TGTE were denied entry to the immigration hearings for the Tamil refugees.

The next speaker was Aaron Mercredi, organizer with MAWO and the Indigenous Rights and Action Project (IRAP) who connected the attacks faced by Tamils and Indigenous People by the Government of Canada. He highlighted how Indigenous People living in Canada have faced ongoing theft of their land and are also vilified as “terrorists” when they are only defending their right to self-determination. He spoke on how the fear mongering by the Government of Canada is an attempt to divide poor and working people from the Tamil people, and the importance of fighting in unity for the rights of oppressed people here at home and abroad.

After the speakers many people participated in a discussion and asked the speakers questions. The forum ended with the speakers reasserting the necessity that both Tamils and non-Tamils must unite, and call for the Tamil refugees to be granted asylum immediately and unconditionally.

For MAWO statement defending the Tamil refugees, click here.