Thousands of Canadian Tamils formed a human chain through Toronto's downtown on Friday to protest a Sri Lankan government offensive aimed at crushing the separatist Tamil Tigers. The greater Toronto area is home to more than 200,000 Tamils, one of the largest Tamil populations outside the Indian subcontinent, and a number of protests have been staged here in recent weeks. On Friday, protesters formed a human chain spanning several miles of major downtown streets to protest the military offensive, which has ousted the rebels from all major towns following heavy battles in recent months.
The rebels are now cornered in a 115-square-mile area of jungle and villages in the Tamil-dominated north, where some 250,000 civilians are trapped, according to the Red Cross. Sri Lanka ruled out a cease-fire with the Tamil Tigers on Friday despite growing reports of casualties among civilians trapped in the war zone.
The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for a separate state for minority Tamils since 1983, and were declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 1997 and by Canada in 2006. Scores of young people, off because of exams, participated in Friday's protest in freezing temperatures, carrying signs and chanting for an end to the violence.
"This is a massive protest because we're expecting the whole Tamil community to come out and support this," said Phavalan Rahendram, a 17-year-old high school student.
"It's not only Tamils that should care about this. This is the killing of human beings. This is a genocide," Rahendram said. Sujeentha Sha, another high school student, said, "They are the last hope of the Tamil people, so every one supports the Tamil Tigers."
Subalagini Kandasamy, 37, wearing a Tiger-print scarf, pleaded with Canada to help end the violence.
"We are good citizens in this country, but I can't forget when I was born. I can't forget my relatives," Kandasamy said. "I don't know who is going to help us. We need help. They have stop the war and save the rest of the Tamils there."