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MARKHAM: The Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) honoured Toronto Police chief Bill Blair and donated $47,000 to the Centre for Addiction and Mental health at its six annual gala at the weekend.
Political leaders, including Ontario Liberal leadership front-runner Sandra Pupatello, MPs, MPPs and community leaders attended the gala dinner held at the Hilton in Markham at the weekend. The gala also coincided with Thai Pongal – ritual thanksgiving to the Sun God by the Tamil community for bountiful harvest.
The highlight of the event was that Toronto Police chief Bill Blair was honoured for his leadership and `tremendous service to the people of Toronto.’
The well-attended gala kicked off with the lighting of the traditional lamp followed by singing of the Canadian national anthem and Tamil Thai Vazhthu by Umananthini Rajendram. It was followed by a silent tribute to all those who lost their lives for world peace. Canada’s first-ever Tamil-origin MP Rathilka Sitasabaieasan lit the lamp along with conservative M.P Roxanne James and Liberal M.P Dr Kirsty Duncan
Then came a dazzling performance by the Tamil Cultural Welcome Dance, beautifully choreographed and executed to perfection by the students of Nirothini Pararajasingham.
Welcoming the guests, Canadian Tamil Congress president Suntharamoorthy Umasuthan thanked them for their support to strengthen the voice of Tamil Canadians. He praised those who condemned the human rights violations of the Tamil minority by Sri Lanka.
The CTC president made particular mention of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his strong statement on human rights violations in Sri Lanka, and also thanked citizenship and immigration Jason Kenny , Minister of Foreign affairs JOHN Baird, Liberal and NDP leaders for their recent statements on Sri Lanka.
The Tamil leader said in the past year the CTC has worked tirelessly to strengthen the voice of Tamil Canadians both in Canada and on the international level.
Markham deputy mayor Jack Heath lauded the Tamil Canadian community for its achievements. He also read out a message from his mayor who could not come.
Chris Alexander, MP for Ajax and Pickering and Parliamentary Secretary for National Defense, brought greetings from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the government of Canada and the Conservative Party Caucus. He also read a special message from Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenny.
Dr Helena Jaczek, MPP for Oak Ridges Markham, brought greetings from Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Olivia Chow, the wife of the late NDP leader Jack Layton, thanked the CTC for the award bestowed on her husband by the CTC last year and also the tireless work CTC does in many fronts.
In 2012, the CTC launched the Centre for Leadership and Innovation, an initiative that is aimed at training future leaders under the leadership of Kumar Ratnam, Umesh Vallipuram and Sivan Ilangko who is also the vice president of the Canadian Tamils Chamber of Commerce. The students of this programme were introduced by Umesh Vallipuram to show a glimpse of their oratory skills on the stage with a thundering applause from the audience.
Mid-way through the evening events, the audience was treated to a sumptuous dinner followed by dessert. VIPs mingled and posed with the attendees.
The awards presentation ceremony began after the dinner. The Leaders for Change Award was presented to Toronto Police Chief William Blair for his exceptional vision, perseverance and commitment has redefined the need for change for the city of Toronto
Chief Blair was described as “a dear friend’’ of the community and a finest leader as he supported them with his balanced approach through the 2009 demonstrations at “a very difficult time’’ for Tamil Canadians.
This was followed by the Living Hero Award to recognize the contribution of a dedicated individual whose selfless work has helped change the lives of others. The recipient of the CTC’s first Living Hero Award went to `a Doctor who doesn’t want to identify him self. This Doctor saved thousand of lives under the very difficult circumstance during the last phase of the war in Sri Lanka.
After the awards ceremony, the audience was treated to a colourful peacock dance by the students of Nirothini Pararajaisingham.
On this occasion, the Canadian Tamil Congress also presented a cheque for $ 47,000 to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). The Tamil community had raised this money in a walkathon. The cheque was received by Dr. Catherine Zahn, CEO for the centre. Dr Zahn thanked the CTC for raising awareness about mental health and for supporting the vital work of the centre.
The Tamil version of `Still Counting the Dead’, the book by Frances Harrison, formerly the BBC correspondent in Sri Lanka, was also launched on the stage . The book recounts war crimes in Sri Lanka in 2009 when Colombo launched an all-out attack on the Tamil Tigers, putting hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians in cross-fire.
The curtains came down with the keynote address by Alan Keenan, Project Director and Senior Analyst , Sri Lanka ( ICG).
Ms. Juanita Nathan , CTC vice-president, proposed a vote of thanks.
Politicians who attended the gala included Sandra Pupatello, Gerard Kennedy, MP Roxanne James (Conservative), MP Joe Daniel (Conservative), MP Olivia Chow (NDP), MP Craig Scot (NDP), MP Rathika Sitsabaieasn (NDP), MP John McKay (Liberal), MP Kirsty Duncan (Liberal), and MP Jim Karygiannis (Liberal).
Dipika Damerla was among many MPPs who came. Also present were ex-MPs Navdeep Bains and Mark Holland – both strong big supporters of Justin Trudeau. Many Municipal councilors from Toronto and Markham also were in attendance.