TORONTO: Tamils from the US, Canada, India and elsewhere, who had descended on Toronto for the 26th annual convention of the Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America, said goodbye to one another on Sunday after three days of mingling, discussion, entertainment and shopping.
Attended by over 2,000 delegates plus their families, it was the biggest Tamil event in Canada.
A literary convention attended by over 200 delegates on Sunday ended the convention.
“We are very happy with the outcome. There was something for Tamils of every age. But mainly FeTNA was for our younger generation and I am happy that they went away with smiles on their faces,’’ said Canadian Tamil Congress national spokesman David Poopalapillai after the event.
During the convention, US-TPAC – or the United States Tamil Political Action Council – interacted with MPs and politicians from Canada, Sri Lanka and India to highlight its activism and lobbing with leaders in the US for the rights of the Tamil people.
They discussed options before Sri Lankan Tamils to secure their rights and what role India and the US – their best bet – can play to force Colombo to accept the principle of self-determination.
“We are all for peaceful solution to the ethnic crisis. Wars are no solution. Sri Lanka should be forced through economic boycott. It has no external enemies, but it is spending per capita more any other nation on its military. Since clothing, cricket and tourism are the main sources of income for Sri Lanka, we are asking people to stop buying garments from Sri Lanka, stop visiting that place as tourists and take Air India, but not Sri Lankan Airlines, while visiting your relatives,’’ said Prof Yasodha Natkunam who teaches medicine at Stanford University.
Speakers seemed to be unanimous that India and the US are their only bet as only these two countries can force Sri Lanka to go for an amicable and peaceful solution to the ethnic issue.
They argued that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Columbo in November would give `legitimacy’ to a regime that stands condemned for violating international laws during the last stages of the ethnic war.
Away from serious discussions, there was much merry-making and fun as cultural troupes entertained the delegates and their families with traditional and modern entertainment.
A live-wire performance called Agni in the jampacked Sony Centre of the Performing Arts on Saturday signed off the convention.
A stall selling Kanchipuram sarees could be seen doing a brisk business on the last day, as were a couple of books stalls.
Toronto University Adjunct Professor Brenda Beck, who is a social anthropologist and expert in Tamil folk tradition, brought books and DVDs of The Legend of Ponnivala to the convention. Just about every delegate was buying her work.
“The Legend of Ponnivala is about Tamil oral tradition passed down the generations by bards. But folk tradition and bards have been ignored. Bards were the history teachers for the common people. They told stories to the common people, generation after generation but they have been ignored for their rich contribution. For me as a social anthropologist, bards tell a lot,’’ said Beck, who has spent close to 50 years in researching Tamil oral history.
Federal minister Bal Gosal also brought a message from immigration minister Jason Kenney to welcome FeTNA to Toronto.
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