Tamil Fest to showcase art, music and cuisine at Scarborough event

Festival next step in community’s growth, says Mayor John Tory

Scarborough Mirror

Greater Toronto’s Tamil community is now grown up, and this August 29 and 30, the rest of us can say, “Vanakkam” – welcome.

That’s the weekend the first Tamil Fest in Scarborough will showcase a people’s arts, music, and cuisine, the Canadian Tamil Congress says, for the first time outside the Indian subcontinent.

Tamil-Canadians are 300,000 strong, “shining in various fields,” and own more than 2,000 businesses in the GTA alone, an audience at the street festival’s launch was told this week.


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Yet the community’s culture and its history in Canada are not understood by most other Canadians.

Tamil Fest, on Morningside Avenue between Finch Avenue and Neilson Road, aims to change that, as well as to celebrate Tamil-Canadians’ many accomplishments.

“This will be the biggest and best cultural project Canadian Tamil Congress has ever undertaken,” Raj Thavaratnasingham, CTC president, declared Tuesday at the Markham Convention Centre in Scarborough.

“There’s excitement in the air, and we hope all of GTA will grab it.”

As well as world-class entertainers on the stage and street performers “whose dance and colours will dazzle you,” Thavaratnasingham said, the first Tamil Fest will have booths where festival-goers can buy food, saris and curry powder, plus a Tamil-Canadian museum.

Toronto Mayor John Tory called it the next step in what he called the community’s incredible evolution and growth.

It will be “a badge of honour for the Tamil community and for all of Toronto,” he said, before children performed a bewildering variety of traditional Tamil dances – just a taste, said master of ceremonies Sivan Ilangko, of what visitors will see in August.

There was also acknowledgement at Tuesday’s ceremony of the community’s “growing pains,” some of which resulted from a three-decade-long civil war in Sri Lanka which ended in defeat for separatist Tamils just six years ago.

Performing an imagined dialogue between Tamil-Canadians of 1990 and those of 2015, members of a youth leadership program said the arrivals once had few places in which to express their culture, and “were all focused on earning to barely make a living.”

The community is “one that has come from grave adversities but is so resilient,” said Rathika Sitsabaiesan, elected in 2011 as the first Tamil-Canadian MP in Scarborough-Rouge River, where the festival will take place.

“We are opening up our community and inviting the rest of Toronto and the world,” she said.

Other dignitaries who came to speak in support of the community and its festival were Scarborough-Guildwood MPP Mitzie Hunter, representing Ontario’s government, Scarborough-Rouge River MPP Bas Balkissoon, and Raymond Cho, the area’s city councillor.

“Canada is blessed because we have the Tamil people here,” he said.

More is available at TamilFest.ca