It was a few days after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement expressing his country’s solidarity with the Tamils of Sri Lankan origin who were commemorating an event in Toronto, Canada to mark the 33rd anniversary of 1983 Black July, Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion arrived in the island on Thursday (28) and his Sri Lankan visit is considered as a first visit of a Canadian Foreign Minister to Sri Lanka since 2003.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his special statement expressing his solidarity with the Canadian Tamils of Sri Lankan origin mentioned that his country was committed for real peace, reconciliation, accountability and justice in Sri Lanka.
Canada is one of the countries where a large number of Canadians of Sri Lankan Tamil origin live and most of them had migrated to Canada following the Black July 1983 communal riots and the civil war which had continued for nearly three decades in the North and the East.
The visit to Sri Lanka last week by Canadian Parliamentarian Gary Anandasangaree who is a Tamil Canadian of Sri Lankan origin has highlighted the strength of the Tamil population of Sri Lankan origin in Canada and the country’s concerns for the peace and reconciliation in the island nation.
Canadian Parliamentarian Gary Andasangaree who is also the son of the veteran Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) Leader V. Anandasangaree made his visit to Sri Lanka after thirteen years since he last arrived in the island in 2003.
Gary Anandasangaree who visited the island had travelled extensively in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and observed the post-war situation in person in the two provinces.
Gary in his interview with Ceylon Today based on his visit to the Northern and Eastern provinces pointed out the need of strengthening the civil administration in the two provinces by drastically reducing the military presence.
He also pointed out the shortcomings in the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North and the East.
So, following Gary Anandasangaree’s visit to the island last week, his country’s Foreign Minister Stephane Dion has arrived in the island and at his first press conference with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera in Colombo on Thursday (28), expressed his country’s concerns over Sri Lanka’s commitment towards implementing the UNHRC resolution which was adopted in October 2015.
Canada being one of the co-sponsors of the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka last year, Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion expressing his country’s concerns over the resolution urged the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the resolution without further delay.
The ground realities
Understanding clearly the ground realities which remain in the war-torn areas in the North and the East the Canadian Foreign Minister said: “The journey towards reconciliation will be long and strewn with obstacles, but it is important to focus on the future. The long-term objective must be to respect distinct identities while working to bring them together to strengthen the whole country.”
With its involvement in the failed peace process facilitated by Norway as one of the co-chair members fifteen years ago, Canada is also very much aware about the constraints in building peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
The Canadian Foreign Minister’s visit to Sri Lanka being the first high profile visit of a foreign dignitary since the UNHRC Chief Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein submitted his oral submission last month on his observation on the progress made by Sri Lanka, the Canadian Foreign Minister’s comments on the present state of the peace and reconciliation process in the island and on expediting the implementation of the UNHRC resolution are noteworthy.
Canada being a country of immigrants and successfully handling several ethnic issues, the Canadian model was also suggested by the Tamil political circles in overcoming the ethnic issue in the country.
The Canadian Foreign Minister also expressed his country’s desire for sharing its experience on issues such as official languages, devolution of power and sustainable economic growth in a multi ethnic society.
The Canadian Foreign Minister also met Leader of Opposition and Leader of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) R. Sampanthan in Colombo on Thursday (28) and the importance of finding a permanent solution to the ethnic question through the intended new Constitution, was emphasized by the TNA Leader.
As Canada offered its assistance in sharing its experience in devolving powers and settling the language issues, the TNA Leader’s emphasis on finding a permanent solution to the ethnic question through the new Constitution has highlighted that Canada could even play its part in making the right suggestions in dealing with the ethnic issues in the intended new Constitution.
With the international community showing its concerns over strengthening peace and reconciliation in the country, the recent developments in the local political scene such as the Kandy march organized by the Joint Opposition led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the deliberate attempts made in creating obstacles in implementing the UNHRC resolution in the South clearly indicate that the path for peace and reconciliation in the island still remain on rugged terrain.