TAMIL CANADIANS OCCUPY THE GARDINER EXPRESSWAY
On this day in 2009, after months of holding demonstrations, hunger strikes and rallies in Canada and the U.S. to raise awareness on the genocide, the most notable protest transpired on the Gardiner Expressway. Over 5,000 protestors occupied the highway for 6 hours, essentially shutting it down. It is important to note that this protest was spontaneous and not pre-planned. This emotionally driven protest was an act of desperation and anguish over the heightened atrocities Tamils were facing in the homeland with little to no international intervention and humanitarian aid and silence from political leaders. The blockade came after devastating news of two-days of shelling in Sri Lanka’s northern war zone that left over 1000 civilians dead and many injured in what was declared a “no-fire zone”. Women and youth were also at the forefront of this protest.
Unfortunately, media coverage of the protest was largely negative and overlooked the purpose and intent of the demonstration itself. Rather, the widespread narrative among media outlets centred around the community being disruptive. It is important to recognize the unprecedented nature of the protests itself and the mass mobilization of the Tamil community in a short period of time. It’s also important to note that the demographics varied, from youth to elders and that women were also largely involved in these protests.