Population in Canada
According to government figures, there are about 200,000 Tamils
in Canada. The majority of Tamils are located in urban centres
in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
Approx. 150,000 live in Toronto's 416 area code, and approx.
70,000 more live in Scarborough. The rest of the population
are scattered in Markham, Etobicoke and downtown Toronto.
Nevertheless, some Tamil groups in Canada say these figures
are highly inflated. They say the most accurate count of Tamils
in Canada is the 2001 census data on languages spoken in Canada.
It identified 92,010 people speaking Tamil as their mother
The majority of Tamils are located in urban centres in Toronto.
There are seven identified Tamil communities:
Tuxedo: Markham Road and Ellesmere Road
Silversprings: on Finch Avenue E., from Kennedy Road to Pharmacy
Kennedy Road and Eglinton Aveune
Malvern: Malvern Mall, around Neilson Road and Finch Avenue
Jane Street and Finch Avenue W.
Rexdale: Kipling Avenue and Steeles Avenue W.
St. Jamestown: the square of Wellesley Street E., Sherbourne
Street E., and Parliament Street
Population in Montreal: approx 25,000
Two areas with a high number of recent Sri Lankan Tamil immigrants
are Park Extension and Plamondon. More established Tamils
are scattered throughout middle-class areas.
Population in Ottawa and Vancouver:
approx 5,000 in each city.
History in Canada
The Tamil community is a relatively new group. Some Tamils
settled in Canada as early as the 1960s, coming as independent
immigrants. The vast majority, however, arrived in Canada
after 1983 in the aftermath of the 1983 Colombo riots in Sri
Lanka. In 1983, the Canadian government took Tamils into Canada
under humanitarian and compassionate consideration. At the
same time, a visa requirement was imposed on Sri Lankans,
making it very difficult to get here legally. In 1986, Minister's
permits were granted to some refugees allowing them to remain
in Canada. Today Tamils continue to make up one of the largest
group of refugees seeking asylum in Canada. Ten percent of
the persons seeking asylum in Canada in 1999 originated from
Significant Religious and Cultural dates
January 14: Thai Pongal (Hindu)
April 13 or 14: Tamil New Year (celebrated by all kinds of
Late November: Deepavali, the Hindu Festival of Light
BRIEF POLITICAL HISTORY
The Sri Lanka ethnic conflict:
The current ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is between the
majority Sinhalese (roughly 75 percent of the population;
predominantly Buddhist, originally from Northern India) and
the minority Tamils (15-20 percent; primarily Hindu, originating
in Southern India, including what is currently the Indian
state of Tamil Nadu, which still has a large Tamil population).
The Tamils have been fighting for an independent Tamil state
since 1983 to separate the Tamil-majority regions of the north
and east from the rest of Sri Lanka. The state of Tamil Eelam
has been established by the people living there (and the militant
groups fighting the Sinhalese government army) under the right
of self-determination. Countries such as Israel, England,
the United States and Canada continue to support the Sri Lankan
governent -- backing the army through aid money and training.
The war in Sri Lanka has left 612,500 displaced within the
country according to 1999 United Nations statistics.
1621 - Portuguese occupy Tamil Jaffna kingdom in the north
1656-1796 - Dutch occupy low country Sinhalese and Tamil areas
1833 - British establish control over the Jaffna, Kandyan
and low-country kingdoms of Ceylon
1944 - Tamil Congress formed by G.G. Ponnambalam
1946 - United National Party (UNP) formed
1948 - Independence won from British
Ceylon Citizenship Act denies citizenship to Tamils of Indian
origin (indentured labourers brought by British from South
India to work in rubber, tea and coffee estates during the
1949 - Ceylon Amendment Act disenfranchises plantation Tamils.
Federal Party formed by S.J.V. Chelvanayakam.
1956 - Sinhala only Official Language Act passed
1957 - Bandaranayake/Chelvanayakam Pact (BC Pact) signed to
protect Tamil interests
1958 - under pressure from Sinhalese extremists, pact broken.
1965 - another pact was signed between UNP leader Dudley Senanayake
and Chelvanayakam. This pact also died.
1972 - Ceylon becomes Republic of Sri Lanka; Tamil United
1975 - Chelvanayakam declares for a separate Tamil state
1979 - Prevention of Terrorism Act created
1981 - Police and army rampage in Jaffna; army sets fire to
Jaffna library and newspaper office.
1983 - over 500 Tamils killed in Anti-Tamil pogroms organized
by police and army. Tamils from the South and plantations
flee to the North.
Long before independence, in the period between 1910-1917,
the British brought troops from Malaysia to quell a Sinhalese/Muslim
riot. Sir Ponnampalam Ramanathan, a Tamil, went to England
to plead for the release of Sinhalese prisoners. He was the
Tamil representative in the Legislative Council.
On Feb. 4, 1948, Sri Lanka gained its Independence from England.
Many Tamils were not in favour of independence because they
feared that as a minority group, they would not get adequate
representation. A few Tamil MPs who were members of the ruling
UNP -- namely V. Nalliah -- supported the move.
In 1955, the Sinhala Only Act was passed, and was overwhelmingly
opposed by the Tamil federal party who were waging a parliamentary
struggle to gain regional autonomy for Tamils in the north
and east. Several sathyagrahas (peaceful protests) took place
in protest against laws infringing on the rights of Tamils.
The Communist Party and the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (predominantly
Sinhalese parties) supported the sathyagraha movement.
Bandaranayake/Chelvanayakam Pact (BC Pact) was signed in 1957
to protect the rights of the Tamil minority. It was a fairly
generous regional autonomy package. After protest from Buddhist
monks and J.R. Jeyawardene (the then-opposition leader), the
pact was scrapped. Even so, Bandaranayake was assassinated
by an extremist Buddhist monk who later converted to Christianity.
Bandaranayake's widow Sirimavo succeeded him becoming
the world's first female head of state.
The UNP then came to power and another pact was signed between
UNP leader Dudley Senanayake and Chelvanayakam. This pact
Disenfranchisement of estate Tamils (indentured labourers
brought by British from South India to work in rubber, tea
and coffee estates during the previous century). This reduced
the power of the Tamil vote further.
In 1976 and 1980, other riots in places such as Trincomalee
and Mannar and Batticaloa occurred.
In the late 1970's, the Sri Lankan army burned down the
Jaffna Library, one of the biggest libraries of Tamil literature
in the world.
July 1983: anti-Tamil riots in Colombo
1983: Tamil refugees arrive in Canada in large numbers.
Aug. 11, 1986: 155 Tamil refugees are smuggled into Canada
on the Aurigae, a 425-tonne ship driven by Captain Wolfgang
Bindel. The group was dropped into lifeboats off the coast
of Newfoundland, and eventually given stay for a year.
- Canadian tennis player
- author of Funny Boy
and Cinnamon Gardens
- president and CEO of
Computer Associates in New York
- author of When Memory Dies,
and editor of the journal Race and Class
- lesbian author
Saivism - is a branch of Hinduism where Siva is worshipped
as the principal deity
Christianity - In Sri Lanka, there are Anglicans, Catholics
and other Christian denominations
Muslim - Tamil-speaking Muslims
Sinhalese: many Tamils due speak this due to the Sinhala Only
Act, and depending on what part of Sri Lanka they're from.
Tamil Eelam Society:
Tel: (416) 463-7647
College and University Tamil Students Union:
Tel: (416) 854-0581
The Canadian Tamil Youth Development Centre:
Tel: (416) 396-4663
Tamil Rehabilitation Organization: (416) 751-8777
Tamil Resource Centre: (416) 928-0990
Pothikai Tamil Women's Organization: (416) 961-4691
World Tamil Movement of Ontario: (416) 461-3900
Canadian Ceylon Tamil Chamber Of Commerce - (416) 261-7442
Canadian Tamil Radio - (416) 264-8798
Academy of Tamil Arts and Technology: (416) 757-0890
Federation of Associations of Canadian Tamils (FACT): ?
The Canadian Council for Refugees:
Tel: (514) 277-7223
Deepavali or Diwali: the Festival of Lights that marks the
victory of good over evil, celebrated in late November.
EPRLF: Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front,
a Tamil independence militant group in Sri Lanka. Now defunct.
EROS: The Eelani Revolutionary Organization, a Tamil independence
militant group in Sri Lanka.
Jallikkattu: a peaceful sport involving bulls celebrated by
young men as a part of the three-day Thai Pongal.
LTTE: Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. This is the major
armed organization fighting for Tamil independence in Sri
Lanka. Presently under the leadership of Velupillai Pirabakaran,
the LTTE was founded on May 5, 1976.
Maveera Thinum/Nal (Heroes Day) takes place each year on November
27. Events commemorating it begin on Nov 21. The reason that
this particular day was chosen to remember all Tamil freedom
fighters is this: around 1982 Lt. Shankar ( also known as
Suresh) was injured in Jaffna and then died in India.
Tamil New Year: the new year for Hindu Tamils whose calendar
is based on the solar year. This falls on the first day of
the month Chithirai (in mid April, usually the 13th or 14th)
Thai Pongal: a harvest festival - the Tamil equivalent of
Thanksgiving. It's held on Jan. (the month of Thai) 14
to honour the Sun for a bountiful harvest. Families gather
to share their joy and their harvests with others. The Sun
is offered a "Pongal" of rice and milk. A full-scale
Thai Pongal festival is held over three days.
Canadian Council for Refugees
Tel: (514) 277-7223
Coordinator of CanTYD
Tel: (416) 564-9991
With the senior settlement program at Catholic Cross Cultural
Services, also the editor-in-chief of Tamils Information,
a monthly magazine.
Phone: (416) 757-9969 x211
The Tamil Eelam Society
Tel: (416) 463-7647
Dr. R. Cheran
Research associate, journalist and educator
Centre for Refugee Studies
Researched by Carly Foster