The article below is abridged from a May 6 Tamilnet.com report.
Stressing the recognition of the self-determination of Tamils as the basis for any solution to the crisis in the island of Sri Lanka, Canadian Academics for Tamil Rights (CATR) told the media on May 6 that Canada banning the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had affected the peace initiatives between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Army. The academics said because of this Canada shared in the blame for the bloodshed on the island.
"As an immediate remedy to the grave situation at the moment, the United Nations should take food and medicine directly to Vanni and if not possible they should pressure the US to do it", the group said.
"It may look strange, but it is the only option if any one wants to save the lives of the people in Vanni [in Sri Lanka's north]."
The press conference, at Hotel Marriot in Toronto, was attended by local, national and international media. It followed a statement sent to Canada's government signed by 125 academic professionals from various universities and institutions and by prominent academic personalities.
The root cause of the problem is the inability or unwillingness of the Sri Lankan state, dominated by the island's Sinhala Buddhist majority, to transform or restructure itself to accommodate Tamil aspirations, speakers of the conference pointed out.
The crisis is more than 60 years old. For more than 30 years the Tamils waged a non-violent struggle. Unfortunately, the media today concentrated only on the past 30 years, conference speakers said.
"Our aim in issuing this statement is to call on the Canadian government to take a stand on the situation in Sri Lanka", said Aparna Sundar, political science professor at Ryerson University.
"The largest Tamil diaspora outside of Sri Lanka is in Canada", said Professor Sharryn Aiken, a law professor at Queens University and a CATR member said. "The fact that so many Canadian Tamils are continuing to lose family members and friends in the ongoing crisis is what prompted us as concerned Canadian academics to stand in solidarity with them."
Another CATR member, Ryerson University Sociology Professor Alan Sears, said: "We have a responsibility to act in the face of the humanitarian and human rights catastrophe confronting the Tamil population of Sri Lanka.
"The level of mobilisations among Tamils in Toronto has been truly impressive, and they are asking for our solidarity so they do not feel they are facing this crisis alone."
Aiken said: "While there is no doubt that the LTTE must change their stripes, Canada's proscription of the LTTE in concert with the [European Union], the United States and a number of other countries has had the effect of further marginalising moderate voices within the Tamil militant movement and destroying the prospects for a political solution."
Academics from the University of Windsor and York University also took part in the conference.