PSA: On Tamils in Canada

Alright, everyone, listen up. I’m going to share with you something my friend Jason V pointed out to me once: newspaper accounts of the Tamil diaspora in Canada are all wrong.

There are something like 120 000 ethnic Tamils in Canada, whom the press generally refers to using the interchangeable phrases “Tamils” and “Sri Lankan Tamils”. However, the best measurement of this population is Statistics Canada, who tracks this population by asking people their mother tongue, and thus does not distinguish between Tamils from Sri Lanka (population: about 3 million), from India (population: 60 million or so), from Malaysia (population: about 2 million), or those from anywhere else. Tamils in Canada are often described as generally supporting the Sri Lankan Tamil cause, as championed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and in fact opinion polls of Tamils in Canada and India do show this. But not all Tamils in Canada are of Sri Lankan origin, despite the long-running civil war there having greatly encouraged emigration from those parts in particular. So please stop confusing the two.

Also, could the Globe and Mail please make op-eds available only to subscribers again? I’m not sure when this was changed, but I accidentally read one today by Christine Blatchford about the Tamils who briefly shut down a highway in Toronto (I’ll spare you the link but she basically wanted to deport them all for whining). I greatly enjoyed not being able to access the musings of people like her and Margaret Wente (the one who recently came to the defense of Dick Pound, who is not a gay porn star but in fact chancellor of McGill University, when he was criticized for calling Canada’s native peoples “savages”). Now I have to screen for those articles while reading the newspaper, and every once in a while I’m going to read another one, I just know it. Damn.

And while I’m at it, I’d like a pony.

PS: while trawling through Google for information about Canada’s Tamil population, I learned that in 1986 a German ship transported 155 Sri Lankan Tamils to Canada and dropped them off in lifeboats off the coast of Newfoundland. In the end the Tamils were all granted refugee status, and the captain, who they reportedly paid $350,000, was never charged with anything. Did you know that? I didn’t think that had happened in Canada since that time in 1914, but now I wonder why it doesn’t happen more often.

Edit: The Globe and Mail again today referred to Canada’s population of 200 000 Sri Lankan Tamils. I’ve seen that estimate before but I still find it hard to believe there are so many more Tamils than StatsCan found, let alone that they’re all from Sri Lanka, and none from, say, the state of Tamil Nadu in India (which has by far the world’s largest Tamil population).