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Tamil protesters gather at U.S. Consulate
Toronto's Tamil community continued to protest outside the U.S. Consulate Saturday even as they were told the president of Sri Lanka had declared victory in the country's civil war with Tamil rebels.
The protesters said they are waiting to hear the news for themselves from the Tamil community in their homeland.
"It's very hard to get an understanding of what's happening back home," said Roshan Alisterosario. "All we know is that thousands and thousands are dying. We're not hearing where they are or what's going on and that's the problem.
Tamil-Canadians have staged a number of protests across the country for months, each time urging the government to help stop the violence in Sri Lanka's conflict zone.
They are urging the American and Canadian government to impose political sanctions on the government of Sri Lanka and insist the military obey a ceasefire.
At Saturday's protest, one participant said she has not heard from her family members for months.
"We don't know where they're at," she said. "We don't know if they're alive or dead. They have little children."
Many complained that their friends and families living in Sri Lanka have been driven from their homes and have had their land and possessions taken by the government.
Earlier this week, the Sri Lankan High Commission in Ottawa said in a news release that the "the conflict in Sri Lanka is between the terrorists, known as the LTTE, and the Government of Sri Lanka and not with the Tamil people."
The international community has raised concerns about the ban on journalists and humanitarian workers in the affected area.
In Toronto, the demonstrations have mostly been peaceful though at times they have interfered with traffic travelling through the downtown core.
The protesters remained on the sidewalk across the street from the Consulate on Saturday, leaving the path clear for traffic on University Avenue.
A candlelight vigil is planned for tonight, organizers said.
Priyanth Nallaratman said he's proud to be a Canadian citizen but feels a responsibility for the people who live in his homeland.
"I would do anything for my Canadian citizens but at the same time, my roots are Tamil," he said. "I would do anything for my Tamil people. That's my family dying back there."