Tamil midnight march shut Canada's busiest highway

Tamil midnight march shut Canada's busiest highway

The midnight march on Canada's busiest highway infuriated the Ontario premier (chief minister) and the Toronto mayor who warned the protesters that occupying major roads will not be acceptable.

The highway blockade was lifted after midnight only when top Canadian leaders - opposition Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff, New Democrat Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton - promised to raise the Sri Lankan issue in parliament.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the Tamils could protest at the provincial assembly near by but not on the busy the Gardiner Expressway. Toronto Mayor David Miller said "occupying the Gardiner Expressway is not acceptable, it is unsafe. We need the protestors to recognize that.''

He said: "The Tamil community needs to hear two things from us. First is, occupying roads like the Gardiner isn't acceptable, and the police will prevent you from doing it and will remove you when you do.

"The second is that Torontonians understand that there needs to be an end to the hostilities in Sri Lanka and certainly understands the pain people feel.''

Waving the red flags of the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the mostly young protesters shouted slogans to declare Sri Lanka a terrorist state.

They demanded Canada to intervene to stop the "genocide"' of the Tamils. Police forces from surrounding cities in the Greater Toronto Area were also called in to deal with the first-ever blockade of the expressway. Though the Tamils have been protesting in major thoroughfares of Toronto for almost months, they have never taken to blocking any road.

"This is a spontaneous reaction by the young people. Their protest is justified, but we don't want the highway to be blocked and people inconvenienced,'' said Canadian Tamil Congress spokesman David Poopalapillai who joined Toronto Police Bill Blair and others at midnight to urge the protesters to lift the blockade.

The Toronto area is home to 300,000 Tamils, the largest anywhere in the world outside of Sri Lanka.

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