Black July Tamil

July 1983

Canada’s Tamil community marks Black July

A week of ethnic cleansing 37 years ago sparked a 26-year war.

Black July is a time of grief and reflection for the Tamil diaspora, with July 23 being the anniversary of the start of the Sri Lankan Civil War. On this day in 1983, a wave of ethnic cleansing began, a pogrom against the Tamils by the Sinhalese people who ruled Sri Lanka at the time.

As Montreal author and academic Brintha Koneshachandra wrote for the website Montamil, the 1983 pogrom was one in a lineage of genocidal anti-Tamil acts dating back to the 1950s, following decolonization and the start of an era of Sinhalese supremacy and systemic discrimination. Kicking off a war that lasted until 2009, the 1983 pogrom was characterized by a week of extreme anti-Tamil violence. The massacres, rapes, looting, rioting and property destruction that occurred during that week alone resulted in “about 3,000 Tamils killed, more than 8,000 homes and 5,000 businesses squandered,” with roughly 200,000 fleeing to become political refugees abroad. Over 1,800 Tamils resettled in Canada.

When reached for comment today, Koneshachandra had this to say:

“Black July was one of the series of events that marked the beginning of the ethnic cleansing and genocide sponsored by the Sri Lankan state and Sinhalese supremacists against the Tamil people. Still today, justice against war criminals have not been served, accountability for the disappeared not provided. Still today, Tamils face daily persecutions. But we remember. And to remember is to resist.”

—Brintha Koneshachandra

This morning, Justin Trudeau made a statement about Black July:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Black July

Read the full statement here.

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