By Gelek Badheytsang
Toronto, March 12 - On the forty-ninth anniversary of the Tibetan women's uprising in Tibet, the Regional Tibetan Women's Association (R-TWA) of Toronto, along with the Joint Action Committee here, held a solemn candlelight vigil in memory and solidarity of the hundreds of Tibetan monks from the Drepung, Sera and other monasteries inside Tibet who are still detained and tortured after revolting against the Chinese authorities in Tibet. The recent reports of uprising are the biggest in twenty years since the revolts of 1989 in Tibet.
Over three hundred Tibetans gathered in front of the local high school in the neighbourhood of Parkdale, Toronto -- the most densely populated Tibetan diaspora outside of India and Nepal. The ceremony began at 6 pm, with speeches given by representatives of the R-TWA of Toronto.
"The main objective for the re-establishment of the Tibetan Women's Association (TWA) in exile on September 10th, 1984 was to continue the pledge taken by those brave sisters to achieve freedom in Tibet and to keep the memory of their sacrifices alive," said Kalsang Tsomo, President of R-TWA, who read the English version of the speech. She continued, "Today, TWA plays a major role in our exile community, as well as internationally, by empowering Tibetan women in exile, creating awareness about the plight of Tibet and human rights issues facing women in Tibet."
Ms. Tsomo also brought the issue of the Beijing Olympics to the forefront, saying, "today, at this critical moment in history, we have a genuine opportunity to utilize the global community's attention on the Beijing 2008 Olympics to highlight the grave situation in Tibet."
Lhakpa Dolma, Vice-President of R-TWA, dictated the Tibetan speech to the crowd.
Councillor Gord Perks of Ward 14 (Parkdale - High Park) was present at the ceremony to lend his support to the Tibetan cause. He thanked all of those who had gathered on the chilly night, with the mercury dipping well below freezing, and urged them all to continue "in the struggle."
After the speeches and the singing of the Tibetan and Canadian national anthems, the procession headed towards Queen St. The long line of Tibetans with candles attracted a lot of attention on the street, and the police escort ensured that the street was temporarily closed to allow this peaceful demonstration to pass. The marching vigil turned south on Dufferin St. and then west on King St., eventually returning to the high school where the vigil had first convened.
With the recent action by the two youth who unfurled the Tibetan national flag from the Chinese Consulate building, there is a palpable sense of urgency and enthusiasm in the Tibetan community of Parkdale. There will be yet another gathering scheduled to happen on Friday, March 14, 2008 in front of the Chinese Consulate building. This event is being organized by the Joint Action Committee (JAC), and is slated to being from 12 in the afternoon. Various Tibetan monks will be invited to pray and offer "tsok" to all of the Tibetans who are being detained and tortured by the Chinese authorities due to the burgeoning unrest and revolts that are happening all across Tibet.
The candlelight vigil ended on a prayer for the health of H.H the Dalai Lama, as well as for the independence movement that seems to be picking up its intensity as China starts preparing to unveil the Olympic games.
R-TWA would like to thank Gord Perks, the members of JAC, and all of the participants who lit candles and recited prayers in memory of those who have died for freedom's sake.