News and Views on Tibet

Biggest Tibetan Demonstration Ever in Canada

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By Gelek Badheytsang

Toronto, March 23 – On the first Sunday of spring, in Toronto where the streets were relatively quiet because of the Easter long-weekend, thousands of Tibetans and Tibetan supporters rallied through the heart of downtown Toronto to protest China’s brutal crackdown on the uprisings inside Tibet, and to call on Canadians everywhere to be aware of and support the Tibetan cause.

The crowd gathered first in front of the local high school in Parkdale, which has the highest concentration of Tibetans outside of India and Nepal. The Tibetan Joint Action Committee was yet again the main organizer of the event, and the response from the Tibetan community towards the call of action was overwhelming in all aspects.

Funds were raised, volunteers signed up, refreshments donated, transportation loaned… the Tibetans in Toronto has stepped up tremendously in light of the recent unrest inside Tibet. “To see all of us collectively coming together with such determination to make rallies like these successful, not just from the various organizations, but also the ordinary Tibetans, is just truly inspiring and emboldening,” said Lobsang Khedup, one of the organizers behind this event.

“I hope and I do believe that we can sustain this energy all the way to the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. And ultimately till the day comes that we no longer have to suffer under the tyranny of the Chinese government.”

Stretching for more than three blocks, the loud and colourful procession of protesters made their way along Queen St., Yonge St., and Wellesley St., eventually ending up in front of the Ontario Parliament building. The route, specifically chosen to get exposed to as many Torontonians as possible, took a little under three hours to complete, with the organizers managing to conduct three dramatic die-ins during the rally.

“What’s happening here?” asked one curious bystander who marveled at the long line of protesters fully lying down on the streets and chanting slogans. When she was told of the reason behind this action: to symbolize the brutal suppression tactics of the Chinese govt. on protesters inside Tibet, she shook her head ruefully and pledged to support the Tibetan cause in any way that she can.

Heavy media presence followed the rally from start to finish. All of the local networks covered the event, with some broadcasting the rally and the die-ins live from the scene.

After reaching the Parliament building on Queen’s Park, a number of prominent speakers addressed the protesters and voiced their outrage at the Chinese govt., calling on the Canadian parliament to put more pressure on behalf of the Tibetans who were suppressed immensely by the recent buildups of troops everywhere inside Tibet. MP Peggy Nash (NDP), Michael Craig of Amnesty International, and Ms. Rukiye from the East Turkistan community of Canada all spoke passionately, from their own unique perspectives, on the issue of Tibet’s independence.

The rally concluded at around 3 in the afternoon, and everyone was reminded of the hunger strike in front of the Chinese consulate starting from Tuesday, March 25 till Friday, March 28. It begins from 10 am and goes on till 4 in the afternoon.

There is also a protest rally planned on Monday, March 31 for the “International Day of Action for Tibet.”

So far, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of Toronto has organized more than four actions since the uprisings in Tibet began on March 10, 2008. The JAC comprises of Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women’s Association Ontario, Dokham Chushi Gangdruk and Students for a Free Tibet Canada. The committee was formed to collectively challenge China in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics of 2008.

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