Apr 27 2009
There are hundreds of Tamil-Canadian protesters a stone’s throw from my office near the US consulate in downtown Vancouver. Their drums and chants are pretty catchy (and distracting the hell out of the IT consultants hunched frowning over their keyboards). Their flags – the flag of a recognized terrorist organization – are even more attention-grabbing.
It appears the Tamil protesters’ black flags of mourning were a short-lived tactic that could not win the support of their constituents, who continue to show allegiance to the flag of the Tamil Tigers – a group accused of (inventing) suicide bombings, recruiting child soldiers, ethnic cleansing and a bunch of other behavior most of my fellow citizens would consider un-Canadian. Interestingly, large Canadian and American flags are also waving in the crowd.
I spoke in passing with one of the protesters while wandering back to the office with some sushi. “I think you’d get more support for your cause if you put away the flag with the guns on it,” I offered. “It’s the flag of a terrorist organization. You want independence, great! But you know what that flag represents.”
“This is our national flag!” replied the over-eager protester. His friend added that it had been their flag for 1,500 years. Could I be so perverse as to argue with him that, technically, there is no Tamil state (and the chances of it ever being realized appear to be diminishing rapidly each day, thanks to the efficient gains of the Sri Lankan army) and that the firearms on the flag would not have been around 1,500 years ago?
I walked away.
What was the point? They’ve chosen this flag to represent their national aspirations and will not be convinced otherwise. If they’re blind to the implications of their own symbols, Canadians of all stripes and our elected representatives will continue to remain deaf to their chants for international intervention.
UPDATE: This post has been published at the National Post’s Full Comment section under the title, Tamils Drop Their Black Flags in Favour of Terrorist Option.
As a response to a fairly consistent theme in the comments at the NP, I would remind readers that I have nothing against Tamils protesting – frankly, given the circumstances, I’d be surprised and disappointed if they didn’t. What I’m criticizing is their choice of symbol, a flag recognized by anyone familiar with this conflict as being synonymous with terrorism. If they truly want the help and sympathy of their fellow Canadians, they ought to at least go back to the black flag they used for all of two minutes. A little pragmatism could go a long way politically.