- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

OTTAWA (AP) - Thousands of Tamil protesters rallied in front of Parliament on Tuesday, calling on the Canadian government to pressure the Asian nation of Sri Lanka to stop its offensive against Tamil separatist fighters.

Police said the protest drew about 33,000 people. Canada is home to about 300,000 Tamils, one of the largest such populations outside Sri Lanka and India.

Unlike at some previous protests, the demonstrators didn’t wave the red flags of the insurgent group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Canada and other governments.

The demonstrators want Canada to do more to force the Sri Lankan government to end its offensive against the rebels’ last stronghold. The fighting is reported to have killed thousands of civilians.

The protesters claim genocide is occurring as the decades-long struggle between the Sri Lankan government, which is dominated by the Sinhalese majority, and the separatist fighters draws to a close with the government closing in.

Opposition New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton was among those to take up the invitations, calling for a ceasefire. Main opposition Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff did not speak at the demonstration, but did meet with Tamil community leaders. No members of the governing Conservatives met with the Tamils and the government did not issue a statement.

Sri Lanka has refused to heed the international pleas to halt the fighting, saying it is on the verge of crushing the separatists.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for a separate state for ethnic Tamils since 1983 in a war that has killed more than 70,000 people.

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