Tamil Canadian federal MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan introduced Bill C-471 in the Canadian Parliament on January 31, to designate the month of January as Tamil Heritage Month in Canada by an Act. This bill, a private member’s bill that doesn’t often become law, if passed, will enshrine at the federal level an ongoing practice among Tamil community organizations. Neethan Shan, founder and chair of the Tamil Heritage Month Committee, believes that such a commemoration of Tamil heritage will provide a platform for discussion of Tamil national identity. "We have been working hard for two years to get both the federal and provincial governments to recognize Tamil Heritage Month formally and we are hopeful that it will happen before our fifth year anniversary in January 2014," Neethan Shan, founder and chair of the Tamil Heritage Month Committee, told TamilNet.
While cultural heritage months are often largely symbolic, Shan added that he believes a federal Tamil heritage month would "definitely help us create broader awareness not only about our culture, traditions and heritage but also about our nationhood and histories. Therefore, discussion and documentation of our struggle for self-determination in Eelam will and must be an integral part of Tamil Heritage Month." A similar Act was introduced in the province of Ontario last year but the Ontario legislature heard first reading on the bill, but it seemed to have stalled after the first reading. It is not law until it passes third reading and receives royal assent.
“This bill would enshrine Tamil Heritage Month in law so that throughout Canada, every year, the month of January will be known as Tamil Heritage Month. I am proud to present a bill that recognizes and honours Tamil heritage and will help raise awareness of the contributions of Tamil Canadians throughout our country," said Ms. Sitsabaiesan in a press release dated January 31.
In her speech before the House of Commons, she saluted the "organizations and individuals in [her riding of] Scarborough—Rouge River and across the country, who have organized events during this month, for the pride they take in our Tamil heritage."
According to the website of the Tamil Heritage Month Committee, "municipal governments of Ajax, Brampton, Markham, Oshawa, Pickering, Toronto, Whitby and York Region have proclaimed January as Tamil Heritage Month."
A similar bill passed first reading in the Ontario Provincial Legislature on June 12, 2012.
Ms. Sitsabaiesan’s bill was also read and printed, and now awaits further action from the House of Commons.
Legislative Assembly of Ontario: