FROM LIFEBOATS OFF THE SHORE OF NEWFOUNDLAND
- Tamil is one of the more popular languages spoken in Toronto.
- It is thought to be one of the oldest classical languages.
- Toronto would eventually become home to the largest concentration of Tamils outside of Sri Lanka.
On Aug. 11, 1986, 155 Tamil refugees were found drifting off the shores of St. Shotts, Newfoundland by local fshermen. Te group was in two decrepit life boats where they had been dropped off by an unscrupulous human trafcker. Te captain of one of the Canadian fshing boats, Gus Dalton, put a call through to the Canadian Navy for help.
Te fshing boats immediately started dumping their catch of cod in order to fnd space in their trawlers to rescue the Tamil refugees. Tey emptied their canteens, and fed the ever grateful newcomers who had been at sea for three days.
Te group of refugees was born in Sri Lanka, forced to flee because of the civil war at home. Within days, all of the 155 Tamils were welcomed in Montreal or Toronto, their new home. Tere they would start careers, families and new lives.
Upon arrival, the Tamils responded quickly to the challenges of re-settlement. Te Tamil Eelam Society of Canada provided much needed settlement services. A Tamil community took form in the Gerrard Street East area, known as Little India, where a niche of cultural and religious centers similar to their own already existed. Tere was already a Tamil enclave established in Cabbagetown. A larger Tamil community would develop in Scarborough, with pockets of settlement in areas around Eglinton Avenue, Lawrence Avenue, Birchmount Avenue, Steeles Avenue, Markham Road and McCowan Road, among others.
Te majority of Tamils from Sri Lanka arrived in Canada after Black July 1983, the beginning of the Tamil Civil War would last 26 years and kill 100,000 or more people.
Tese professional and student migrants of the 1960s and 1970s were followed by refugees in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1991 census, Tamils were the fastest-growing ethnic group in the city.
Tamil owned businesses have taken roots in the city, along with newspapers, radio and television programs and cultural organizations. In particular, the construction of Hindu temples to serve the predominantly Hindu Tamil Community, has established the community's presence on the city's landscape, and provided it with important centres of Tamil culture in their new home.
NOTE: Each of the refugees rescued that day were given cheques by the Canadian government to allow them to buy some things to start their new lives. However, one Tamil man found work shortly after arriving in Montreal, so instead of cashing it, he kept it until he had a change to send it back to the government–with thanks!