Statement on the Easter Sunday Attacks in Sri Lanka

Ms. Elizabeth May – Member for Saanich—Gulf Islands

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues.

It is with great sadness that I rise today to add my voice to those of my colleagues who have expressed their deepest condolences to the Sri Lankan people.

I appreciate the words of our minister of global affairs, the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the New Democrats.

I would also like to thank my Bloc Québécois colleague. Today, this is something we can all agree on.

We agree entirely and appreciate the position the Government of Canada has taken to extend solidarity messages to the Government of Sri Lanka.

I want to reflect both on what happened in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday and on what happened near San Diego on the last day of Passover, but I want to differentiate these acts of hatred.

As a fellow Christian, I appreciate what the leader of the official opposition said. As the Minister of Global Affairs also mentioned, we recognize that Easter is a day of celebrating resurrection. It is a day when if one was seeking to create a massive disaster, with more people dead, one would find no other Sunday on which all the churches would be as full as they are on either Christmas Day or Easter Sunday. In that sense, the targeting was horrific, seeking to kill as many people as possible in a coordinated attack on several places of worship and on several hotels, on Christians, on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. It could not be more devastating.

It is also a society in which one should not look at this event as a one-off. There is a historical context. This is a country living under a fragile peace in a post-conflict society. I am sure the Minister of Global Affairs is familiar with the advice of Kitana Ananda, who is a well known expert on Sri Lankan politics and sectarian violence. I thought her plea was useful to share in this place. She said that the international community “need(s) to listen to Sri Lankan civilian society’s calls for strength in unity against all hate”. She went on to say:

Sri Lanka must not be pulled into yet another “war on terror”—this time on a global scale—at the expense of minorities’ rights. We must listen to Sri Lankans who are working across communities to implement long-lasting solutions and support efforts to end divisive, majoritarian politics. The people of Sri Lanka have suffered through generations of violence and war, and they deserve better as they mourn and attempt to heal.

These are words of caution against some in other countries who, for their own politics, may seek to use this horrific attack on Sri Lankan Christians at prayer on Easter Sunday to advance a different agenda.

The agenda is clear. We must support Sri Lanka in its post-conflict, fragile peace through all the efforts our government is so good at offering to support Sri Lankan civil society. We mourn with them. We grieve with them, but we do not walk away. They will need help and support to ensure that this kind of violence does not seize the country in another great spasm of violence and grief.

As has been mentioned in this place, less than seven days later, on the last day of Passover, we had another event fuelled by hate. It was different. It was definitely political, but it was fuelled by white supremacists within this continent who are gaining ground. We need to reflect on the fact that the killings, the murders, in the mosque in Quebec City gave fuel to a kind of online horrific community, which is growing. We cannot deny that it is growing.

The white supremacists who attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh drew some strength and inspiration from the killing of Canadian Muslims at prayer in Quebec City and then fuelled the attack, on the last day of Passover, at the congregation Chabad outside of San Diego, claiming the life of one woman. We can say the name of one woman who has passed away, Lori Gilbert-Kaye. We do not say the names of all 250 and more Sri Lankans who died, but we do unite in this moment.

We must call out anyone who thinks white supremacy is a movement we are tolerating. It must be stopped in Canada, and around the world we must unify with all those who recognize that violence is never a solution. It is only a pathway to further human misery. We will not tolerate it in this country, not in Sri Lanka, not in California, not in Pittsburgh, never again.