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These three men walked from Montréal to Ottawa to raise awareness and urge the federal government to get the Sri Lankan government to resolve the cases of people who disappeared in that country's civil war. On Wednesday, September 9, they were following County Road 10 near Highway 417. From left to right, Kulenthiraikamany Veluchsamy, Nadesu Yogeswaran, and Vijayakumar Namasivayagam. Photo: James Morgan

Walkers seek help to find missing people in Sri Lanka

The civil war in Sri Lanka ended in 2009, but people from that country are still looking for answers.

During the past week, three men who emigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka walked from Montréal to Ottawa to raise awareness of the tens of thousands of people who disappeared during the 16-year civil war that affected the South Asian country from 1983 to 2009.

The Review caught up with the Montréal-to-Ottawa walkers on Wednesday, September 9, along County Road 10 (Barb Road) where it crosses Highway 417.

One of the participants, Nadesu Yogeswaran, claimed that Sri Lanka has the second-highest number of missing people in the world and said that approximately 66,000 people went missing during the conflict.

According to human rights organization Amnesty International, Sri Lanka has one of the world’s highest rates of people disappearing with 60,000 to 100,000 such cases since the late 1980’s.  Disappearances during civil wars are referred to as enforced disappearances, where people suddenly go missing after being apprehended by the authorities or armed groups acting on behalf of the authorities.  The victims are often tortured and killed.  Enforced disappearances are a crime under international law.

“Almost each family is missing people,” said Yogeswaran.

Amnesty International states that Sri Lanka has made some progress on resolving the whereabouts of disappeared people or their remains, but more must be done.

“We want to know if they’re alive or not,” Yogeswaran said.

The Montréal to Ottawa walkers were staying in a recreational vehicle travelling ahead of them each night of their trip and were planning to reach Parliament Hill on Sunday.  Their plan was to leave a message with parliamentary security to be delivered to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for Canada to urge Sri Lanka to do more to resolve the cases of the people who went missing.

“Canada can give pressure for the international community,” said Yogeswaran.

James Morgan

James Morgan is a freelance contributor. He has worked for several print and broadcast media outlets. James loves the history, natural beauty, and people of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

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