Liberal member of the Canadian Parliament Gurbax Malhi addressed a rally in Ottawa on March 5 against the backdrop of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam flags.
A video of his speech was posted on the video-sharing website YouTube. "I'd like to let you know I'm helping you guys. I'm behind you because you are fighting for a right cause," he said.
During Question Period in Parliament, Canadian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Peter Kent said he was "sickened by the pandering of a Liberal member on the front lawn of Parliament to a flagrant display of the symbols of a listed terrorist organisation".
Jason Kenney, Canada's citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism minister, said, "We shouldn't be encouraging public manifestations of support for a terrorist organisation, in this instance one that has been condemned by UNICEF for their practice of recruiting child soldiers and forcing them into military service and an organisation that invented the tactic of suicide bombings and is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians."
In a statement, e-mailed to rediff.com, Malhi said, "I attended this rally out of concern for the people of Sri Lanka as well as the Canadians of Sri Lankan descent whose lives are affected by this terrible situation."
At the rally, many were shouting pro-LTTE slogans.
"To the best of my knowledge, the group organising this rally has no history of association with terror or the LTTE," Malhi wrote.
He agreed that "a number of attendees at this rally chose to wave LTTE flags". He said he "did not realise the significance of these flags, nor was I aware that other speakers made statements in support of the LTTE."
He said he regretted that his "attendance at this rally was misunderstood by some as a demonstration of my support -- expressed or implied -- of terror, or of a terrorist organisation."
He told Canada's National Post newspaper that he was passing by when he saw the rally and decided to say a few words. He reportedly said his comments concerned the plight of civilians caught in the fighting between the Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE. "My concern is innocent, you know," he said. "They are killing the civilians."