Sricamalan Pathmanathan's article

Sricamalan Pathmanathan

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OCTD’s Founder Member and Chief Advisor Sri-Guggan Sri-Skanda-Rajah

Written by Sricamalan Pathmanathan

Sri-Guggan Sri-Skanda-Rajah was a true blessing for Tamils in Canada in particular, and minorities of all kinds in general. He was honest, and a man of principle. The quality I admire most was his sincere care and love for downtrodden or marginalized members of society, and his lack of thirst for power or position. If not, he would have gotten the recognition he truly deserved. Sri-Guggan annai was more focused on resolving social justice issues to improve the conditions of all under-privileged groups.

Sri-Guggan annai insisted that I don’t address him as “sir” as I felt compelled to do so because of his professional background and seniority, but always kept reminding me to call him as Sri-Guggan Annai. When he got upset, he took long drives to the Pittsburgh Venkatesan temple and offered to take me with him. I wish I took him up on that offer when I had the chance. 

He had been a true father figure and a chief advisor for OCTD. We didn’t even have to make the request, and he would voluntarily take care of the expenses and sponsored our events. Truly, this is an irreplaceable loss to all of us.

He was a pillar not only for the origin and growth of OCTD, but also for a number of other community organizations of Tamils and other minority groups including OBA-Canada’s Jaffna Central College. As a few speakers mentioned at the funeral visitation, he treated everyone equally because he truly walked the talk. According to those speakers, no matter how marginalized they were as members of society, Sri-Guggan annai engaged with them and treated them with respect consistently. Despite his major limitations of being deprived of his right hand when he was 14, he accomplished and contributed for the betterment of our community in many ways. For the most part, average leaders focus on their involvement with one or two organizations or issues, but Sri-Guggan annai had been a leader and champion of multiple organizations and marginalized groups for years. 

If there is a Tamil leader who must be recognized and immortalised in this country, in my humble opinion certainly he deserves it. He nurtured by holding hands and stepped up when needed for more than a handful of organizations in this new homeland.

Aug. 14, 1942 – Oct. 9, 2022 - Rest in eternal peace!

OCASI (Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants) presented a life-time Achievement award for Sri-Guggan Sri-Skanda-Rajah’s contribution to the organization directly and to his 30 years of community service and listed a few contributions to Canadian communities in the following URL:

A founder and long-time member of the Greater Toronto Working Group on Policing Multi-Cultural and Multi-Ethnic Urban communities; Sri-Guggan also served briefly as interim director of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations and continues his years-long services as a volunteer on the Board of Directors.

Among the community organizations he has worked with include the Universal African Improvement Association and the Black Resource Information Centre. A founder and long-time member of the Greater Toronto Working Group on Policing Multi-Cultural and Multi-Ethnic Urban communities. He was the Vice-Chair of the Ontario Human Rights and Pay Equity Tribunals, was a Commissioner on the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System and in the 1980s, was appointed a member of the Refugee Division of the Immigration Refugee Board of Canada Immigration. During his tenure, Sri helped ensure that a 5-per-cent acceptance rate of Tamil refugees eventually grew to more than 75 per cent by 1984, followed by the 1983 massacre in Sri Lankan Tamils. Sri-Guggan was instrumental in the community response following the arrival in 1986 of 155 Tamil refugees off the coast of Newfoundland.

Sri is deeply committed to empowering young people and supporting them to challenge racism and discrimination. His commitment has been expressed through involvement in the John Brooks Community Foundation and Scholarship Fund and helping to found and sustain CanTYD – Canadian Tamil Youth Development. 

Sri was also the Vice-Chair of the Toronto Refugee Affairs Council and Board Member of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. He has received numerous awards for his commitment as a long-standing advocate in the field of race relations, including the Ontario Government 20 years Volunteer Award in 2000; Ontario NDP J.S Woodworth Award in 2000; and UARR's Dr. Wilson Head Award in 1994, among others.

By Sricamalan Pathmanathan