Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah's article

Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah

3 min read

Sri-Guggan Sri-Skanda-Rajah, the Trailblazer Who Championed the Cause of Racial Equality and Human Rights

Sri-Guggan Sri-Skanda-Rajah, a stickler for honesty and fairness was well known as an advocate for human rights and racial equality. He used the many positions of influence he held, both provincial and federal, to spearhead the fight, to eradicate prevailing disparities, injustices and inequities in the social and criminal justice systems, to help vulnerable communities.

He was appointed, in 1995, by the government of Ontario, as one of the six full time adjudicators to hear cases under the Employment Equity Act, Ontario Human Rights Code and the Pay Equity Act.

In the fall of 1995 he was part of the Canadian Think Tank on Confederation forged to debate current issues as they related to Canadian unity. Responsible for media relations he was involved in organizing the Toronto rally supporting confederation during the Quebec referendum.

Sri-Guggan served as one of the members of the Royal Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario criminal justice system.

In the 1980s Sri-Guggan was a member of the Federal Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and it was during his tenure that a mere 5-per-cent acceptance rate of Tamil refugees eventually grew to more than 75 per cent by 1984, following the 1983 pogrom against the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka. He has helped innumerable number of refugees find a home in Canada, being a strong voice for refugees and those seeking asylum.

He was one of the founders of Tamil Eelam Society of Canada (TESOC) and served as its president from 1981 to 1984. TESOC, a social, cultural and advocacy organization that also promoted the rights of Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka, provided settlement services for refugees.

Sri-Guggan was a founding member of the Greater Toronto Working Group on policing multi-cultural and multi-ethnic urban communities, encompassing 8 police jurisdictions. It was a time when gang culture among youth was causing much concern.

He has served as Chair and Vice Chair of the Toronto Refugee Affairs Council - an umbrella group that included 36 agencies.

He was also a member, of the National Black Coalition of Canada, Toronto and the Universal African Improvement Association, Toronto.

He was a founding member of Sri Lankan Family Services of Greater Toronto and Director of the Board from 1993 to 1997.

He was greatly involved in community work and volunteered his services with the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, the John Brooks Community Foundation and Scholarship Fund and the Canadian Tamil Youth Development Centre (CanTYD), designed to assist disadvantaged, marginalized and at risk youths within the Tamil community, working in partnership with the board of Education, the Toronto Police Service and a multitude of organizations and businesses within the greater community.

Sri-Guggan was a distinguished Life Member of the Jaffna Central Alumni Association of Canada from 1996 and Board Member and Manager of the Alumni Cricket Team in 1998.

Sri-Guggan has received many awards including being the first recipient of UARR's the Dr Wilson Head Award for outstanding work in the field of race relations and human rights; the Ontario Government 20 years Volunteer Award in 2000; Ontario NDP J.S Woodworth Award in 2000; a Lifetime Achievement Award from Urban Alliance on Race Relations; the first recipient of an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award from OCTD (Organisation of Canadian Tamils with Disabilities); a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tamil Eelam Society of Canada; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from OCASI (Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants).

OCASI, in presenting the Life Time Achievement Award to Sri-Guggan, cited his many attributes, and apart from formal roles, attested to the many other roles he played including, “acting as mentor and an invaluable resource to countless racialized young people over the years, from acting as a sounding board for academic and career plans to navigating the criminal justice system,” adding that, “during his service on the OCASI Board, Sri- Guggan spoke out consistently as the voice of conscience and social justice, embodying the OCASI mission to achieve equality, access and full participation for immigrants and refugees in every aspect of Canadian life.”

Sri-Guggan inherited an unwavering commitment to equal justice from his father, former Supreme Court Judge of Ceylon and an unyielding tenacity from his mother Kanmany Sri-Skanda-Rajah, an authority on Saiva Sithantham and Hinduism.

An inspiration to many, uncompromising when it mattered, fearless, and outspoken when called for, he had a mesmerising laugh and never let a physical disability impede his work; selfless in more ways than one, he was a real trail blazer, making a difference in the lives of whose causes he defended.

And that's an incredible legacy to leave.

Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah

November 11, 2022

Sri-Guggan was the cherished son of the late Justice Pon Sri-Skanda-Rajah, judge of the Supreme Court of Ceylon and the late Mrs Kanmany Sri-Skanda-Rajah, an authority on Saiva Sithantham and Hinduism; He was a loving husband to Janet Sri-Skanda-Rajah and a doting father to Anya Sri-Skanda-Rajah; he was the beloved brother of the late Mrs Suseela T Moorthy (Barrister), Dr Mrs Indra Sivayoham (Consultant Eye Surgeon, Colombo and UK) and Dr Sri Bavan Sri-Skanda-Rajah (formerly of the Asian Development Bank).