A campaign launch held at UTSC on June 25 saw people from all over the Tamil community in Canada and the United States come together to raise $700,000. The money that is being raised will set up a permanent endowment fund for the chair of Tamil Studies at U of T, who would have a focus on studying ancient to modern Tamil literature.

The impetus comes from the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), a non-profit organization that works to represent Tamil interests in Canada and abroad. This effort to establish a chair is being led by CTC Vice-President Sivan Ilangko.

The CTC expects to raise the money needed over the next two years, which will first be used to hire a professor to occupy the chair. In total, $3 million was pledged by the organization.

There has been a big push over the last few years from Toronto’s Tamil community to establish a chair in Tamil Studies at UTSC. Toronto is home to a large Tamil community, which is believed to be one of the largest — if not the largest — outside of Sri Lanka and India.

Ilangko explained to The Varsity that there has been lot of effort in the Tamil community to ensure that its language is passed on through the generations.

Tamil is still spoken by 70 million people worldwide and is one of the world’s oldest living languages.

Ilangko explains that this money is being raised by the community because “the language is such an integral part of the Tamil identity.”

U of T Executive Director of Development and Alumni Relations Georgette Zinaty, who has been instrumental in organizing the effort from the university, told The Varsity that “as an anchor institution in the Eastern GTA, we are committed to leveraging our existing investments in our Tamil Worlds Initiative and welcoming the support of other donors to strengthen our impact in this important research area.”