Rathika Sitsabaiesan

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Rathika Sitsabaiesan
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Scarborough—Rouge River
Assumed office
May 2, 2011
Preceded by Derek Lee[1]
Majority 5,000[2]
Personal details
Born (1981-12-23) December 23, 1981 (age 33)[3]
Jaffna, Sri Lanka[4]
Citizenship Canadian
Nationality Canadian
Political party New Democratic Party[1]
Residence Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Alma mater Carleton University
Queen’s University
Occupation Activist, community worker
Profession Labour Relations Specialist
Committees Standing Committee for Citizenship and Immigration, Canadian Heritage
Website www.rathika.ca

Rathika Sitsabaiesan (Tamil: இராதிகா சிற்சபை ஈசன்) (born December 23, 1981) is a Canadian politician and member of the House of Commons of Canada for the New Democratic Party, representing Scarborough—Rouge River.

She has notably been the first person of Tamil-origin to be elected to federal parliament in Canada as well as being the first female and first person of colour to be elected as Member of Parliament in Scarborough—Rouge River. She is also the youngest Member of Parliament in the Greater Toronto Area.[1]

Early life[edit]

Rathika Sitsabaiesan is seen with her parents & Thomas Mulcair at the Scarborough United Fundraiser event on 17th Octotber, 2013.

Sitsabaiesan was born in Jaffna,[3][4] the capital of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.[5] She has three elder sisters.[6] Sitsabaiesan and her family emigrated to Canada when she was five.[4][6][7]

Sitsabaiesan grew up in Mississauga, west of Toronto.[6] When her father was disabled following a workplace accident, her mother had to give up her nursing studies to work in a warehouse to support the family.[6] Sitsabaiesan attended the University of Toronto for two years.[1][4] While there, she served as Vice President of the Tamil Students Association.[4] She transferred to Carleton University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree.[4][7] Sitsabaiesan served as Operations Manager of the Rideau River Residence Association, Vice President of the Carleton University Students' Association, and Caucus Chair of the New University Government.[4] She also worked for the University of Toronto Students' Union and the Ontario Labour Relations Board.[4] She holds a Master's degree in Industrial Relations at Queen’s University.[4][7]

Sitsabaiesan is a member of the Board of Directors of the Malvern Community Coalition, a residents' group in Malvern, Toronto.[7]

Political career[edit]

Sitsabaiesan worked as a volunteer in Ed Broadbent's campaign for the 2004 federal election.[4][5] She has served in various roles in the New Democratic Party (NDP), including campaign manager during the 2008 Canadian federal election[4] and acting as an advisor to NDP leader Jack Layton on Tamil issues.[5]

In December 2009 Sitsabaiesan won the nomination to be the NDP's candidate in the Scarborough—Rouge River electoral district in Toronto.[6] Layton made his final campaign stop at Sitsabaiesan's campaign rally a day before the 2011 federal election with his wife and fellow NDP MP Olivia Chow. Scarborough—Rouge River was considered a safe Liberal seat that had been held by Derek Lee (who did not run for re-election in 2011) since its creation 1988.[5][6] Sitsabaiesan won the 2011 Canadian federal election after securing 18,935 votes (40.62%).[2] Sitsabaiesan became the first Tamil Canadian to be elected to the House of Commons of Canada,[3][5][7] the first female Member of Parliament to represent Scarborough-Rouge River,[8] and only the second Tamil woman to be elected to any federal parliament outside India or Sri Lanka, the first being Singaporean Member of Parliament Indranee Rajah.

Sitsabaiesan was subsequently appointed critic for Post-Secondary Education (Human Resources and Skills Development) in the Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet in the 41st Canadian Parliament.[9]

In November 2014 Sitsabaiesan was criticised for comparing Maaveerar Naal, an annual commemoration for dead Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam cadres, with Remembrance Day during a speech in the House of Commons.[10]

Stance on war crime charges on Sri Lanka[edit]

Sitsabaiesan said she will take the initiative to form an All Party Parliamentary Committee (APPC) to look into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka during the last stages of the war.[3] Furthermore, she would prioritize the formation of the APPC to "research and come up with recommendations" for the Canadian government over the report by the UN Experts Panel appointed by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.[3] Sitsabaiesan added, "For me the focus is people being treated with fairness, equality, dignity and justice... it is important for the culprits to be identified as a move towards genuine reconciliation.[3]

During a fact finding mission in Sri Lanka, Sitsabaiesan was reportedly put under house arrest in Jaffna on December 31, 2013.[11] This claim has been denied by Sri Lankan Authorities,[12] and the Canadian High Commission has confirmed that she was not put under house arrest nor was any arrest warrant issued against her.[13]


Rathika Sitsabaiesan is the recipient of The V. K. Krishna Menon Institute's "Personality of the Year Award" in 2012. The award was conferred on her for her untiring efforts on human rights issues in Sri Lanka, opposing the persecution of Tamil minorities in Sri Lanka and her ability to represent her constituency without racial and creed prejudices.[14]

Electoral record[edit]

Canadian federal election, 2011
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
New Democratic Rathika Sitsabaiesan 18,935 40.6 +26.0 $55,192.59
Conservative Marlene Gallyot 13,935 29.9 +7.4
Liberal Rana Sarkar 12,699 27.2 -31.0
Green George Singh 684 1.5 -2.4
Independent Mark Balack 357 0.8
Total valid votes/Expense limit 46,610 100.0
Total rejected ballots 221 0.5
Turnout 46,831 56.2
Eligible voters 83,285


  1. ^ a b c d Laurie Monsebraaten (3 May 2011). "Youthful confidence wins the day in engaged riding of Scarborough-Rouge River". Toronto: thestar.com. Retrieved 2011-05-20. 
  2. ^ a b "2011 General Election - Results Validated by the Returning Officer - Scarborough--Rouge River". Elections Canada. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Canada’s Tamil MP wants probe on alleged war crimes". Daily Mirror. 2011-05-10. Retrieved 2011-05-20. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "About Rathika Sitsabaiesan". Archived from the original on 2012-04-18. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Rathika becomes the first Tamil MP in Canada". TamilNet. 2011-05-03. Retrieved 2011-05-03. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Rathika makes history". Mississauga.com. 4 May 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Canada's first Tamil MP looks forward to challenge". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 3 May 2011. 
  8. ^ Rathika Sitsabaiesan, MP inaugural Speech in the House of Commons
  9. ^ "NDP Shadow Cabinet". New Democratic Party. Retrieved 2011-06-02. 
  10. ^ Bell, Stewart (27 November 2014). "NDP MP commemorates event honouring fallen Tamil Tigers, likens it to Remembrance Day in parliament". National Post. 
  11. ^ CBC News http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ndp-mp-rathika-sitsabaiesan-reportedly-under-house-arrest-in-sri-lanka-1.2480954.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ CBC News http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/rathika-sitsabaiesan-not-under-house-arrest-in-sri-lanka-1.2480954.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ "Canadian MP to be conferred with VK Krishna Menon award 2012". HT Media Limited. August 19, 2012. Retrieved 2013-11-15. 

External links[edit]