Professor Chelva Kanaganayakam honoured in Canadian parliament

Professor Chelva seen here in 2013. Picture by Mahesh Abeyewardene

Professor Chelva seen here in 2013. Picture by Mahesh Abeyewardene

Late Sri Lankan born Professor Chelva Kanaganayakam was honoured in the Canadian House of Commons yesterday by Member of Parliament Arnold Chan.

The University of Toronto English professor passed away recently on the same day he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada for his contribution to Canadian literary studies and culture.

VIDEO: Statement on Professor Chelva Kanaganayakam in Canadian Parliament

Professor Kanakanayakam was also the Director of the Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Toronto.

He was instrumental in the annual Tamil Studies Conference held in Toronto and founding member of the Tamil Literary Garden.

Professor Chelva receives an award from  the Canadian Tamils Chamber of Commerce April at Fairmount Royal York in April 2010.

Professor Chelva receives an award from the Canadian Tamils Chamber of Commerce at Fairmount Royal York in April 2010.  Picture by Mahesh Abeyewardene

“Mr. Speaker, on November 22, Canada lost more than a scholar and gentleman. Professor Chelva Kanaganayakam was a well known academic respected by his peers, professor admired by his students. A philosopher, a guide to many and a shining beacon in the world of Tamil poetry. This proud Tamil Canadian was appointed a professor of English at the University of Toronto in 2002,” Chan said in parliament yesterday.

Professor Chelva receives an award from  the Canadian Tamils Chamber of Commerce April at Fairmount Royal York in April 2010. Picture by CTCC

Professor Chelva receives an award from the Canadian Tamils Chamber of Commerce at Fairmount Royal York in April 2010. Picture by CTCC

“There he was instrumental in establishing the Asian Institute an the annual Tamil Studies Conference. He also served as a director of South Asian studies. The academic world recognized him as a leading scholar and critic of post colonial literature. The literary world recognized him as an important translator of contemporary and classical Tamil poetry.  Professor Chelva passed away on the day of his induction into the Royal Society of Canada for his extraordinary contributions. He was just 62.  I wish to extend my condolences to the family and friends of Professor Chelva during this difficult time,” he added.

Professor Chelva speaks at a fundraiser for the Tamil Studies Conference in May 2010. Picture by Mahesh Abeyewardene

Professor Chelva speaks at a fundraiser for the Tamil Studies Conference in May 2010. Picture by Mahesh Abeyewardene

 According to a report in the Toronto Star, Kanaganayakam was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, the youngest of four children. His father, professor V. Chelvanayagam, was the head of the Tamil department at the University of Peradeniya and a reputed scholar. Kanaganayakam pursued English and received a bachelor of arts from the University of Peradeniya in 1976. He taught at the University of Jaffna, then studied at the University of British Columbia on a commonwealth scholarship.

Professor Chelva presents an anthology on poetry to Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Canada Chitranganee Wagiswara and Sri Lanka Consul General to Toronto Karunaratne Paranawitana in June 2013.

Professor Chelva presents an anthology on poetry to Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Canada Chitranganee Wagiswara and Sri Lanka Consul General to Toronto Karunaratne Paranawitana in June 2013. Pictures by Mahesh Abeyewardene

High Commissioner Chitranganee Wagiswara and her husband, Lanka Reporter feature columnist Malkanthie Abeyewardene with Professor Chelva.

High Commissioner Chitranganee Wagiswara and her husband, Lanka Reporter feature columnist Malkanthie Abeyewardene with Professor Chelva.

“He’s credited with bringing Tamil poetry to the world stage through his translations, managing the near-impossible task of translating the lyrical quality of Tamil into English,” the report by Aparita Bhandari added.