On Tuesday, April 24th, Armenian-Canadians commemorated the 97th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide with its annual noontime Parliament Hill observance and subsequent demonstration in front of the embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Canada. Over 1,000 Armenian-Canadians from across the nation gathered on Parliament Hill to hear Members of Parliament, dignitaries, and community leaders honour the memory of the 1.5 million Armenians who systematically perished at the hands of the Ottoman Turks beginning in 1915.
Along with Armenian-Canadians, the observance on Parliament Hill was attended by parliamentarians and national representatives of various ethnic organizations. The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism conveyed the continued support of the Canadian government in recognizing the truth of the Armenian Genocide. Minister Kenney also read Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statement of recognition, and recalled the Canadian government’s official acceptance of the historical truth of the Armenian Genocide in 2006. The Honourable Bob Rae, Interim Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada expressed his affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, stating that there cannot be any reconciliation without the acceptance of the truth.
Other Members of Parliament speaking at the observance included Mr. Harold Albrecht, President of the Canada-Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group, the Hon. Stéphane Dion, Mr. Wayne Marston, Mr. Joe Daniel, and Mr. Alexandre Boulerice. Representatives of the Pontian Association of Montreal and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress each spoke of the importance of not forgetting past genocides in order to prevent future atrocities. The Honourable David Warner, former speaker of the Ontario Legislative Assembly gave a highly charged and emotional address against Turkey’s denials of responsibility in perpetrating the Genocide of 1.5 million Armenians, emphasizing that national honour can only be regained through recognition.
The observance was followed by a planned march, The March Against Genocide Denial toward the Turkish embassy for a peaceful demonstration against Turkey’s decades-old campaign of denial. "Today’s observance and demonstration are a testament to Armenians’ resolve to pursue justice for the horrendous genocide committed by the Turks against the Armenian people," stated Dr. Girair Basmadjian, president of the Armenian National Committee of Canada. "The government of
Turkey will never succeed in its constant attempts to rewrite history. The world will never forget. Canadians will never forget. We are fortunate that, in Canada, both Houses of Parliament, the government of Canada, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide. We commend the efforts of our government and parliamentarians in ensuring that truth and justice prevail."
For decades, successive governments of the Republic of Turkey have embarked upon an active campaign of denial, fabrication, and misrepresentation as it attempted, and continues to attempt, to cover-up its crimes against humanity. In its attempts to rewrite history, Turkey has consistently employed some of the world’s leading lobbyists and public relations firms, having spent tens of millions of dollars over the years. In Canada, Turkey has in the past retained the services of Fleishman-Hilliard and other lobbyists.
"Armenian-Canadians are asking their government to encourage Turkey to stop its denials and come to terms with its past," stated Dr. Basmadjian. "All Canadians should be proud of their parliamentarians for standing firm against Turkish pressure to change Canada’s position regarding the Armenian Genocide."
Since its inception, Turkey’s credibility as a nation of peace continues to be marred by its belligerent and arrogant actions — continued acts of genocide, the invasion of Cyprus, its treatment of the Kurds, its blatant violation of human rights within its own borders. Numerous international human rights organizations continue to single out Turkey as being a gross violator of basic human rights including freedom of speech.
The Genocide of the Armenians by the Turkish government during World War I represents a major tragedy of the modern age. In this the first Genocide of the 20th century, almost an entire nation was destroyed. The Armenian people were effectively eliminated from the homeland they had occupied for nearly three thousand years. This annihilation was premeditated and planned to be carried out under the cover of war.
During the night of April 23-24, 1915, Armenian political, religious, educational, and intellectual leaders in Istanbul were arrested, deported to the interior, and mercilessly put to death. Next, the Turkish government ordered the deportation of the Armenian people to "relocation centers" – actually to the barren deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia. The Armenians were driven out brutally from the length and breadth of the empire. Secrecy, surprise, deception, torture, dehumanization, rape and pillage were all a part of the process. The whole of Asia Minor was put in motion.
The greatest torment was reserved for the women and children, who were driven for months over mountains and deserts, often dehumanized by being stripped naked and repeatedly preyed upon and abused. Intentionally deprived of food and water, they fell by the hundreds of thousands along the routes to the desert.
The ANCC is the largest and the most influential Canadian-Armenian grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout Canada and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCC actively advances the concerns of the Canadian-Armenian community on a broad range of issues.