Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act

An Act to establish a Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day and to recognize the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 as an act of genocide

Sponsor

Kerry Diotte  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of Dec. 13, 2016

Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-306.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment designates the eighteenth day of May, in each and every year, as “Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day” in recognition of the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • Dec. 13, 2016 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members’ Business

December 7th, 2016 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my Conservative colleague from Edmonton Griesbach for introducing this bill. I am very pleased to take part in this second hour of debate. I also thank him for introducing Bill C-306, establishing a Crimean Tatar Deportation Memorial Day and recognizing the mass deportation of 200,000 Crimean Tatars in 1994 as an act of genocide.

On November 12, 2015, the Ukrainian parliament recognized the mass deportation of the Tatars in 1944 as a genocide, and that this people's return only became possible with the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991. The Ukrainian parliament also designated May 18 as an official day of commemoration of this genocide and the mass deportation of the Tatars. It has also been urging other nations and international organizations to do the same.

As a Polish Canadian, in fact born in Poland, I am very familiar with the many crimes of the Soviet regime and of the communists in the land of my birth and in central Europe as well. Millions were victims of various communist regimes, among these the Crimean Tatars. The forced deportation of thousands of Tatars resulted in death by starvation, disease and multiple acts of violence targeting the community that were committed by the Soviet regime.

This bill from the member for Edmonton Griesbach does not create a new legal holiday or non-juridical day. It is simply a special day for Canadians of Tatar origin to commemorate an important event in their family and community history.

This bill has the support of Mustafa Abduldzhemil Dzhemilev, the former chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament since 1988, and a former Soviet dissident. This bill also has the support of Refat Chubarov, chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People and a long-time Ukrainian parliamentarian. The Canadian Association of Crimean Tatars, the League of Ukrainian Canadians, and the International Council in Support of Ukraine also support this bill. Many communities in Canada and around the world support the member for Edmonton Griesbach's bill.

Tatar historian and dissident Ayshe Seitmuratova also supports this bill. She is a legend in the community because she was part of the effort to document this crime. She described how her brothers and her parents were forced onto Soviet trains in their pyjamas in the winter. The Crimean Tatars called those trains crematoria on wheels. Historian Ayshe Seitmuratova also described how Russian guards tossed many dead and dying people from the trains.

Half of these Crimean Tatars died of disease or starvation during their first years in exile. Their descendants and the survivors were not permitted to return to their homelands until the 1980s.

Very few archives, books or even mosques survived the atrocities of the Soviet troops, as they destroyed many historical and cultural sites. Today there are very few survivors of this genocide left. The history of this crime of 1944 has been passed down to future generations through the spoken word, stories, Tatar poetry and songs.

As for the question or doubt about this Soviet crime of forcing the mass deportation of Tatars, article II of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide reads as follows:

...genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

A list follows:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

As we can see, according to this definition, this was indeed a genocide committed by the Soviet forces, by the Soviet government against the Crimean Tatars.

The crime of the Holodomor, the recent invasion by Russian military forces, and the illegal occupation of Crimea, as well as the massive deportation of Tatars in 1944, are all part of the Soviet pattern of behaviour we are seeing today in the Russian Federation whereby only force matters.

In our debates in the House on countless parliamentary initiatives, we often talk about creating commemorative days, weeks, or months to recognize various groups in Canada. Adding one for Crimean Tatars would be most appropriate, considering the events that are unfolding in Ukraine today and that have taken place in Crimea in the past.

Recognizing this genocide and the forced deportations will greatly improve relations with the Crimean Tatar community and enrich Canadian cultural diversity by recognizing a part of history that had a huge impact on that community and its heritage.

The Russian government is currently occupying traditional Crimean Tatar territory, Tatar activists have disappeared, and Russian authorities have shut down Tatar media outlets. The oppression and discrimination against this population continues. The Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis, Ilmi Umerov, was imprisoned in a psychiatric institution by Russian authorities. Only after intense international pressure from major western nations was he eventually released.

Crimean Tatar media outlets have been closed, including the ATR TV network. Tatar language schools have been shuttered, as well as Mosques, and most of those associated with either have been imprisoned. Gatherings to remember the 1944 deportations, on memorial days for example, have been banned in every year of the Russian occupation of Crimea. These acts of marginalization are intensifying and mirror the events of 1944.

The Sürgünlik is a genocide and another crime committed by Soviet authorities. A memorial day is a friendly gesture that we can offer to ensure that these events are not forgotten over time.

I want to commend the leadership of the hon. member for Edmonton Griesbach, whose efforts made this initiative possible. I urge all members to vote in favour of this bill introduced by that member.

The term sürgün, which is part of the word Sürgünlik, is used by Crimean Tatars to denote the deportation itself. This Turkish term also translates as “expulsion” and “exile”. By extension, sürgün also means “violent expulsion” and “prolonged exile”. Since 1944, this has been an important part of community life for Crimean Tatars and, as such, and important part of their identity.

Many Canadian associations support this bill, as well as Rustem Irsay, president of the Canadian Association of Crimean Tatars, and Orest Steciw, of the League of Ukrainian Canadians. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress and its president, Paul Grod, as well as Moustafa Djemilev, member of the Ukrainian parliament and commissioner of the president of Ukraine for the affairs of Crimean Tatars, also supports it. Everyone agrees that this important bill should receive the support of Parliament.

Prior to today's debate, I was honoured to meet Garry Kasparov, a civic leader who opposes the regime of the Russian president. He is also the president of the Human rights Foundation and a political expert at Oxford Martin School. He is also known as the 13th world chess champion.

He reminded me that history tells us that we must never forget the acts perpetrated by the Soviet Union against the people of the region. Russian propaganda against the Crimean Tatars will erase the historical facts and the Tatars ties to their ancestral lands by spreading disinformation. As the saying goes, those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

This memorial day will be part of the international effort to counter Russian propaganda, which seeks to rewrite this region's history and wipe out every trace of Crimean Tatars. We must not let them.

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members’ Business

December 7th, 2016 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am also rising to speak to Bill C-306, an act to establish a Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day, tabled by the member for Edmonton Griesbach.

On this aspect of the bill proposing recognition of the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars and the ongoing atrocities perpetrated against them, I believe the member will find considerable support.

Ukraine has passed such a bill, memorializing that date of the atrocities and the removal of the Crimean Tatars.

Stalin's forced expulsion of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 was among the more heinous crimes against humanity committed during a century littered with atrocities. The entire Crimean Tatar people, the indigenous people of Crimea, were exiled to the Soviet east in 1944 by the totalitarian regime of Joseph Stalin.

Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children were forcibly and violently deported. Almost half lost their lives during the first year of exile, for no crime other than their language, culture, and traditions. Most reprehensibly, the women and children were separated from the men, and the men forced to fight in the Stalin forces.

The vast majority of those remaining in the Tatar community returned home to Crimea from exile in the early 1990s. This was largely due to the welcoming policy of the government of independent Ukraine. It is for this reason that the Crimean Tatars and their political and civic institutions are fiercely loyal to Ukraine. Today again, the Tatar people are living in fear as they have again been exiled, this time by Putin.

Little mention is made currently of the Russian Federation's illegal annexation of the Crimea in 2014. Crimean Tatars almost uniformly opposed the Russian Federation's annexation of the Crimea in 2014.

According to Amnesty International, Crimean Tatars have faced repressive measures, from media outlets being shuttered to activists being arrested and “disappeared”. Tatars have been forbidden to publicly commemorate the day of remembrance of the last deportation.

Last month Russia banned the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatar assembly, accusing it of extremism. As a result, anyone involved in one of the more than 250 local Mejlises across Crimea now risks arrest. They either live in fear in Crimea or they are living in fear on the borders of Crimea, their original territories.

According to eastern European scholar Anssi Kullberg, many historians believe that the true motivation behind the genocide of Crimean Tatars was the geopolitical location of the Crimea seen by the Soviets as an obstacle and bridgehead in the way of Stalin's aspirations to gain control of the Turkish Straits and Constantinople, and now, in modern times, we are seeing the same, with Russia wanting to claim Crimea.

The systematic erasure of the Crimean Tatars was holistic in nature with even Crimean Tatar place names changed to Soviet ones; mosques converted into movie theatres, or worse; homes, livestock, and gardens seized; and mention of Crimean Tatars was deleted or abbreviated in reference works. In other words, they were erased.

Crimean Tatars were forbidden to reside in, or speak of, their homeland. It was not even possible to preserve a Crimean Tatar identity in personal documents.

The decision by Russia to again suspend the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people and ban all its activities essentially denies the Crimean Tatar community the right to freedom of association and therefore denial of their basic human rights.

In November 2015, Ukraine's Parliament recognized this crime as an act of genocide against the Crimean Tatar people, and established May 18 as the Day of Remembrance of the Genocide of the Crimean Tatar People.

According to Paul Grod, National President of the UCC:

Today, the indigenous Crimean Tatars, together with the Ukrainian people and other ethnic and religious minorities living in Crimea, face severe repression by their Russian occupiers. It is vital for all members of Canada's Parliament to support this important legislation and to ensure that Canada continues to take concrete actions to oppose Russia's illegal occupation and annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

Only last year I had the honour of standing alongside representatives of all the main parties in this chamber, all expressing support to the stalwart leader of the Crimean Tatars, member of parliament, Mustafa Dzhemilev. It is critical that we deliver on those words and lend support to their long-standing struggle for recognition of their human rights.

I support this legislation going to committee and for consideration of potential amendments. There are some concerns with the name of the bill and the preamble.

It is my hope that perhaps more might be done, rather than just naming a memorial day, to enable them to live in peace as a community.

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members’ Business

December 7th, 2016 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country
B.C.

Liberal

Pam Goldsmith-Jones Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-306, an act that seeks to recognize the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars by Soviet authorities in 1944 as an act of genocide and also to establish a Crimean Tatar memorial day.

The deportation of the Crimean Tatars was a great tragedy. In the span of a few days, families were taken forcibly from their homes. They were forced to leave the land they loved and they were supposed to try to settle in areas foreign to them. Many perished. For decades, Crimean Tatars were not allowed to return home, as my hon. colleague has just said.

This government has recognized this tragedy in the past and supports the intent of the bill to create a memorial day to not only commemorate the suffering of the Crimean Tatars but also to inspire us as we honour the indomitable will and resilience of Crimea's Tatars.

Despite the myriad of horrors inflicted upon them, they persevere, their culture thrives, and Canada is enriched by Crimean Tatars who call Canada home.

However, the government does not support this legislation. The government agrees that the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars by Soviet authorities was a tragedy in the deepest sense of the word. What Stalin did to these people was horrific.

We recognize the appalling loss of life and tremendous suffering that was endured as hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children were deported from their ancestral homeland in Crimea.

The preamble to the bill suggests that the forced relocation of the Tatars of Crimea was an act of genocide. Theft, deportation, and death were horrors inflicted upon the Crimean Tatars in 1944 at the hands of Stalin. This was a crime against humanity. Crime against humanity has a specific meaning and as articulated in 2002 with the creation of the International Criminal Court. I will read part of the definition that the International Criminal Court in its founding treaty, the Rome Statute, used for crimes against humanity:

For the purpose of this Statute, ‘crime against humanity’ means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: (a) Murder; (b) Extermination; Enslavement; (d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;...

It is clear that what happened to the Crimean Tatars constitutes a crime against humanity.

In 1989, the U.S.S.R. recognized that the deportations were a grave offence contradicting the foundations of international law.

The term “crime against humanity” is a powerful term and one that should not be used lightly. I am using it this evening because the suffering inflicted upon the Crimean Tatars was just that. However, where a crime against humanity recognizes the existence of mass atrocity, genocide requires that the mass atrocity be deliberately perpetrated not only to remove, but to deliberately destroy a group of people.

The test for genocide in international law is a high one. The crime of genocide was established through the genocide convention that was adopted in 1948 and entered into force in 1951.

Under the convention, it is not enough to establish that mass expulsions of civilians took place. Rather, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that such atrocities were perpetrated as part of a campaign to destroy in whole or in part an identifiable national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. This is a high threshold.

Canada has recognized six genocides to date: the Armenian genocide, the Ukrainian famine, the Holocaust, all predate the genocide convention. The Rwandan genocide, the Srebrenica massacre, and the genocide against the Yazidis of Sinjar in Iraq all occurred after the genocide convention was adopted.

In all three of the latter cases there was recourse to an internationally recognized investigation or a judicial decision in which determination of genocide was ultimately made.

The Rwandan genocide was recognized by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The Srebrenica massacre was recognized by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The genocide committed against the Yazidis of Sinjar in Iraq was recognized by the United Nations independent inquiry on Syria.

In the case of historical genocides, we do not have recourse to the courts but instead must rely on other sources. In the case of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, Ukraine is the only country to have formally recognized the event as genocide, having done so just last year. No other state or multilateral organization, including the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the European Parliament, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has recognized the deportation as genocide.

Beyond the lack of international recognition, there is a lack of historical consensus. The majority of historians do not believe Stalin intended to destroy the Crimean Tatars because they were Crimean Tatars, despite the horror they suffered.

Most historians do not label this tragedy a genocide. This absence of international recognition or historical consensus informs our view. Rigorous determination, in this case by historians, should be the basis for deciding whether genocide occurred. By doing so, we ensure that the word maintains its ability to convey the horror it represents.

Guided by the objectives of honouring Crimean Tatars, and preserving the integrity of the meaning of the term genocide, it is the position of this government that Bill C-306 be opposed at second reading. Nevertheless, I want to underline that this government is committed to remembering the tragedy of the forced deportation of Crimean Tatars in 1944. We mark the 72nd anniversary of the deportation on May 18 of this year, and we will continue to commemorate the anniversary of this terrible event. This approach respects the integrity of the definition of genocide, and the historical memory of the Crimean Tatars.

Let me again reiterate that the 1944 deportation of Crimean Tatars was a crime against humanity and that this government agrees with the intent of the bill to create a memorial day. We do not support the use of the word genocide in this case. We must not recognize genocide without appropriate rigour. That rigour protects the legacy of all victims of genocide. As such, this government votes against this bill, and we ask our fellow parliamentarians to join us.

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members’ Business

December 7th, 2016 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Peter Kent Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak today in support of my colleague from Edmonton Griesbach and his bill, Bill C-306. This is an act to establish a memorial day to honour victims of the Crimean Tatar deportation, the Sürgünlik, and to recognize the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 as an act of genocide. As my colleague stated when he tabled Bill C-306 in September, “The bill condemns a very dark chapter in history and takes a principled stand in support of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law”.

Some of my colleagues have wondered out loud, respectfully, why we in this House should create another day that memorializes a tragic chapter of history of which most Canadians are unaware, a tragedy commonly overlooked and lost among more powerfully documented and commemorated horrors and crimes against humanity that occurred during the Second World War. My answer to those who ask is that it is from the detail of history that societies learn the essentials of humanity and how to avoid repetition of such horrors today and in the future.

To those who question the relevance of another memorial day, asking how many Canadians of Tatar descent live among us, I answer, not many. Officially, according to the last census, there are fewer than 3,000. In fact, the numbers may be somewhat larger, given that many descendants of survivors of the Tatar genocide are incorrectly considered to be Russian. Whether 3,000 or more, the strength of this wonderful, diverse country is drawn from our community of communities, large and small, and respect among them for the histories, the trials and tribulations, and the stories of survival, of cruelty, and of gross inhumanity.

The Tatar people were, back in the 13th century, a dominant population in Crimea, a powerful trading crossroads of the Mongol Empire, later falling under control of the Ottoman Empire. From the 18th century, Catherine the Great annexed the Crimean peninsula as part of her vast expansion of the Russian Empire. During the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, Crimea was the last holdout of the White Army.

The Crimean Tatars were not spared the horrors of the Holodomor, Stalin's man-made famine in the early 1930s that resulted in the deaths of millions of Ukrainians. In 2008, as members know, Canada became the first country to officially recognize the Holodomor as genocide.

That brings us to the Crimean genocide. During World War II, after the Nazi army invaded the Crimean peninsula, thousands of Tatars were conscripted into the German army, along with Russians and Ukrainians. When the Germans were expelled from Crimea in 1944, the Russians took vengeance on the forced collaboration, even though many more Tatars had fought on the Russian side, a number of them awarded Hero of the Soviet Union medals. Nonetheless, Stalin declared the entire Tatar nation, including non-combatants, women, children, and thousands of men still fighting in the ranks of the Red Army, izmeniky rodina, traitors of the motherland.

Then, on May 18, 1944, Soviet Red Army troops and soldiers from the dreaded NKVD, Stalin's secret police, surrounded the tiny Tatar communities, hamlets really, in the south Crimean mountains and on the coast. They rounded up men, women, and children, shooting all who resisted, packed them onto train cattle cars, and transported them to destinations deep in Soviet central Asia. Many thousands died on that journey, their bodies simply dumped from the cars.

One massive group of deportees arrived in the desert Republic of Uzbekistan, where they were dumped and died by the thousands of starvation and exposure. Survivors remained in secret police labour camps until 1956, when Nikita Khrushchev opened the camps, allowing them to try to make their way home. Barely half of the Tatar people survived.

Tragically, when those who did survive arrived home, they found that their communities had been expropriated by Russians. They were denied resettlement and were dispersed around eastern Europe and other parts of the world.

However, this Tatar diaspora taught its children well, ensuring that future generations would know their true homeland. For a brief period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it seemed as though they would be able to return. Some 250,000 Crimean Tatars did return, and from hundreds of original squatter camps, new communities were built. Returning Tatars gradually came to compose at least 12% of Crimea's population.

Then came the Russian invasion and occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. The Tatar legislature, the Mejlis, was banned, Russia calling it an extremist organization. So the centuries old Russian marginalization, persecution, and depression of Tatars continues today.

That brings us to the question of commemoration of the tragic, inhuman 1944 deportation. On November 12, 2015, the parliament of Ukraine recognized the 1944 mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars by the Soviet regime as a genocide. With this recognition, the Ukraine parliament established May 18 as an official day of commemoration.

Passage of Bill C-306 would similarly designate the 18th day of May each and every year as the Crimean Tatar deportation, or Sürgünlik, memorial day in Canada. The bill has been endorsed by a number of highly respected organizations. The League of Ukrainian Canadians, for example, says that the timing for passage of Bill C-306 could not be more appropriate. The league points out that while the Russian government is conducting purges today of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian patriots in occupied Crimea, the bill would send a strong message to Crimean Tatars living under occupation, that the world, that Canada, has not forgotten them.

The Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people writing to the sponsor of the bill, the member for Edmonton Griesbach, says that this is yet another way for Canada to determine its solidarity with Ukraine and its people and, when passed, the bill will create a precedent in the western world and hopefully be taken up by other countries.

The League of Ukrainian Canadian Women, in a letter of endorsement for Bill C-306 wrote, “By recognizing the deportation of Crimean Tatars as an act of genocide, the Parliament of Canada would show its continuing leadership in defence of human rights and the protection of indigenous people”.

The letter continues, “The present-day regime of Vladimir Putin aims to punish Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainian compatriots for their principled position and non-recognition of the occupation”.

The letter concludes, saying, “we...call on Members of Parliament from both sides of the aisle to take a principled position and support the bill in the name of recognizing the wrongdoings of the past to prevent their repetition in the future”.

That says it all. I would urge all members of the House to support this worthy bill, Bill C-306.

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members’ Business

December 7th, 2016 / 6 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Crimea's seductive beauty has enchanted visitors over the centuries. It is also the ancestral home of the Crimean Tatars. As blessed as Crimea is in natural beauty, tragic has been the history of its indigenous peoples, the Crimean Tatars.

The Crimean Tatars evolved from an amalgam of tribes who have lived in Crimea since time immemorial. The indigenous people of the peninsula came to be known as Tats, a term to describe converts to Islam not of pure Turkic descent. The Tats were the dominant demographic grouping of the peninsula, and along with the neighbouring Nogai Steppe Tatars, they evolved into the ethnicity of the Crimean Tatars.

A Crimean Tatar polity emerged on the maps of Europe as a formal state in 1449, the Crimean Tatar Khanate. Why these ethnographical and historical facts are of such importance is that President Putin's justification for the most recent Russian military invasion and annexation of Crimea is based on a false narrative that Crimea is historically Russian.

The correct historical narrative is that once again Crimean Tatars are suffering ethnically targeted arbitrary arrests, torture, and disappearances as a consequence of Kremlin imperialism. The current repression of Crimean Tatars has been documented by numerous international human rights organizations, such as the Crimean Human Rights Group and the Human Rights Information Centre in their joint report "Peninsula of Fear."

How did Putin's Kremlin arrive at its false narrative that Crimea is historically Russian land with Crimean Tatars an inconvenient reality, a reality to be dealt with by policies that echo Tsarist and Soviet policy?

In 1449 when the indigenous peoples of Crimea formed their state, the Crimean Tatar Khanate, the borders of Russia's predecessor state, the Principality of Muscovy, were over 1,000 kilometres distant. In 1783, 340 years later, the Russian empire invaded and annexed Crimea for the first time. So began Russian occupation of Crimea, which continued for 160 years until 1954. Notably, Crimean Tatars formed 80% of the peninsula's population during the first 100 years of occupation. Russia's 160-year occupation was a period of multiple ethnic cleansings, culminating with the Qara Kün, the Black Day of 1944.

Following the annexation of Crimea, among other atrocities, Catherine the Great deported all of the Christian Crimean Tatars to die in the frozen steppes. This was followed by mass deportations of Muslim Crimean Tatars to Turkey in 1812, 1855, the 1860s, the 1880s, and in 1918. Notwithstanding those deportations, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Crimean Tatars continued to constitute the largest ethnicity of Crimea.

Towards the conclusion of World War II, Stalin, a sequential practitioner of genocide, decided to eliminate the Crimean Tatars once and for all. It was a time when the infamous phrase net naroda, net problema, or “no man, no problem", was frequently invoked.

A number of nations have a self-image defined by genocidal horror: the Armenians by the Meds Yeghern, the Ukrainians by the Holodomor, the Jews by the Shoah, and the Crimean Tatars by the Sürgünlik.

Soon after midnight in the early hours of May 18, 1944, the terror began throughout Crimea. Units of the 32,000 strong NKVD special force rounded up the deportees. They were loaded onto truck convoys, taken to Simferopol and Bakhchysaray and then reloaded onto cattle cars for transport to the Central Asian steppes.

Crimean Tatars who lived in mountainous regions inaccessible to NKVD trucks were found and shot. The inhabitants of the Arabat Spit, a group of inaccessible fishing villages, were herded onto a barge that was then sailed into the Azov Sea and scuttled. A nearby boat with Soviet machine gunners made sure that no one survived.

Within three days, there were no more Crimean Tatars, or as Communist officials in Moscow stated at the time, they had "created a new Crimea according to Russian order." Crimean Tatar books were burned. All Crimean Tatar towns and villages were given Russian names, Muslim cemeteries and mosques razed. Even the Great Soviet Encyclopedia removed and erased the Crimean Tatars from history.

Crimea was cleansed of over 200,000 Tatars. Over the next four weeks, a procession of lingering death of thousands of railway cars crammed with people travelled 4,000 kilometres across the scorching steppes of Central Asia. The Crimeans called them “crematoria on wheels”. They died of suffocation, hunger, and thirst. Along the railroad tracks, a trail of decomposing bodies. Close to 30,000 of the human cargo perished. Approximately half subsequently died in the Central Asian steppe due to hunger and disease, far from the prying eyes of the world.

As he had with the genocidal famine of Ukrainian peasants in 1932-33, Stalin created the physical preconditions for the elimination of a people.

I will now turn my attention to determining whether the Sürgünlik constitutes genocide.

Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew born in eastern Europe in the epicentre of the 20th century's blood lands, coined the word genocide based on its study of and exposure to the horrors of the Armenian genocide, the Holodomor, and the Holocaust. He dedicated his life's work to seeing the passage of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on January 12, 1951.

Not only did Lemkin coin the term, he defined it, and the definition became article 2 of the convention. The convention's intent is clear from its title, structure, and articles. It is not meant to make legal findings of genocide; it is meant to prevent and punish.

It should be underscored that Lemkin was part of the American team that prepared the Nuremberg trials where the term “genocide”, although not a legal term, was included as a condemnation in the indictment against the Nazi leadership. Determinations of genocide can be made by tribunals, parliaments, and governments based upon Lemkin's definition. Courts, on the other hand, can make legal findings of personal guilt of the crime of genocide.

The Sürgünlik matched Lemkin's definition. It could not be clearer. The article reads “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such “(a) Killing members of the group”. One needs only to record the scuttling of the boat with the villagers of the Arabat Spit on board, or the hunting down of Crimean Tatar shepherds in the mountains. The article continues, “(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group”. One needs only to note the mass confiscation of property and deportation. Finally, “(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

Let us break clause (c) into its component parts. Was Stalin's action deliberate? It was, in fact, a special operation that was premeditated, meticulously planned, and executed by specially assembled forces of his NKVD. Were the conditions calculated to bring about the physical destruction, in whole or in part, of the Crimean Tatars? One need only to recite the recollections of Russian eyewitnesses and the horrific statistics of death both in raw numbers and percentages. Ninety thousand died, which was almost 50% of the population.

According to Lemkin's definition, a determination of genocide needs only one of the article's determinants of genocide to be met. The Sürgünlik meets not one but three of Lemkin's determinants. In fact, it was not only a plan for the destruction of the Crimean Tatars as a people, it was meant to erase that they had ever existed in Crimea: Genocide as well as historical ethnocide, which brings us to the present day.

Putin's military invasion and annexation of Crimea on the basis of false claims of ethnic Russian grievances and false historic land claims has broken the fundamental international principle of the sanctity of borders. We have not seen such actions in Europe since the 1930s.

Today in occupied Crimea, the oppressed and targeted Crimean Tatars, the victims of a Stalinist genocide, see large Stalin portraits officially on parade during Kremlin holidays. Putin has embarked on a policy of imperial expansion into neighbouring countries and the rehabilitation of the cult of Stalin. Seductively beautiful Crimea has truly become a “Peninsula of Fear” for the indigenous people of this “Blessed Land”.

I firmly support our government's policy of engagement. However, we must be vigilant to ensure that diplomacy does not slip into policies of appeasement. Engagement requires speaking truth to malevolent power and not fearing to speak the truth about the Kremlin's current international crimes against humanity.

We must not deny the Kremlin's past crimes against humanity. Speaking the truth of the past strengthens us in confronting current evil, which brings us to the legislation before us.

Genocide was committed against the Crimean Tatars. We must not deny it.

[Member spoke Ukrainian]

Slava Krymskym Tataram. Slava Ukraini.

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members’ Business

December 7th, 2016 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kerry Diotte Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue the debate on my bill, Bill C-306, the Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act. I appreciate my colleagues' contributions to this debate, and I am grateful to hear statements of support from all corners of the House.

I would like to address a request from the member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

I ask the House for unanimous consent to table this document. It is the “State Defence Committee Decree No. 5859ss”, dated May 11, 1944, at the Moscow Kremlin. This decree sent the Crimean Tatars into exile. There can be no more damning evidence than the evil nature of this document.

Seven days after Josef Stalin signed this order, the indigenous people of Crimea were rounded up and deported en masse to Central Asia. At the stroke of his pen, Stalin dispatched more than 200,000 people to what historian Robert Conquest called the “human dumping grounds”. In the 1960s, Conquest was among the first western historians to study the deportations. With the full story still deeply hidden behind the Iron Curtain, he began portraying these events as genocide.

Within the Soviet Union itself, a few brave dissidents drew similar conclusions. Petro Grigorenko, a former Red Army general turned activist, told a gathering of exiled Crimean Tatars, “What was done to you in 1944 has a name. It was genocide”. For saying that, General Grigorenko spent five years in a psychiatric hospital and then was exiled.

As historians delved deeper into the broad question of ethnic cleansing and genocide, the deportations of 1944 were often considered a prime example.

Norman Naimark, a Stanford University historian, agreed, calling the 1944 deportations an “attempted cultural genocide”.

Brian Glyn Williams, a professor of Islamic history at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, also calls it genocide. He is the author of the most comprehensive academic history of the Crimean Tatars.

This brings me to the arguments made by some government members, among them the member for Winnipeg North. In particular, during the first hour, he argued that Canada should let an international body make our decisions for us. He said that members of this House should not exercise their own judgment when we consider events of the past.

This is not Canada's historical position. In 2008, all members of the House came together to declare the Holodomor in Ukraine a genocide. Indeed, the member for Winnipeg North invoked the Holodomor as he fought efforts to recognize the injustice done to the Crimean Tatars. Had we applied this new logic, we would not have recognized Holodomor as a genocide. There is ample historical evidence, expert research, and survivor testimony to justify this recognition, yet no international court or body has bothered to do so. Instead, Canada joined Ukraine and a growing number of other countries and jurisdictions in using our own judgment to draw conclusions from the available evidence.

That is what I am asking the House to do for the Crimean Tatars. The call to defer to non-existent international investigations is a legal smokescreen. Members should not sacrifice their own judgment to this ahistorical, un-Canadian position. The many letters of support I have received show that Canadians want us to speak up for Crimea and Ukraine.

I would like to thank the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the League of Ukrainian Canadian Women, and the Ukrainian Youth Association. Since we last met, they have added their voices to the many groups and people supporting the bill.

Canadians cherish the close friendship between Canada and Ukraine. They understand that the fate of the Crimean Tatars is closely linked to the fate of all Ukraine, and they know that Canada has a critical role to play in support of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars as they fight for the freedom and sovereignty of their country.

Colleagues, in this spirit, I ask for support for my bill at second reading.

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members' Business

November 4th, 2016 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Kerry Diotte Edmonton Griesbach, AB

moved that Bill C-306, An Act to establish a Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day and to recognize the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 as an act of genocide, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to begin the debate on my private member's bill, the Crimean Tatar deportation memorial day act. It shows the terrible depths to which humanity can fall. It is a reason why the House is again taking up debate on a matter of genocide. It is not the first and, sadly, not the last time that we will consider events of the past and decide whether we will come to denounce them as genocide.

It is a topic on which Canada has been a world leader. We have signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. That is a statute enacted after the Second World War.

Article II of the statute defines genocide as:

...any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Canada has made several recognitions in the past. Most recently, the House passed a motion, proposed by my colleague, the member for Calgary Nose Hill, recognizing the ongoing genocide waged against the Yazidis by ISIS.

The recognition that is most relevant to Crimea was raised in 2008. The House declared the Holodomor as a genocide. It was the forced starvation of Ukrainians in 1932 and 1933. That historic act of recognition was the result of the hard work of my colleague, the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. That legislation brought about Canada's first official recognition and denunciation of an atrocity committed by the Soviet Union and masterminded by Joseph Stalin.

It is therefore fitting that today we should discuss the terrible crime committed by the Soviet Union against the indigenous people of Crimea in 1944 and their relevance to what has happened in Crimea in the last two years. We cannot separate the deportation in 1944 from Russia's theft of Crimea from Ukraine 70 years later. The same evil ideology and disregard for the fundamental rights and freedoms of every man and woman is at work. It is a regime that tore more than 200,000 people from their homes, dropped them in a remote part of Central Asia and started a war with a peaceful neighbouring country in order to steal territory. That is why the preamble to this bill draws attention to the renewed persecution faced by the Crimean Tatars in occupied Crimea. It categorically states that Canada will never recognize Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea.

First, we must turn back 70 years to the deportations.

In May of 1944, the Soviet army reconquered Crimea, which had been under Nazi occupation since 1941. The Soviet army was not a liberator for the Crimean Tatars though. It arrived bearing an order signed by Stalin condemning their entire nation to exile.

On May 18, 1944, Soviet secret police forces, the dreaded NKVD, began rounding up Crimean Tatars at their homes. They were packed onto cattle cars and sent on a long journey to Central Asia, thousands of kilometres away. Many left with little more than the clothes on their backs. Their homes, livestock, and possessions were all gone. Anyone who tried to escape was shot.

For many, the trains were deadly because many Tatar men were away serving in the Soviet military. The deportees were predominantly women, children, and the elderly. Many of the latter two succumbed to malnutrition and dehydration, or the diseases that quickly spread in the overcrowded cattle cars. Those who made it to their place of exile were greeted by nothing.

There was no food or accommodation for anyone. Lacking shelter, clothing, and virtually all necessities of life, it is estimated that almost 20% of all of the Crimean Tatars died in 1944 and 1945. Stalin intended to remove the Tatars from history, too. Following the deportations, towns in Crimea were renamed, mosques were destroyed, and books in the Crimean Tatar language or about them were burned.

Famously, their entry in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia was removed. What possible justification could there be for this action? Stalin accused the Crimean Tatars of treason against the Soviet Union, but tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars had just risked their lives fighting for the Red Army against Hitler. Eight were even decorated with the Soviet Union's highest award for bravery.

After 1944, that history was deliberately suppressed. The Crimean Tatars would remain confined to exile in central Asia for more than 40 years. Their homes were given to settlers from outside of Crimea, their language was banned, and their children were forced to study in Russian. Conditions remained harsh even after Stalin's death. In 1956, the Tatars were officially banned from returning to Crimea. In 1967, the Soviet regime rescinded its own false treason charges against the Tatars, but it maintained the ban on them returning to Crimea. It even denied that the Crimean Tatars were a nationality at all.

Only the collapse of the Soviet Union brought an end to their exile. In 1988, the survivors who had held on to their identity, language, and culture began moving back to Crimea. They did so because the Soviet Union was now just too weak to stop them. There were late recognitions by the Soviet Union and Russia that an injustice had been committed. That is true, but the Crimean Tatars have never been compensated by either state for the loss of life, property, and liberty that they suffered in exile.

I do not expect to find much disagreement in the House that the events I have described constitute genocide against the Crimean Tatars. Indeed, it was always clear that the Soviet regime intended to destroy the Crimean Tatars as a nation through exile and banishment. However, in turning to the present, we can see that 1991 was not the end of the Crimean Tatars' pain.

The country that the Crimean Tatars returned to in 1991 was the newly independent Ukraine. Conditions were poor there, with a very weak economy and limited employment or housing, but they were home in Crimea, and Ukraine was tolerant. They formed their own representative bodies, the Mejlis and the Qurultay, and some of their leaders were even elected to the Ukrainian parliament.

Earlier this year, I had the honour of meeting one the great Crimean Tatar leaders, Mustafa Jemilev, as did a number of my colleagues. Mr. Jemilev is a long-time member of the Ukrainian parliament and a former chairman of the Mejlis. He was deported to Uzbekistan when he was just six months old.

As a young man, he was expelled from university for joining illegal Crimean Tatar underground movements and was arrested for refusing to join the Soviet army. He spent 15 years of his life in Soviet prisons for peacefully resisting the Communist regime. At one point, he conducted a hunger strike for 303 days. He lived only because he was force-fed. Jemilev is celebrated as a dissident and freedom fighter by his people and by much of the world, but today he is exiled from his homeland again.

After the illegal Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Crimean Tatars are again under threat. Their elected representative body, the Mejlis, has been banned as an extremist organization by Russian authorities. Many of their leaders, such as Mr. Jemilev and his successor, Refat Chubarov, have been banned from Crimea. These stories of exile, return, and renewed pain are common to many Crimean Tatars.

I recently met another survivor of the deportation, Ayshe Seitmuratova. She was seven years old when the secret police came for her family in their village outside of Kerch. Ayshe grew up in Uzbekistan and tried to study her people's past. When she was a graduate student, the KGB seized her research documents and sentenced her first to house arrest, and then sent her to a prison colony in a remote part of Russia. She fled for the United States in the late 1970s. She returned when the U.S.S.R. collapsed, and opened a home to care for seniors in Crimea. She has remained in Crimea under Russian occupation, always a thorn in their side. She told me that at 80 years old, having survived deportation, exile, and prison, she is not afraid of the authorities. She has already seen everything that they can throw at her.

However, others who have tried to resist from within Crimea do so at great peril. The deputy chairman of the Mejlis, Ilmi Umerov, was confined to a psychiatric institution and was only released after international pressure was applied. Another deputy is in prison. Other so-called activists have disappeared without a trace. Crimean Tatar media outlets have been closed, including the ATR TV network. Tatar language schools have been shuttered. Mosques have been vandalized. Gatherings to remember the 1944 deportations have been banned in every year of the Russian occupation, though many defy the authorities.

These acts of persecution and marginalization directed against the Crimean Tatars are an echo of 1944. They are being carried out by the regime of Vladimir Putin that no longer bothers to hide its nostalgia for the Soviet Union. Indeed, they are even rehabilitating Joseph Stalin, and doing so to torment his victims. What other explanation could there be for building monuments to the dictator in Crimean cities like Yalta and Simferopol? The chasm between Putin's plan for the world and the Ukrainian wishes for their country could not be greater. Tatars are now fleeing prosecution to other parts of Ukraine, and almost 10,000 have done so since the illegal annexation of Crimea.

In 2015, Ukraine's parliament officially declared the deportation of 1944 a genocide. They have issued a call for the rest of the world to respond, and I would like Canada to answer. I am pleased that in the short time since I introduced this bill, I have already received the support of the Canadian Association of Crimean Tatars, the League of Ukrainian Canadians, the International Council in Support of Ukraine, and many other individuals. Just this week, I received letters of support from Mr. Jemilev and Mr. Chubarov, along with the support of Ayshe Seitmuratova. I am especially honoured to have the support of the Crimean Tatars' people's representatives.

Now is the time for this House to take action to show our support for the Crimean Tatars. We have clear, irrefutable evidence of a genocide, planned and executed by Stalin's regime in 1944, one that did not truly end until the Soviet Union collapsed. We understand that these events are the textbook definition of genocide: acts committed with the intent to destroy an ethnic group through inflicting terrible conditions that would lead to the group's destruction. And we know very well what is happening to Crimean Tatars today in illegally occupied Crimea at the hands of Putin.

We are a loyal friend of Ukraine. It was a peaceful home to Crimean Tatars for more than two decades. Canada has never hesitated to make our nation's position clear. Whether it takes five months or 50 years, we will never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea. This House needs to make our position officially known to the world.

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members' Business

November 4th, 2016 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to acknowledge that in our present day we do have recourse with international courts for present-day atrocities. It is the distant historical matters, such as my hon. colleague's motion is about, that really do rely on the political process. Given the nature and the scale of the crime that is surrounding this motion here today with the Crimean Tatars, does my friend not believe that we should be focusing our discussion on that historical atrocity? Does he also plan to table any reports or evidence that can go along with this documentation on the Sürgünlik genocide?

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members' Business

November 4th, 2016 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kerry Diotte Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have to look at the past, but it is absolutely linked to what is going on today in Ukraine.

It was a terrible thing that happened to the Crimean Tartars. The deportation was horrible, and they are still suffering. I truly believe that we have to link the past with the present to get the full impact of this and recognize that, indeed, it was genocide. We definitely have to keep both the past and the present in mind.

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members' Business

November 4th, 2016 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will rephrase the question I just asked. Because we are not dealing with present-day atrocities, which have their own recourse in international courts, but are dealing with a historical genocide, are there any supporting documents that will be going into the archives, along with this motion, on the history of this important event? Will the member be tabling any of those?

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members' Business

November 4th, 2016 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kerry Diotte Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is well known that this atrocity happened. We do not have to do too much hard digging. It is well recognized that these people were deported. It is well known that there was an attempt to eradicate them, essentially. It is a historical fact, and certainly there is a lot of documentation.

However, I think we really have to key in on the fact that this has not ended. It is still, now, going on. People are not welcome in Crimea. We have a member of Parliament who cannot go back to Crimea. This is scandalous and shows that history is repeating itself.

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members' Business

November 4th, 2016 / 1:50 p.m.
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Liberal

David Graham Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I want to speak to private members' Bill C-306, Crimean Tatar deportation, or “Sürgünlik”, memorial day act.

Let us take a moment to remember this tragedy. In 1944, Soviet authorities forced the deportation of a vast number of minorities throughout the Soviet Union. This bill seeks to acknowledge the staggering number of deaths and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Crimean Tatars, forcibly removed from their homes on the Crimean Peninsula. This tragedy continues to haunt the collective memory of Crimean Tatars and further strengthens the attachment they still feel for their peninsula.

Canada strongly condemns the terrible discrimination and mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 under the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin. The Soviet regime committed an affront to Canadians by committing an affront to the common human values that we all share, namely the fundamental right to live free from persecution and to forge one's own path in the world.

These fundamental rights and freedoms have been denied to a great many people, but rarely as brutally as to the Crimean Tatars. A day to commemorate the massive deportations of Tatars from the Crimean Peninsula to central Asia would raise awareness of a dark chapter in the history of humanity and give a voice to those who were killed during this terrible tragedy. That is why our government commemorated this day on May 19, 2016. We fully support designating a memorial day in honour of the Crimean Tatars.

History can guide our future endeavours. The tragedy of the Crimean Tatars underscores an important principle articulated by Lord Acton, who said, “A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its minorities.”

Canada is a great nation, a free nation, and its greatness is due in part to its Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which enshrines in law the protection of minority rights. As stated in subsection 15(1) of the charter:

Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

This principle of equality and protection for all, or human rights, seems so obvious to Canadians. Unfortunately, that principle has been violated in the past, and is still being violated in parts of the world today.

We are gathered here today as parliamentarians because we want to make our communities, Canadian society, and the entire world a better place. When we look around the globe, we see that too many tragedies are still taking place, and it seems that the universal protection of human rights and recognition of the inalienable nature of each individual's rights are distant notions in some cases.

At any given moment, countless human beings around the world are being punished and tortured simply for their religious beliefs. They are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. They are abused because of their gender and killed because of the colour of their skin. Too many governments commit acts of hatred and refuse to acknowledge the humanity they share with others.

Here in Canada, we know that we are stronger because of our differences and not in spite of them. We know that we are all equal and that we have basic human rights. In light of that, it is up to all of us to make Canada a strong advocate for human rights.

This government is known for its strong, unwavering commitment to human rights. Now more than ever, there is a need for human rights advocates, and Canada is in a better position than most countries to lead this fight. This government is being proactive and working hard to defend and solidify Canada's position on international human rights. We are building a safer world that is more stable and prosperous by interacting with it rather than withdrawing from the fight.

I would like to give a few examples. Canada now seeks clemency for all Canadians facing execution abroad. If Canada does not fight to protect the lives of each of its citizens, then the government has failed in its basic duty to protect them.

We announced our intention to ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Torture is a scourge that must be eliminated. It has been shown time and time again that this barbaric practice is not effective and produces false information. It serves no purpose except to inflict suffering.

We also created the Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion, because human rights requires a comprehensive approach and because our outreach efforts produce better results when we stand up for all rights abroad by combining all of our voices and skills.

We gave all of our heads of missions abroad the objective of defending human rights and the tools to achieve it. Their mandate letters also reflect the need to promote and defend human rights. Their actions will inspire many people throughout the world.

We are putting in place a new government-wide strategy to address the crisis in Iraq and Syria, which includes tripling the number of members in our training mission and investing $1.6 billion over three years in Iraq and the surrounding region. It should be noted that we have pledged $158 million of this amount to humanitarian work and support for stabilization in Iraq.

Daesh is a perversion of Islam, a vessel brimming with hate, and an affront to the entire world; together with our allies, we will fight this monstrosity. We are supporting the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with new base funding of $15 million a year over the next three years.

We also reaffirmed our commitment to the empowerment of women by providing $16.3 million to women in the Middle East and North Africa. The world cannot be a just place when half the population does not have equal opportunity.

Thanks to the concerted efforts it is making right now, our government is getting results. We are making an important contribution. By focusing on promoting human rights and ensuring the rule of law and justice, Canada is paying tribute to the legacy of Crimean Tatars, a brave and resilient people whose strength of character is an example for everyone.

We must never forget their suffering and we must continue to commemorate May 18. However, it is not good enough just to reflect on this tragedy; we must take action. By promoting human rights, Canada is trying to prevent another tragedy such as this one from taking place in the future.

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members' Business

November 4th, 2016 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, as vice-chair of the international human rights subcommittee, I rise on behalf of my caucus in support of this motion and to speak to its intent.

Determining which historical events should be considered genocide, rather than, say, a crime against humanity or a war crime, is not a clear-cut matter, and no agreed upon formal process exists. For atrocities that are committed during the present time, we have recourse to international courts and tribunals, but these bodies typically do not involve themselves in distant historical matters.

To prosecute present day crimes, investigators amass evidence, build cases against individuals, make formal charges, and interview potential witnesses. In effect, the formal machinery of justice is set in motion. Sadly, no such machinery exists for genocides that may have occurred in the past. The process in fact is entirely political.

As we know, when accusations of genocide are made, the details are often hotly disputed, particularly when dealing with an event in the distant past. Over time, partisans emerge, and wield oftentimes radically different versions of facts.

Parliaments get involved, bills are passed, and resolutions are supported, declaring a particular event to be a genocide. Curiously, this is often done without investigations being conducted or reports being tabled, or even without first establishing an agreed upon definition of genocide. What one needs to do is secure a vote. It is a curious process, when we think about it, yet genocide is a profoundly serious matter.

When we seek to designate a particular event as a genocide, we are compelled to exhaustively research the subject. We should consult the very best legal and historical experts available. We should carefully weigh all available evidence and testimony.

Genocides are such a grave matter that we, all of us, have a responsibility to the past and to the future to get it right. We have an obligation to the truth that should transcend present political considerations. One thing a debate about genocide should never be is a cynical political outreach tool by partisan interests to woo important demographics within someone's country.

Genocide is defined in article 2 of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

We are debating the bill today due in large part to motivation on the part of the Parliament of Ukraine. In November of last year, the Ukrainian parliament recognized the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars by the Soviet regime in1944 as a genocide, and established May 18 as an official day of commemoration. Subsequently, Kiev has been urging the parliaments of allied nations to adopt a similar official day of recognition. Here we are today.

While researching the bill, I noted that among mainstream independent historians, consensus does not exist at this time as to whether the events of 1944 constitute genocide. Let me be clear that what was done to the Tatars in Crimea in 1944 is a crime of abominable dimensions. Certainly the NDP will be supporting the bill.

My remarks should be interpreted more as a lament about process. It's a lament that we, the international community, do not have a less politicized way of determining what is and is not a genocide with respect to historical events. Parliaments are not the ideal places to determine such matters. This was in fact noted by Canada's current Minister of Foreign Affairs during another debate about genocide in this chamber last spring.

One curious thing I noted while reading the text of the bill is that it spends almost as much time enumerating the alleged crimes of the present day Russian Federation as it does those committed in 1944. In fact, much of the bill reads like an indictment of Vladimir Putin instead of Joseph Stalin, and this is unfortunate.

The scale of the forced expulsion of the Tatars of Crimea in 1944 was horrific, horrific enough to merit its own debate here. We should resist the urge to use a debate about a possible genocide that occurred in history as a pretext for a narrative against a regime we dislike in the present, no matter how awful that regime may be. The victims of 1944 deserve better. Their descendants deserve better. So let us take a moment and look at the history.

In April of 1944, Soviet forces regained control of Crimea from its German occupiers, who had controlled it for two and a half years. The re-conquest was hardly completed when the Crimean Tatars were deported en masse on the largely false accusation of having collectively collaborated with the Nazis. In a matter of three days, approximately 180,014 Crimean Tatars were deported from the peninsula. Adjusting for natural deaths, historian Michael Rywkin calculates that roughly 42,000 Crimean Tatars perished by May of 1949 as a result of the deportation. Other historians place the number considerably higher.

Social anthropologist, Greta Uehling, has stated this about Stalin's actions:

The systematic erasure of the Crimean Tatars was holistic in nature. Crimean Tatar place names were changed to Soviet ones; mosques were turned into movie theatres (or worse); homes, livestock and gardens were given away; and mention of Crimean Tatars was deleted or abbreviated in reference works. Crimean Tatars were not allowed to reside in, or speak of, their homeland. It wasn’t even possible to preserve a Crimean Tatar identity in personal documents.

Due to the sweeping nature of this ethnic cleansing, the remnants of the dispersed population are not considered a diaspora, but a population in exile.

In fact, the term sürgün is used by the Crimean Tatars to refer to the deportation. It means “expulsion” as well as “exil” in Turkish. By extension, sürgün refers to violent expulsion and the prolonged exile. Since 1944, the sürgün is at the centre of the Crimean Tatar's collective life and, consequently, central to their identity as Crimean Tatars.

In more recent times, the Tatars of the Crimea have almost uniformly opposed the Russian Federation's annexation of the Crimea in 2014. Since this time, according to Amnesty International, Crimean Tatars have faced repressive measures, from media outlets being shuttered, to activists being arrested, and disappeared. Tatars have not been allowed to publicly commemorate the day of remembrance of the deportation.

In April of this year, and confirmed by their court in September, Russia banned the Mejlis, the Crimean Tatar assembly, accusing it of extremism. As a result, anyone involved in one of the more than 250 local mejlis across Crimea risks arrest.

For Tatars, these circumstances are understandably associated with the events of 1944. Indeed, in the minds of Tatars of Crimea, a straight line can be drawn from today, all the way back to Catherine the Great's takeover of the peninsula in 1783.

Sadly, relations between the Crimean Tatars and the rest of Ukraine have been less than ideal through the years. One could even describe them as tense. It is striking to me that though the Ukraine was an independent state for 23 years prior to Russia's annexation of the Crimea in 2014, it made no effort over this time to formally recognize the 1944 ethnic cleansing as a genocide.

Better late than never, I suppose, because politics is politics.

To conclude, let me clearly stress once again: USSR dictator Joseph Stalin's forced expulsion of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 was one of the more heinous criminal acts committed during a century brimming with such crimes.

By my reading of article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, this—

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members' Business

November 4th, 2016 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure and an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-306. I have to thank my colleague, the member for Edmonton Griesbach for his hard work and research on the bill, and for the hard work that he has done with the Tatar community across Canada, and indeed even in Crimea.

It is unfortunate that these horrific events have occurred in history, but I think it is the responsibility of us as parliamentarians today to recognize these human rights abuses, to recognize these genocides, and to commit ourselves as parliamentarians to making sure that we are on the record in condemning those actions.

One of the greatest speakers to ever grace a Westminster parliament was Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

What we are doing in Bill C-306 today is looking at the atrocities that were committed and perpetrated by Joseph Stalin, NKVD, the Soviet Union, and all of their thugs in orchestrating this genocide against the Crimean people, but also relating it to how history is repeating itself today in the Crimean peninsula under the leadership of Vladimir Putin as he tries to systematically degrade and reduce the ethnicity of the indigenous people of Crimea, the Tatars.

I have had many opportunities to travel to Ukraine. I have had many opportunities to meet these great people, here in Canada and in Ukraine. The Tatars are just some of the gentlest, most beautiful people members could ever speak to. They represent no threat to anyone. They cherish what they have, yet through history, especially under Russian and Soviet rule, have been targeted and murdered through various acts carried out by Russia or the Soviet Union.

If we just want to look at what happened under Joseph Stalin and his Communist regime, it does not only include what happened in 1944. Shortly after the Bolshevik revolution, the Soviets denounced and refused to recognize the independent Republic of Crimea, of the Tatars. They then went out of their way to start using food as a weapon.

I am quite proud of the fact that this Parliament unanimously supported my private member's bill in 2008 to recognize the famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine and other areas of the Soviet Union, the Holodomor, as a genocide, and that we would have the last Saturday of every November as the national Holodomor Memorial Day.

It is very important that we recognize the fact that there was more than just the famine of 1932-33. There was the famine of 1920-21, 1932-33, and there was another one that was conducted around 1954. In the first two cases, the Holodomor of 1920-21 and 1932-33, the Crimean Tatars were targeted. They suffered greatly. In the Holodomor of 1932-33, where we saw roughly seven million people in and around Ukraine starve to death in about 15 months, what we witnessed on the peninsula and what has been clearly documented is that half the Crimean Tatar population were starved to death.

Their homes were raided and invaded. All their food stocks, all their farming livestock, all their produce that they had, anything that they had canned or put into storage was taken out of their homes, out of their villages, and they were forced to starve to death. It was a forced famine.

Let us move on to where we are today, looking at what happened in 1944. The mass deportation occurred in a time span of two days, when 32,000 NKVD agents of the Soviet Union loaded up every man, woman, and child and confiscated all their property. They put them into cattle cars, onto trains, and onto barges and deported them to gulags in Uzbekistan. More than 100,000 of them, almost 50%, starved on that journey. The rest were forced to work in forced labour camps in the gulags in Uzbekistan.

By every definition, that constitutes a genocide. Historians have written about this as being ethnic cleansing. This was targeted against the indigenous people of Crimea. They were targeted based on their religion. As was already noted in speeches today, the Russians took over their mosques and converted them into theatres. They took all their homes and handed them over to those who were faithful to the Bolsheviks and the Communist empire. Ultimately, what we have is a genocide.

Raphael Lemkin, the individual who coined the term “genocide”, lived through and witnessed the Holocaust, where he lost 49 of his own family. He witnessed the Holodomor and spoke about the Holodomor at great length and the Russification of the Ukrainian people, which was exactly what was happening in Crimea. That helped inform his opinion on what constitutes a genocide.

Raphael Lemkin, who was a Russian subject before the Holocaust, got out of Poland and with some family members in Lithuania was able to get to Sweden, and ultimately to America.

In article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1948, as authored by Lemkin, it says genocide is “killing”. There are different ways to look at it. It is being targeted because of one's “national, ethnical, racial, or religious group”.

We are talking about the Tatars. Their religion is Muslim. They were very much a minority based on their religion. Their ethnicity, being the indigenous people, was Tatar, and again, they were the minority in the region.

There are five main things.

Killing members of the group;

Well, they killed half of them.

Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

Picking up everybody, throwing them onto trains and barges, and moving them to Uzbekistan is causing mental and physical harm, especially when they were starved along way and their physical conditions were greatly diminished.

Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

That definitely was done by the Soviet Union.

There are two other parts, but as long as one of those five sections is met, and in this case, three out of the five are met, no one should question whether this was a genocide perpetrated by the Soviet Union.

We have to recognize the fact that history is repeating itself today in Crimea. What we see from Vladimir Putin and the Russian regime is a little more sensibility, as they have not gone out and just started shooting Tatars on the street, but many of them have actually had to leave the country, and as was mentioned, the leader of the Crimean people, Mustafa Dzhemilev, who is a member of parliament in Ukraine and who has been the president of the organization for the Crimeans there, has been forced into exile. We have seen that, also, with Refat Chubarov and other Crimean leaders.

The Russians went in and the first thing they did was shut down freedom of the press by shutting down the papers and radio stations. Then they shut down their political ability to work together at the Meijles, their parliament. That was closed. Then the Russians made sure that they could no longer even go to their mosques to gather.

There is no freedom of association, no freedom of political affiliation, and no freedom of religion.

We need to recognize that Vladimir Putin is trying, again, to repeat history. As Winston Churchill said, we have to make sure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. This is our opportunity to take a stand and make sure that we keep Russia in check and do not appease them. We have to stand up for the people of Crimea and the people of Ukraine.

Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act
Private Members' Business

November 4th, 2016 / 2:15 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North
Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House to speak. On this particular issue, there is a great deal of willingness to attempt to understand the situation. For me personally as someone who comes from Winnipeg, I appreciate that we have the Canadian Museum for Human Rights there. If members have the opportunity to visit this facility, they would see that the issue of genocide and a multitude of different types of human rights are well displayed. It is quickly becoming a world-class museum. It is one of the jewels that we have in Canada and it happens to be located, as a national museum, in the city of Winnipeg.

On issues of this nature, I can assure all members of the House and Canadians that we have a government that is truly listening and will continue to do so.

I rise in the House today to discuss Bill C-306,, an act to establish a Crimean Tatar deportation Sürgünlik memorial day.

On May 18 of every year, people around the world are reminded of the widespread suffering and exile inflicted on the Crimean Tatar population by the Soviet Union. Soviet oppression included the curtailment of Tatar cultural rights, the outright persecution of their intellectual class, and the deaths of thousands of Crimean Tatars as a result of sweeping purges and the collectivization of agriculture.

As a part of the widespread deportation that took place throughout the Soviet Union in the 1940s, the entire Crimean Tatar population, representing one-fifth of the entire population of Crimea, was forcibly expelled from the peninsula in 1944.

The deportation was undertaken as a form of collective punishment for alleged collaboration with the Nazis. Despite the fact that tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars had served in the Red Army and fought bravely against the Nazi occupation, in the three-day period between May 18 to 20, over 200,000 Crimean Tatars were given a mere 30 minutes to gather their loves ones and possessions before being loaded onto cattle cars, headed for central Asia, Siberia, and the Urals.

Tens of thousands would die en route, never to see their homes again. Those who survived the journey were faced with the prospects of forced labour, squalid living conditions, disease, and starvation as they began their new lives in these remote settings.

Owing to these conditions, large numbers of the Crimean Tatar population died both during transport and within the five years that immediately followed their resettlement. The great loss of life, disruption to their culture, and the denial of their return home was an atrocity that this government rightly condemns, and that we must never forget.

Somehow, exiled Crimean Tatars managed to build a life, but it was never complete, because it was culturally, spiritually, and emotionally disconnected from their homeland. Home remained Crimea and it remained as such in their hearts and minds, creating a renewed sense of national identity among the Crimean Tatars from their deep-seated connection to the Crimean peninsula.

In 1989, after nearly five decades, Crimean Tatars were finally allowed to return to their homeland, but the scars remain.

Stalin's actions in Crimea were an affront to the common human values we all share, the fundamental right to live free from persecution and to chart our own path in the world. These fundamental freedoms were denied to many, but few more brutally than the Crimean Tatars.

The world must never forget the tragedy that befell the Crimean Tatar population. That is why this government commemorated this day on May 18, 2016.

We fully support the creation of a memorial day for the Crimean Tatars. By recognizing this day, Canada pays tribute to the Crimean Tatars. We are reminded of the horrors they suffered, but also inspired by the indomitable will and the resilience they have demonstrated. Despite the unimaginable burdens inflicted, they persevered, and while they carry the burden of the past with them, they stand tall today and their culture thrives. They are unbroken, a people who demonstrate humanity's fortitude. They are an inspiration for all of us.

By acknowledging their tragedy, we also are reminded of the values we must fight to protect, the values robbed from them under the Soviet regime. Of particular note is respect for justice, and the need for rule of law. In a world where these values are increasingly under attack, they demand our protection. The only way we can deliver justice is to follow the very best standards of it. That is how we honour those who were viciously denied justice and how we demonstrate to today's despots our convictions, our principles, and our will.

Therefore, we must remember that when we look at the bill before us now, of course it is easy to issue a political declaration, but politicizing justice is not the answer, and it is not the Canadian way. Justice is not served when we presume to prejudge the outcome of a necessary and eventual investigative and judicial process. The victims of the Crimean Tatar deportation and their families deserve what was robbed from them, and that starts with the rule of law.

While we have various pieces of this tragedy, no independent international investigation has taken place into the events of 1944. The legal test to be met for genocide in international law is a high one and we support an investigation and the collection of evidence toward that determination. However, if we prejudge it now, we undermine the law. We can help repair what was taken only if we follow the legal path that was denied, which includes proving beyond a reasonable doubt that such atrocities were perpetrated as part of a campaign to destroy, in whole or in part, an identifiable national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.

We therefore take seriously the need to rely on factual historical evidence and expert determination on whether the deportation of Crimean Tatars meets the threshold for genocide as laid out in the 1948 genocide convention. For this reason, Canada, like our international partners, including the United States and the European Union, has opted over the years to mark this anniversary through official statements on the forced deportation.

Our government is committed to remembering this historical tragedy, and to protecting the rule of law. That is why when it comes to genocide, our government has sought the most rigorous application of the term according to the law. Horrifying situations such as this require a strong memorial and a testament to what was endured. Canada will do that. However, it is not for politicians, even with the best intentions, to change what is a uniquely legal term such as genocide.

Surviving Tatars and their families deserve the due diligence of a thorough investigation, done by an independent body. That is the proper way to make a determination of genocide. This approach is respectful both in preserving the integrity of the legal definition of genocide and to the historical memory and tragedy of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars.

Meanwhile, our government does not lose sight of the ongoing challenges facing the present day community of Crimean Tatars and of the responsibility of the international community, including Canada, to act in this regard.

Like the member opposite, I have had the opportunity to travel to Ukraine over the last little while, and one of the most touching moments I experienced was when I was in the city of Kiev and had a tour of the Holodomor museum. That is an issue I raised shortly after first being elected as the member of Parliament for Winnipeg North. I understand deeply why Canadians as a whole look abroad at some of the horrific actions that have been taken and made by governments.

I believe Canadians, as a whole, want a government that follows the rule of law, to make sure that what we are doing is right and just. We understand many of the things that have taken place and the importance of investigations. We understand there is a need to act. There is a little girl in front of the Holodomor museum in Kiev, and I am pleased that a replica of it is now in front of the Manitoba legislature.