That, in the opinion of this House, the government should designate the period from April 20 to 27 of each year as the week in which we commemorate the issue of man's inhumanity to his fellow man to remind Canadians that the use of genocide and violence as an instrument of national policy by any nation or group at any time is a crime against all mankind which must be condemned and not forgotten.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to present my motion to the House. The motion calls for designating the week of April 20 to 27 to commemorate the issue of man's inhumanity to his follow man.
I chose April 20 to 27 because April 19 and 20, 1939 was the beginning of the Holocaust committed by the Nazis against the Jewish population. April 27 was the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa which gave the South African population the right to vote; the one man, one vote concept.
I want to present to the House the definition of crimes against humanity. The first time this term was used was in the London Charter of 1945, the structure and basis for prosecution of major war crimes before the international tribunal at Nurnberg. Crime against humanity presents a distinct category of international crimes. Article 6(c) of the charter defines crimes against humanity as murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population before or during the war; or persecution on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of all in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the tribunal whether or not in violation of the domestic laws of the country where the crime was perpetrated.
I have personal experience with violence, genocide, deportation and the beginning of a new life. On many occasions, Mr. Speaker, you have spoken on this crime. I invited you down when I was working for the Armenian community in my home town of Toronto.
I will tell the House about my experience this year in July when I went to the Middle East for the first time since 1967 when I left. It was my intention to visit Der-zor where documentation shows that hundreds of thousands of people were deported from their ancestral homelands and driven to Der-zor and left there to die or were killed by the Ottoman Turkish soldiers at the time.
Even today when one goes there and puts a hand in the sand one has to go down only six inches to pick up the bones and remains of human beings. The river running through Der-zor is a very historical scene to Canadians of Armenian origin and many other Armenians living throughout the world because in that river we saw bodies floating in the same way we saw bodies floating last year in Rwanda. I saw that river, I walked in that river and I remember the past, 1915.
My personal experience with the holocaust of Armenian origin was in 1965 when I was only 17. I knew the extent of the holocaust that my ancestors went through. Since then and before that many other people went through the same crimes against humanity.
I regret to say that so far humanity has never brought a single person to justice. Even with what we saw last year in Rwanda, today there is not one single person accused of crimes against humanity. When will we take charge and outlaw this crime and punish them so they will not be able to repeat the crime and then enjoy the fruits of their crimes against humanity?
As I mentioned, April 24 was the beginning of the Armenian genocide committed by the Ottoman empire in 1915. On that day 300,000 intellectuals were rounded up from their houses and taken into the desert. The leadership of the community was taken so there would not be resistance to this crime that was to be carried on for the next eight to twelve months.
As a result of the holocaust 1.5 million people were murdered and another 500,000 were deported from their homelands. As of now the crime remains unpunished.
My motion calls for this not to be forgotten, but it never says not to be forgiven. Forgiveness has to come when those who committed the crime ask for forgiveness. They also should be ready to be forgiven because forgiveness is the nature of human
beings. We cannot forget because if we forget we are condemned to repeat it.
We all know very well what happened to the Jewish population in World War II beginning in 1939. Adolf Hitler had many excuses, but as far as I am concerned there is no good reason to commit violence or genocide in any shape or form. This cannot be comprehended by an ordinary person. There is no reason to commit, especially in this case, crimes against humanity.
The world was silent. It stood silent while six million Jews were slaughtered. Nobody said a word until the war was over. Why did we have to wait until the number reached six million before we spoke up? Why did we have to wait until the numbers reached 1.5 million before we spoke up? Why can we not make our position known to everybody that this will not be tolerated?
In 1975 in Cambodia in a city of three million, two million were wiped out. We did not say a single word. The UN did not act in any way. Is this the way to treat criminals? We cannot tolerate this forever.
Today in Yugoslavia UNHCR estimates that more than 100,000 Bosnians were massacred and 300,000 were deported. Again, there is not a single international tribunal to punish those who commit these crimes so they will not be repeated.
I spoke earlier about Rwanda. We had discussions about whether to send our troops to Rwanda for peacekeeping. I stated in response to a member of the opposition that we should have discussed this issue further.
In two weeks half a million people were killed. Technology has advanced so much that half a million people can be killed in two weeks and yet we in this country and other countries sit back and ask what to do next. I propose we do something about it now. Let us declare the week of April 20-27 the week of man's inhumanity to his fellow man so we can educate the younger generation that crimes against humanity must be punished. There is no escape when a crime is committed, be it a small or a large crime.
Even today violence is taking place in the Middle East. Yesterday a three-year old child was killed for no reason. Who will stand up and condemn this violence against innocent people?
In 1939 when Adolf Hitler was giving his orders to SS units to slaughter the Jewish population, he said: "Who remembers the extermination of the Armenian people today?" That was on August 9, 1939. Today is April 3, 1995 and I hope and pray the House will remember the message of Adolf Hitler was wrong in 1939. A continuation of this cannot be tolerated.
Many ministers of the government and members of Parliament spoke against genocide in the past. I quote three of them. The hon. member for York West on April 24, 1985 in the House said: "Today the Armenian militia commemoration serves to remind us all in a profound way of the importance of fulfilling our commitment to human and minority rights".
The Deputy Prime Minister said: "It is not simply a question of a problem over there in a far away country. It is a question of human rights, not only for the Armenian community but for all communities".
For the last 25 years on April 24, I have demonstrated in front of the Parliament buildings along with many thousands of people. I and many members of the House have spoken against genocide. We should continue to do that because it is very important to remember. We have to ask ourselves what has happened over the last 25 years of protest, of demonstration and condemnation. The House was silent.
I call on the House to recognize these crimes against humanity and to make sure we know Hitler was wrong, that the world remembers and the House remembers.
Mr. Speaker, with the consent of the Chair and this House, I would like this motion to be a votable item if possible.