That this House:
(a) join the members of the Canadian Armenian community in honouring the memory of the 1.5 million men, women and children who fell victim of the first genocide of the 20th century;
(b) condemn the genocide of the Armenians and all other acts of genocide committed during our century as the ultimate act of racial, religious and cultural intolerance;
(c) recognize the importance of remembering and learning from such dark chapters in human history to ensure that such crimes against humanity are not allowed to be repeated;
(d) condemn and prevent all attempts to use the passage of time to deny or distort the historical truth of the genocide of the Armenians and other acts of genocide committed during this century;
(e) designate April 24 of every year hereafter throughout Canada as a day of remembrance of the 1.5 million Armenians who fell victim to the first genocide of this century; and
(f) call on the Government of Canada officially to condemn the genocide of the Armenians and any attempts to deny such crimes against humanity.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the Armenian World Alliance for its inspiration to draft this motion as well as Mr. Haig Misakyan and Hratch Tourikian for their support and guidance; also, Mr. Aris Babikian of the Armenian National Federation and Apkar Mirakian of the Canadian Armenian National Committee for their continuous support.
The purpose of this motion is to give official Canadian recognition of the Armenian genocide which started April 24, 1915 and lasted until 1923, during which over 1.5 million Armenians were subjected to systematic extermination through a policy of deportation, torture, starvation and mostly massacre. I would like first of all, just so that we are clear on what is at the heart of this motion, to read the Oxford Dictionary definition of genocide which defines it as “the deliberate extermination of a race or nation”.
The facts of the Armenian genocide are well known and I will not take up the time of the House with a long list of historical references. I would, however, like to point out that this recognition of the death of 1.5 million victims is long overdue.
Parliament passed a motion with regard to this event in April 1996. The motion was, however, changed in a critical manner by dropping the word “genocide” and replacing it with the term “tragic event”. To my mind, the sinking of the Titanic and the great Halifax fire were tragic events. What happened was and is nothing other than genocide and to call it anything else is to deny its existence.
In March and April 1980 the Ontario legislature and the Quebec national assembly passed a resolution asking the Government of Canada to recognize and officially condemn this genocide and the atrocities committed the Ottoman government against the Armenian people. The United Nations recognized Armenian genocide in 1986 and the European parliament voted to recognize this genocide in 1987, as well as the Belgian, Greek, French and Australian parliaments.
I believe that the House made a mistake by trivializing this horrendous act of barbarism and I am disappointed that this motion was not made a votable motion so that the House could take the necessary steps to right this wrong once and for all.
The other section of my motion such as the designation of April 24 as a day of remembrance would I believe be most fitting under the circumstances and it would not involve making it a national holiday.
The condemnation of attempts to deny or distort what happened during the years of the genocide is to ensure that the Ernst Zundels of this world cannot refute what is fact.
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 be no resistance to this crime that was to be carried out over the next eight to twelve months.
As a result of this holocaust 1.5 million people were murdered and another 500,000 were deported from their homelands. As of now the crime remains unpunished.
We all know very well what happened to the Jewish population in World War II beginning in 1939. 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 out? Why do we have to wait until the numbers reached 1.5 million before we spoke out? Why can we not make our position known to everyone that this will not be tolerated?
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 February 15, 1999. I hope and pray this House will remember that the message of Adolf Hitler was wrong in 1939.
I and many members of the House have spoken against this genocide. We should continue to do that because it is very important to remember.
I would like to conclude with what has been a rather overused cliché but one I believe is apt under the circumstances, that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.
Let us not forget.