Mr. Speaker, a couple of months ago we marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a great day that opened the door to democracy and human rights across Europe and beyond.
Today we mark a monumental anniversary of a different kind, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a word synonymous with the absolute worst of human behaviour.
Last week, the people of Azerbaijan marked a 25th anniversary of their own. Unfortunately, this was also for a terrible tragedy, one that came at the end of the Cold War. On January 19, 1990, in response to peaceful demonstrations in Baku calling for Azerbaijani independence, Soviet leaders sent in tanks and troops to viciously quell those gatherings. When the smoke cleared, 130 civilians had been killed and more than 700 more had been wounded. At the time, Human Rights Watch reported that “the violence used by the Soviet Army...was so out of proportion to the resistance offered by Azerbaijanis as to constitute an exercise in collective punishment.”
As chair of the Canada-Azerbaijan Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group, I have twice laid flowers for victims at the Martyrs' Alley memorial in Baku and heard first-hand accounts from Azari friends who were there that night.
This month, Canadians join with Azerbaijanis to remember those who died and recognize that, in the end, their sacrifices ultimately hastened the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War.
May they rest in peace.