House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ceta.


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

5:30 p.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative 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 ActPrivate Members’ Business

5:40 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP 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 ActPrivate Members’ Business

5:45 p.m.

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


Pam Goldsmith-Jones LiberalParliamentary 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 ActPrivate Members’ Business

5:50 p.m.


Peter Kent Conservative 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, “ 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 ActPrivate Members’ Business

6 p.m.


Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal 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 ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Edmonton Griesbach has five minutes to reply.

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

6:10 p.m.


Kerry Diotte Conservative 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 ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Is there unanimous consent for the member to table the document?

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

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


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

6:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members



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

6:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those in favour will please say yea.

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

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


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

6:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those opposed will please say nay.

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

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


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

6:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Tuesday, December 13, 2016, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to stand up for the coast and ask the government about its oil spill response plans.

Along with my New Democrat British Columbia colleagues, we represent the waters that the 2013 tanker safety review identified as being one of the four areas in Canada with the highest probability of a large oil spill and one of the two areas in Canada with the highest potential impact of an oil spill. Therefore, it matters to us. It matters to our constituents and our economy.

Just last week, there was an alarming increase in oil tanker traffic approved by the government to go through these waters. It is bitumen oil tankers that will be moving through the Salish Sea. This is against the wishes of coastal first nations, local governments, and almost everybody on the coast who participated in the undermined regulatory reviews. It is all downside, no upside, for the coast and the increase in risk is tremendous.

I want to talk about that risk and what the government's plans are to accommodate it. A sevenfold increase in tanker traffic laden with bitumen means, inevitably, an increase in risk. The impact of bitumen is something that we are still learning about. It is an unrefined product, it is viscous, it is sticky, it needs a diluent in order for it to flow through pipelines, and the volatility of the diluted bitumen was identified in the Kalamazoo spill in the U.S. several years ago as being extremely volatile and having a big human impact.

Only two days after the spill happened, the diluents containing benzine, toluene, and micro polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons began gassing off in the area, causing symptoms such nausea, dizziness, and headaches among the local population. Oil spill expert Riki Ott spoke in my area. She was on the ground after the Exxon Valdez spill back in the 1980s. She reported that micro polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are major health hazards causing cancer, asthma, and hormone and reproductive problems by jamming immune system and DNA functions.

The risk is alarming to first responders, in particular, who might be first on the scene in the event of an accident and the impact on the physical environment is also something that we found had not been properly studied by the government. Vancouver's Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the Tsawout First Nations commissioned a study in 2015, saying “collecting and removing oil from the sea surface is a challenging, time-sensitive, and often ineffective process”. Even in the calmest conditions, it is very hard to control.

A 2013 study by Environment Canada said that spilled bitumen exposed to sediment in marine settings sinks and chemical dispersants tested on dilbit were not effective. In fact, they made the oil sink beneath the surface of the water, which made it even harder, of course, to recover.

I want to know the government's consideration of dilbit, how to clean it up in the marine environment, and how it was able to approve the Kinder Morgan tanker traffic expansion without being able to assure Canadians and the House that it actually has a plan in place to recover bitumen from the ocean when it, inevitably, spills.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

London West Ontario


Kate Young LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this government believes that economic growth and protecting the environment go hand in hand. Improving marine safety, including oil spill response, is a key part of the mandate the Prime Minister has given to the Minister of Transport.

Over the past year, the minister and his officials have been talking with Canadians across the country on how best to improve marine safety. Indigenous and coastal communities were engaged. We repeatedly heard that Canada had an excellent track record. We have a very robust and comprehensive marine safety system that protects Canadians and our coastal environments.

However, we also heard that there was always room for improvement and that there were real gaps in the system that needed to be addressed.

On November 7, the Prime Minister announced a $1.5 billion oceans protection plan, an ambitious nation-wide plan that will meet or exceed any international standards, and is supported by commitments to indigenous co-management, environmental protections, and science-based standards. Achieving a world-leading marine safety system for all of Canada's unique coasts is at the heart of the oceans protection plan. This means preventing accidents before they happen, and being prepared to respond to any of them with the adequate resources and authority.

We heard that communities, mariners and regulators needed transparent and high-quality information on marine traffic. We are moving forward with a commitment to get state-of-the-art information and tools in place, on the ground, equipment and systems to aid in navigating ships safely, and regulatory tools that give communities a direct say in the types of measures that should be in place in sensitive areas.

Our government has been developing a new approach to how we prepare for and respond to incidents and oil spills in particular. A risk-based and geographically-specific approach is one that replaces a one-size-fits-all system, and recognizes the unique factors that contribute to risk in a given area. That is why the minister will be formalizing a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia's north coast. This will provide the highest level of environmental protection for the Great Bear Rainforest and ensures British Columbia's northern coastline, which is integral to the livelihoods and cultures of indigenous and coastal communities, is protected and preserved.

The oceans protection plan makes a significant investment in protecting our coasts, while supporting a vibrant and beneficial marine trade, one that includes getting Canadian resources and products to markets overseas.

Over the next five years, investments of $1.5 billion will be made. Let me point out that this is an unprecedented amount of investment. Never has a government made such an investment in building a world-leading marine safety system, preserving and restoring marine ecosystems and working with indigenous communities and stakeholders to achieve it.

Under the oceans protection plan, our government will have the tools it needs to prevent accidents, and act in the event that they do happen. The Canadian Coast Guard will be bolstered with new tools and authorities, and we will ensure that polluters pay adequate compensation. Plus, we will have world-leading science to better inform prevention and response actions.

I would like to reiterate that this government has taken action where it counts. We can grow the economy and the middle class, while protecting the environment. We do not believe the two are mutually exclusive.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, in 2011, I asked Transport Canada to study bitumen when I was Islands Trust council chair. In 2013, Stephen Harper said, “We're going to study bitumen.” The only thing mentioned in the oceans protection plan that was announced last month was, “We are going to study bitumen in the marine environment and we're going to take five years to do it.”

How on earth could the government commit our community to a sevenfold increase in bitumen oil tanker traffic without having done the science? That is not an evidence-based decision.

When the National Academy of Sciences, commissioned by the Washington State government, came up with a study that said that bitumen in the oceans was a very dangerous thing for our region, the National Energy Board refused to hear the evidence, and the government broke its promise to redo the National Energy Board process. Therefore, we do not have access to the science.

We are very worried, and the government has not done its responsibility to look after our coasts.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Kate Young Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, as previously stated, our government believes that protecting Canada's coasts can go hand in hand with supporting the middle class and growing our economy.

Unprecedented investments are being made by this government in building a world-leading marine-safety system, preserving and restoring marine ecosystems while partnering in advancing co-management with indigenous and coastal communities.

We will change the way we prevent and respond to marine incidents for the better. We will address the long-standing issue of abandoned and wrecked vessels, and ensure that the polluter pays. That is a commitment we have made to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

The safety of the public and the protection of our environment are a priority. Moreover, we believe that Canada, as a trading nation, can get resources and products to market safely.

We have taken action, and the oceans protection plan will preserve our unique coastline for generations to come.

TransportAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to once again ask my question regarding the Vancouver Airport Authority and why it is not allowing Canadian catering companies to operate out of the airport.

The minister deferred his response at the time, committing to get back to me at a later date. I do respect that, but it was more than a month and a half ago and I am still waiting. I still have not got a response from the minister, either by correspondence or informally in the chamber, so I look forward to the response tonight.

Here is why this issue is so important. The CEO of Vancouver International Airport defended the airport's decision not to allow Canadian catering companies to operate in this manner by stating:

Vancouver Airport Authority decided not to permit additional in-flight caterers at YVR at this time for the purpose of maintaining healthy competition between the two full service caterers currently operating at the airport.

Quite frankly, only allowing two companies to operate is protectionism, and this protectionism is keeping Canadian-owned businesses out of the sector.

Vancouver Airport is a corporation under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and has entered into a ground lease with the Minister of Transport in order to operate. The Minister of Transport is responsible for appointing some of the airport's directors. He has the ability to act. He has the responsibility to make his thoughts on this matter known, and the airport must then listen.

I hope he will show leadership and not just sit on the sidelines and wait for a decision from the Competition Tribunal before declaring that what is going on at YVR is unnecessary anti-competitive behaviour. Will the minister act?

TransportAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

London West Ontario


Kate Young LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek for her question regarding the issue involving the Vancouver Airport Authority, and its decisions surrounding the granting of its operating licences.

Let me begin by outlining the operation of airports in Canada. The national airports policy, established in 1994, provides a framework that defines the federal government's role and the role of airport authorities with regard to airports.

Under that policy, the Government of Canada transferred responsibility for the management, operation, and development of Canada's major airports to the private sector. As a result, this created world-class airports at no cost to the middle class Canadian taxpayer.

Given this, let me point out that the Vancouver Airport Authority is a private, community-based, not-for-profit corporation. Therefore, according to the policy, it is the authority who is responsible for the management and operation of the Vancouver International Airport. This includes granting physical access to the airport.

Transport Canada is responsible for setting safety and security standards for all Canadian airports. This is done through policy setting, airport transfer agreements, airport certification, and regulation.

Second, let me further elaborate that the relationship between the Government of Canada and each individual airport authority is governed by a long-term ground lease agreement. Under the terms of the ground leases, airport authorities are fully responsible for the operation, management, and development of their respective airports.

Furthermore, the ground leases allow airport authorities to enter into subleases with third party tenants, without any involvement from the Government of Canada.

In summary, Transport Canada, in its role as landlord and regulator, is not involved in the day-to-day decision-making regarding the management and the operations of airports. That responsibility lies in the hands of the airport authorities.

Given its role, and the responsibilities of the airport authorities, as established by the national airports policy and ground leases, this government would not be a party to any dispute between airport authorities and their subtenants.

This matter, involving the Vancouver Airport Authority and its decisions related to the management of the Vancouver International Airport, has been referred to the Competition Tribunal. Because it is currently being adjudicated, I trust the member opposite can appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment publicly on the matter.

Having said that, I recognize the important role that airports play in their communities, and as facilitators of global connectivity and economic growth. However, we need to let the tribunal do its job, and allow the parties related to this case make their representations before the tribunal.

TransportAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, this is not about the Competition Tribunal making a decision. This is about Canadian owned companies not being allowed to operate at a major Canadian airport. I am surprised that I have not heard from the minister on this issue, since I raised it in October.

Once again, Transport Canada owns the airport. The Minister of Transport appoints a number of its directors. He does have the ability to act, to at least make an inquiry. He has the responsibility to make his thoughts on this known, and the airport must then at least respond.

When can we expect the minister to make a decision on whether or not he has anything to say about the Vancouver International Airport not allowing healthy competition that is in the best interests of travellers?

TransportAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Kate Young Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, under the 1994 national airports policy, the Government of Canada transferred responsibility for the management, operation, and development of Canada's major airports to private, not-for-profit, non-share, capital airport authorities. As such, airport authorities manage their own subleases, both their financial terms, and any lease or rental increases.

Transport Canada, as landlord and regulator, is not involved in an airport's day-to-day operations and decision-making. It would not be a party to any dispute between the airport and its subtenant. Given that this matter has been referred to the Competition Tribunal and is currently being adjudicated, it would be inappropriate to make further public comment.