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.