Mr. Speaker, it is with great sobriety that I stand in the House today to discuss the issue with regard to the ongoing conflict that is taking place with the Azeris going after the Armenians who reside within the Nagorno-Karabakh region. We are receiving news day by day of grave atrocities that are being committed at the hands of the Azeris. There are people who are starving. There are people who have lost their lives. There are people who desperately need medicine and are not being granted that. There are individuals who are separated from other loved ones because of this conflict.
This conflict, of course, has gone on for quite some time, but most recently its intensity has heightened to a significant extent. Therefore, it is with that heightened crisis that my colleagues and I stand in the House today and advocate on behalf of the people of Armenia for peace to be restored to the region. It is our belief that Canada, as a peacekeeper, does have an important role to play in a diplomatic regard, and so it is to that end that we stand today in this place and advocate.
The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in this region of Nagorno-Karabakh has a long history. Two major wars have been fought just within the last three decades, so it is not without its complications or many different angles to be considered. However, at the end of the day, the thing that must be accounted for is the fact that there are innocent people residing within this region who are being put in harm's way and being prevented from being able to access the necessities of life, and that must weigh heavily on the conscience of every single member of Parliament.
I had the opportunity to travel to Armenia in 2017 and to see first-hand some of the conflict that has taken place in the past and that is taking place now. Of course, in 2017, things were very different than they are now. I would never dream of going into this particular region at this point in time, but when I went in 2017, there was certainly a military presence, both from the Armenian side and from the Azerbaijan side, and I had the opportunity to actually walk that military line and see the separation, the topography and geography, and how this is all situated.
More important, I not only had the opportunity to see that, but I had the opportunity to visit with the people of the region and to hear their stories of wanting to preserve their language, their way of life and their culture, and wanting to be respected for that. I heard the stories of people who have gone through one atrocity after another and who have been proponents of peace. Unfortunately, the other side, Azerbaijan, does not want to grant that to them, so those folks who live within the specific region of Nagorno-Karabakh are forever living in this place of unsettledness, unrest and fear.
During my time there, I had the opportunity to go into several homes. These were not homes where people were living; they were actually homes that had been vacated. The reason they had been vacated was that they were on the line where war had taken place. I can remember explicitly walking into one home and there were actually pictures hanging on the wall. There were two photographs that caught my attention, and there were actually a couple of drawings done by children; they were coloured in. It was evident that a family had lived here. There were beds with old mattresses and there were still a few plates and different necessities within the kitchen. Other than that, it was largely vacated. As I wandered through the home, I entered into one room where there was actually a bloodstain on the floor and blood spatter on the wall, which was stained there. I asked my guide what had taken place and he went on to tell me that there was in fact a family that had lived in this home and this family was actually attacked. They were an innocent civilian family, but unfortunately resided in a region that Azerbaijan wanted to control.
As a result of that, life was lost. As a result of that, a house was turned into wreckage. As a result of that, the remaining individuals within this family who survived the attack, though there was loss of life, were displaced and moved into another region of Armenia where they would be safer.
For these folks to live in this type of upheaval, to live in this type of fear and to exist in such a state, is not okay. For Canada to stand idle and remain quiet on this matter is also not okay. We cannot find ourselves silent. If we do, I fear that we are then perhaps siding with the enemy.
It is important for us to speak out on behalf of those individuals who are innocent and on behalf of those individuals who simply want to live a good live, preserve their language, culture and way of being, and be respected and honoured within their historic homeland. That right is currently being robbed from them.
There was a peace agreement that came about. In fact, there was a peace agreement, but then it was called off, and then there was another peace agreement, but that was called off. This is the history of the region. What is so grave about what is taking place right now is the fact that Azerbaijan is going into this region and attacking innocent civilians. Azerbaijan has blocked access to necessities such as food, medicine and the movement of people.
The reason this matters is because these individuals are not there taking up weapons of war. Rather, they are simply trying to exist and live a peaceful life. They want their children to go to school. They want to own businesses and to be able to pay their bills. They want to be able to sow seed into the ground and reap a harvest. These are normal individuals who are looking to live life, but due to the disruptions within the region and the attacks coming from Azerbaijan, these folks are being put in peril's way.
Again, I would plead with the House that, sure, Canada could just sit on its hands, allow for this to transpire, allow for the loss of life to take place and allow for these folks to no longer be able to enjoy life, or the House could make a statement to advocate for these individuals and advocate that their freedom be restored and their homelands be honoured.
Of course, I am advocating that we do this in a very diplomatic way, but nevertheless, diplomacy and inaction are not the same thing. They are not synonymous. I would argue that right now, Canada is simply existing in a realm of inaction, but we have an opportunity to change course. My fear is that, if we do not do something, we will have a repeat of what happened 107 years ago when the Armenian people found themselves at the hands of a genocide.
We are already being warned by experts that this is where this is going. This is headed in the direction of annihilating a people group, which is genocide. Based on that evidence, based on those experts who are taking intel from the ground and feeding it to us at the House of Commons, I would plead with those in this place that now is the time to act. We should not allow for loss of life to ensue so much so that we are finally compelled to act, but rather out of a place of deep love, respect and honour, out of a desire for peace, and out of honour for our legacy as a country that is known for peacekeeping and peacemaking.
I would plead with those in the House that we agree to take action and that we agree to engaging in diplomatic conversations about what it takes to establish peace. I would ask that the House go so far as to consider sanctions because action must be taken. Innocent lives are at risk, and Canada does not stand for that.