OTTAWA (Combined Sources)–The Canadian Parliament on Wednesday ignored long-standing government policy and angered Turkey by formally declaring that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenia’s in 1915. The non-partisan vote was 153 for and 68 against. When the result of the vote was announced–the House of Commons chamber–packed with Armenia’s from Montreal–Ottawa–Toronto and other Canadian cities–burst in applause–shouting "bravo." Tears of joy could be seen in the eyes of many Armenia’s.
Motion M-380–which reads: "That this House acknowledges the Armenian genocide of 1915 and condemns this act as a crime against humanity," was moved by MP Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral and was seconded by MPs Sarkis Assadourian–Jason Kenney–and Alexa McDonough. Voting–which began at 6:15 PM–lasted 30 minutes.
The governing Liberal leadership paved the way for this vote by allowing a "free vote," meaning that individual members are allowed to vote their conscience–without any pressure or negative repercussions from their respective party leaderships. Although Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham used every means available to him to defeat the Motion–he was unable to change the historic outcome.
In the vote–several leading members of the Liberal Party–including parliamentary secretaries–voted in favor; however–no full cabinet minister voted against.
Aris Babikian–of the Armenian National Committee of Canada–pointed out that several key cabinet ministers–including Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and even Prime Minister Paul Martin–were absent for the vote.
"It’s a terrible double standard for Paul Martin to force his ministers to vote against it and not even show up himself," said Tory foreign affairs critic Stockwell Day. "That is a hypocritical double standard."
At a celebration party after Tuesday’s vote–Babikian said he owed this victory to his grandfather who "lost six brothers and sisters in the genocide" and "saw his own six-year-old sister burned to death."
On February 21–the Parliament held its first reading of Bill M-380–which included an hour of debate on the measure. Among those speaking in favor of the Resolution during the first reading were Derek Lee–Eleni Bakopnaos–Francine Lalonde–Stockwell Day–and the Hon. Lorne Nystrom.
The second reading of M-380–to recognize the Armenian Genocide–took place on April 20. During the one-hour debate–only one member of the House spoke against the motion. The other seven speakers were favored of the motion.
In the last two days–the Turkish Embassy and its public relations firms had launched a concerted campaign against the adoption of the bill. A delegation from the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) was on hand to counter the Turkish Embassy’s campaign of falsification and distortion of the historical facts. An ANCC team has been in the nation’s capital for the past several weeks representing the community’s views on this matter.
The passing of this resolution was the culmination of a 25 year process which encompassed similar resolutions being passed by city councils–provinces–and the Canadian Senate (July 13–2002).
Dr. Girair Basmadjian–president of the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC)–was elated by the result of the vote. "As an Armenian–I was moved and felt grateful for the respect that was shown by the Canadian Parliament to the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide. As a Canadian–I am proud that the House of Commons adopted this historic motion."
"This is a victory for truth and justice." stated Dr. Basmadjian.
"Implicated in this course of action for over two decades–the ANCC has constituted the driving force behind the process towards the adoption of this motion," commented Basmadjian. "The accomplishment of this task was made possible through the mobilization–as well as the implication of our grass roots members who made sure that all Members of Parliament were aware of the importance of this issue for our community."
The ANCC was actively involved in promoting the passing of the motion. For the last six months–the ANCC worked very closely with parliamentarians and foreign affairs critics of all the political parties represented in the House.
ANC of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian also lauded Canada’s lawmakers. "The Canadian Parliament–in rejecting intense Turkish government pressure–took an important step in further isolating Turkey for its shameful–international campaign of genocide denial."
The ANCC mailed a specially-prepared brief to all members of the House. The ANCC also mobilized the Canadian-Armenian community to counter the Turkish Government’s propaganda campaign through e-mails–postcards and telephone calls to parliamentarians.
Canada–a NATO ally–now joins a long list of nations including France–Italy–Greece–Switzerland and Russia which have recognized the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923.