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Colombie Britannique au Canada reconnaît le Génocide

 
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GENOCIDE
La province de Colombie Britannique au Canada reconnaît le génocide des Arméniens

mercredi 5 avril 2006, Stéphane/armenews




L’Assemblée législative de la province de Colombie Britannique a adopté lundi 3 avril dans la matinée à l’unanimité la résolution 59 reconnaissant le génocide des Arméniens et faisant du 24 avril de chaque année un jour de souvenir pour les 1,5 millions d’Arméniens qui sont tombés en tant que victime du premier génocide du 20ème siècle. La discussion sur la résolution a été initiée par Adrian DIX.

Le directeur exécutif du Comité national arménien du Canada Aris Babkian, au nom de la communauté arménienne du Canada a déclaré « ceci est un jour historique pour notre communauté au Canada et en Colombie Britannique. L’appui immuable et le vote unanime des membres de l’Assemblée législative démontrent de nouveau que la politique de négation du gouvernement turc et la réécriture de l’histoire ne réussiront pas ».

Motion 59 texte 59 - qu’il soit acté que cette Maison reconnaît le génocide des Arméniens comme un crime contre l’humanité. Qu’il soit encore plus acté que cette Maison recommande vivement au gouvernement de désigner le 24 avril de chaque année comme un jour du souvenir pour les 1,5 millions d’Arméniens qui sont tombés en victimes du premier génocide du 20ème siècle.

L’Assemblée législative de la Colombie Britannique siège à Victoria. Les membres de la 38e législature furent élus lors de l’élection provinciale du 17 mai 2005. Deux partis politiques y sont représentés : le Parti libéral de la Colombie Britannique, qui détient une majorité parlementaire et forme le gouvernement provincial de la Colombie-Britannique, et le Nouveau parti démocratique de la Colombie Britannique, qui forme l’opposition officielle.

Texte des débats

http://www.legis.gov.bc.ca/hansard/38th2nd/H60403x.htm

Introductions by Members

A. Dix : I wanted to introduce members of the Armenian national community and the Armenian Canadian community of British Columbia, who are in the galleries with us today. Armenek Kananah Deragopian ; Vahi and Laura Andonian ; Victor and Sonya Petrosian ; Eli Papasian ; and a friend of mine for 36 years or so, Jack Taragopian.

Hon. C. Richmond : I call private members’ Motion 59.

Deputy Speaker : Hon. members, unanimous consent of the House is required to proceed with Motion 59 without disturbing the priorities of the motions preceding it on the order paper.

Leave granted.

Motions on Notice

ARMENIAN GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE

A. Dix : I wanted to start this debate and thank members in the House on both sides for participating in the debate by reading the motion. It states : [Be it resolved that this House recognize the genocide of the Armenians as a crime against humanity. Be it further resolved that this House urge the BC government to designate April 24th of every year hereafter throughout BC as a day of remembrance for the 1.5 million Armenians who fell victim to the first genocide of the 20th Century.] I introduced in the galleries today some members of the Armenian Canadian community in British Columbia. I think what is true of them is true of all members of that community : that the Armenian genocide that took place between 1915 and 1923 has profoundly affected virtually every single member of that community.

Armenek Deragopian, who is with us today, when I was doing some journalism work on this question, talked about his memory, which is typical of so many. He described to me his family history. He said : My father’s family was massacred - about 16 people. My father survived because he was working in Egypt at the time of World War I and was unable to return back to his home region. My mother managed to escape, but much of her family was massacred as well. Her father was orphaned. Her mother managed to escape to Egypt with her grandmother. Of the 300,000 people, Armenians, in my father’s region, only an estimated 10,000 people survived.

That memory and the memory which I think is felt by, as I said, virtually every family - every family that I’ve met in the Armenian Canadian community can tell a similar story - speaks, I think, to the importance of this motion and speaks to the importance for all of us of historical memory, of acknowledging historical truth and fighting its denial every day and in every way we can.

On April 24, 1915, probably one of the most significant, certainly one of the most tragic, days of the 20th century the century just past - some 2,300 Armenian community leaders and intellectuals were rounded up and killed. That was the start of what would be known as the Armenian genocide, and the scope of the horror perpetrated at that time of the Ottoman empire is virtually impossible to comprehend - 1.5 million people killed in eight years because of who they were.

State policies of deportation, torture, massacre and starvation. Systematic state policies. To quote Talad Pasha, who was the interior minister of the state at the time - and he sent this message out to a governor in Aleppo - he said : "You have already been informed that the government has decided to destroy completely all the indicated persons living in Turkey. Their existence must be terminated, however tragic the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex or to any scruples of conscience." [1105] Caves were used as primitive gas chambers. At placed such as the Hill of Margoda, people who had been marched and were starving were tied together in lines and pushed off a hill into a river. One of them was shot in order to drag the rest down to their deaths. Many H017/dot/1105 were tied together. People, who had been marched and were starving, were tied together in lines and pushed off a hill into a river. One of them was shot in order to drag the rest down to their deaths.

Many of us know the stories of railway routes to Dachau and Auschwitz. Fewer of us, I think, know the route that Armenians often travelled from Moush to Kirkuk to Mosul or from Sivas to Malstya and on Eletga.

Madam Speaker, genocide is defined in international law as the organized killing of people for the express purpose of putting an end to their collective existence. Well, prior to World War I, there were 2.5 million Armenians in what was the Ottoman Empire, and virtually the entire population was expunged.

It’s the links between this genocide, this awful event, and other genocides of the 20th century that are well-known and profound. Indeed, the person who campaigned to have genocide defined at the UN, Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew who escaped Poland in 1941, in defining genocide, spoke not just of what had happened to the Jews of Europe but of "The slaughter of Armenians in World War I."

There is simply an avalanche of evidence about the Armenian genocide - from eyewitness reports to comprehensive inquiries. Many of our newspapers, from our newspapers here in British Columbia and across Canada, spoke of it at the time. Yet, there has been a fairly systematic effort over the years - partly driven by successor governments to the Ottoman Empire, and partly driven by the fact that history tends to reward those who win wars and not those who are the victims of wars - to deny that this genocide ever happened. That denial of genocide - as I think many people have said in reference to other genocides that have occurred - tends to reshape history and to kill people a second time, to demonize the dead and not those responsible.

So that’s why it’s important today, and why it’s important for this House today, I think, to raise this issue of the Armenian genocide and to remind people of its importance to our history, first of all, I think, to value the members of the Armenian-Canadian community in our province, in our country and Armenians around the world, because to have gone through or for families to have gone through such horror leaves not just an enormous legacy, an incomprehensible legacy of pain and death, but a legacy of pain and death for generations to come - both psychological and personal - that must be validated. And those who wish to deny its existence must be fought, for that reason, and those who say that to raise these issues makes it harder for people to reconcile today fail to understand that the first place we need to go for reconciliation is the truth. When the regime changed in South Africa, they created what was called the Truth in Reconciliation Commission on those grounds - that only in knowing the truth can we find reconciliation. That’s why countries around the world and provinces and jurisdictions such as Ontario and Quebec in Canada have recognized the Armenian genocide, and it is our responsibility, as well, to do so and to teach it as part of history, and our history in classrooms across British Columbia.

But it’s not just that. There is, of course, a famous quote that’s become almost cliché, about history forgotten being doomed to repeat itself. But people will know and people ought to know, repeatedly, repeatedly in the 1920s and 1930s Adolf Hitler referred to the Armenian genocide. He said, famously, on the eve of invading Poland, to his generals : "Who remembers the destruction of the Armenians ?" Who remembers, indeed ?

Partly, I think, in raising these issues and continuing to these raise issues, we are attacking that view that people can be expunged from history, because when people are expunged from history other people will believe that such actions are without consequences, and surely that cannot be. [1110]

Finally, I think, we have a special reason, because I want to give way to other people. There are many members who wish to have the opportunity to speak today, and I don’t want to give a long speech. But we have special reason this year, I think, to recognize H018/hbw/1110

I want to give way to other people. There are many members who wish to have the opportunity to speak today, and I don’t want to give a long speech. But we have a special reason this year, I think, to recognize the Armenian genocide, in particular.

I want to talk about two people who lived in British Columbia and who were part of our community. The first is Arpin Krikorian, who was an elegant and vibrant lady involved in many aspects of the Armenian community : cultural events, relief society, helping out young students. Arpin never spoke of how she lost her entire family at a young age, eventually being sent from her Armenian village in Turkey to an orphanage in Alexandria, Egypt. She grew up without any family but was surrounded by a strong Armenian community there, almost all of them genocide survivors. In 1993, no longer able to care for herself, she went to a nursing home in Vancouver, where she lived out the final 12 years of her life. Towards the end, she would relive the horrors of the genocide with chilling, vivid nightmares from her childhood that no one could protect her from.

Kerop Shabanian, another member of the Armenian-Canadian community here in British Columbia, was born in 1912 in the village of Geuldagh. He had a very difficult life, having lost many family members. During an interview in 2004 he said : "One day my brother and sister were taken, and I never saw them again. Then my mother and I were taken with others in a group and made to walk in the desert. Others had walked that trail before us, as I saw their skeletons there. There were only women and children with us."

Mr. Shabanian arrived in Canada with his son and daughter-in-law, first living in Montreal before moving to Richmond. Though hard of hearing and having poor vision later in life, he would attend every April 24th genocide commemoration, sitting near the back of the hall so as not to draw attention to himself. Invariably, emotions would get the better of him, and he would stand up in his frail body and offer a few touching words to the assembled crowd.

During this year’s 91st commemoration, Kerop’s seat will be empty. Kerop and Arpin both passed away last year, and they are the last known survivors of the Armenian genocide who lived in British Columbia. Their legacy, and one of the reasons it’s so important to pass this motion today and support this motion today, is that, with them gone, it’s up to us now - their families and the Armenian-Canadian community, yes, but the entire British Columbia community to acknowledge their suffering and this suffering.

In order to build a better future for all of us, we must recognize this and fight injustice. Surely the recognition of the Armenian genocide by this Legislature today will play a small role in helping respond to that injustice.

R. Hawes : I rise today to thank the member for bringing this motion and to support the motion. I do not have in my family history anything like what happened to the Armenian people. It’s very, very difficult for one who hasn’t got that kind of ancestral history to really understand the feelings of the people who do live with this every day, who carry forward these memories of events that took place, for some, so long ago - almost 90 years ago. It’s very difficult to imagine how those people feel, how the Armenian people feel.

It’s very difficult to put yourself in the shoes of the survivors of the holocaust and of their families and how they feel, unless you’re a member of one of those families. It’s very difficult, but yet I know that for them every day the scars of those memories, the scars of what happened to their ancestors carries on, and it’s a never-ending pain. I’m thankful that the member brought it forward in the way he did. [1115] This century has been marked with many, many tragic and horrendous events. Man’s inhumanity against man carries on daily on this planet, and we don’t stop anywhere near often enough to consider how this could possibly happen in today’s world. We don’t look at what happened yesterday and recognize that the events of yesterday, the events that are happening today all H019/tsw/1115 often enough to consider how this could possibly happen in today’s world. We don’t look at what happened yesterday and recognize that the events of yesterday, the events that are happening today, all need to be recognized by all of us in order for us to somehow bring all of this to a stop.

I think about Rwanda and Somalia and what happened in Iraq. There are so many places in the world where there have been tragic events - genocide. The Armenian genocide is not one that comes to everyone’s lips, that doesn’t come to everyone’s memory, that very little is known about. I do concur with the member that there is a tremendous amount of effort spent trying to bury this as though nothing happened. To those members of the Armenian community.... They know something did happen. Something tragic happened. It is important that we recognize and share their pain and that April 24 is a day of significance I would like to think of April 24 as a day where we don’t just talk about the Armenian genocide but we talk about man’s inhumanity to man - that we remember that there have been these events which happened over history that we stand against, and we unite against any further events like this.

I am pleased to be able to stand up and support this motion. My heart does go out to those members of the Armenian community who are here today, and that, I know, wanted to be here and couldn’t be here. My heart goes out to those who suffered from 1915 through 1923. You can only imagine the kinds of horrible, horrible pain that they suffered.

I think all of us need to reflect on what’s happening in the world and how we treat our fellow man. This is as good a place as any to make that kind of remembrance begin for all of us. So thank you to the member ; I will be supporting this motion, and I look forward to hearing what others have to say about it.

L. Krog : Firstly, I want to thank the member for Vancouver-Kingsway for putting this motion before the House today. I was moved by the remarks by the member for Maple Ridge-Mission when he talked about trying to contemplate and relate to this.

Here in the security of our society where none of us fear being taken away in the night, where we don’t fear persecution because of our ethnicity - and I mean persecution in the real sense ; we face discrimination in our society, but no persecution - it is hard to contemplate these events. But these events have happened throughout history. They have happened in countries that one would not have thought possible. We know when this long pattern, commencing in 1915, began that the Armenians were herded up, deported, marched - obviously with the intention of killing them along the way.

It reminded me of what is known in American history as the trail of tears. In the 1830s the American government decided to remove the Cherokee peoples so that others could occupy their lands, and that time, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in favour of the Cherokee. The response of Andrew Jackson, the American president at the time, was that the Chief Justice has made his decision ; let him enforce it. At that time, America was the great beacon of democracy for the world.

The Germany that commenced the Holocaust - the deliberate annihilation of European Jewry, of homosexuals, of those who were handicapped and disabled - the Germany of its time was probably the most progressive nation in the face of the earth in terms of its social policy with pensions and unemployment insurance and things that we take for granted today.

Some of you may wonder where I’m going with this. I’m moving a little through history.

[1120]

In this country when a similar motion came to vote in the Parliament of Canada - probably the most favoured nation on the face of the earth today, in my view, and it’s a view I’m sure many members share with me - the motion read that this House acknowledges the Armenian genocide of 1915 and H020/hlg/1120 probably the most favoured nation on the face of the earth today, in my view, and it’s a view I’m sure many members share with me. The motion read : "That this House acknowledges the Armenian genocide of 1915 and condemns this act as a crime against humanity." That was just over a year ago, the Parliament of Canada. One hundred fifty-three voted for it, and unbelievably, 68 members of Canada’s parliament voted against that motion. They voted against it, I suspect, because they didn’t wish to offend the Turkish government. They voted, I suspect, because perhaps they had a Turkish population in their own constituencies or ridings. Who knows what the reasons were ? But what I can say with some conviction here this morning is whatever the reasons were, they weren’t good enough to vote against a motion that I would hope and suspect every member of this House here in British Columbia will support this morning.

If we are to move forward, if we are to provide a beacon of hope to those around the world who suffer under totalitarian regimes today, then surely, surely here this morning we can pass this motion. That’s all we’re being asked to do - simply to acknowledge the deaths of one-and-a-half-million people who were murdered just because, as the member for Vancouver-Kingsway put it, of who they were.

I don’t think it’s much to ask. I’m honoured to be able to stand here this morning and speak in favour of it in this chamber. I hope that all of the members of this House will support this motion, because there are one-and-a-half-million souls who I think deserve the peace, if you will, the comfort, the acknowledgement of their memory and their deaths. They deserve our support, our acknowledgement this morning.

It’s a precious small thing to ask, and maybe by passage of this motion today, we acknowledge a shameful piece of history and we will perhaps persuade the Turkish government to do what it must do, what it will have to do if it is truly to join the ranks of modern nations : that is acknowledge its own past, as we in Canada have acknowledged from time to time our own misdoings, our own wrongful acts, whether it was the deportation of Japanese-Canadians from the coast into internment camps, where even to this day we can’t bring ourselves to acknowledge the horror of the head tax.

I’m hopeful that by passage of this motion today, we will somehow recognize our own participation in things that were racist, because what happened in Turkey with the murder of one-and-a-half million people over time was certainly more horrific than the sins we have committed here. So let us pay honour this morning to those who passed and pay honour to the Turkish community, the Armenian community, who has called upon the Turkish government for decades to acknowledge what they did. Let us begin the reconciliation in British Columbia here. Let us pay honour to those last two survivors who passed away last year that the member for Vancouver-Kingsway referred to. It’s not too much to ask.

J. Nuraney : I, too, rise to speak on the motion presented by the member for Vancouver-Kingsway. Our history, unfortunately, is studded by atrocities and forms of genocide. Genocide is defined by the Convention on the Prevention of Punishment of the Crime of Genocide by the United Nations as an act committed to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. The term genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Jewish scholar, after the Holocaust committed by the Nazi regime during World War II. [1125]

In today’s context this definition has assumed a broader meaning to include acts aimed at destroying the culture and livelihood of groups. As we stand today to condemn such acts of inhumanity we must also be aware of the recent and and livelihood of groups.

As we stand today to condemn such acts of inhumanity, we must also be aware of the recent and ongoing acts of genocide that are taking place in our times. I’m referring to the acts being committed in Darfur in Sudan right before our eyes. Recent acts in countries like East Bengal, Cambodia, Iraq against the Kurds, and Bosnia and Rwanda are examples of genocides that took place in recent history. The world stood by shamefully with no attempt to preventing them.

We live in a time of unparalleled instances of democide, genocide and ethnocide. As we decry the acts that took place in Armenia some 90 years ago, let me submit to this House and to the nation at large that it is our solemn duty to do everything in our power to prevent such tragedies from happening on our earth. I will end my remarks with a quote from the Koran, the holy book of the Muslims, which says that to save a life is to save humanity and that to destroy a life is to destroy humanity.

M. Sather : It indeed does give me pleasure, as well, to rise to speak in favour of this motion to recognize the Armenian genocide. I met with a small delegation of local Armenian folks last year with regard to this issue, and I must say, to my embarrassment, that I was not aware of this genocide. That is in itself remarkable - that we are not, some of us, aware of the first genocide in the 20th century. But it does speak, surely, to the fact that it has been hidden far too long and that governments are taking action around the world to recognize the necessity of addressing that wrong. We’re here today to start that process as well.

That tragedy, as we know, occurred between 1915 and 1923, during the First World War and began on the night of April 24, 1915, when 254 Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul were arrested and murdered as part of the Ottoman Empire’s so-called final solution and thus the date we seek to honour today.

The member for Vancouver-Kingsway mentioned earlier about Hitler’s references to the forgetting of the Armenian genocide and, truly, that speaks to the absolute necessity for us as peoples of the world to remember horrific acts that have happened. Of course, we all bear some responsibility for our lack of action over these many decades, and it is, of course, an encouragement to the Turkish government to take responsibility for those acts that occurred at that time. It’s only through the taking of responsibility that reconciliation can happen.

[1130] Over 2,300 of the top Armenian leaders were murdered by the Ottoman Turkish government, and some one and a half million people, in all, fell victim to the genocide. When one reads the accounts, what happened is brutal beyond description. It’s hard for us to imagine thinking of this genocide or others - the annihilation of Jews during the Second World War in Germany and beyond.... We know H022/sea/1130 It’s hard for us to imagine, thinking of this genocide or others. The annihilation of Jews during the Second World War in Germany and beyond we know much better, of course, but it is hard to imagine those kinds of horrific acts being perpetrated on any individuals. The remembering of a death is very important ; the remembering of many, many deaths is that much more important.

The genocide began, also, actually, with some quarter million Armenian members of the Turkish army at the time being stripped of their positions and systematically eliminated, either at the time or shortly thereafter, with forced marches and the like that took place. It’s led to the Armenian heartland of Turkey, very sadly, now being virtually devoid of Armenians.

The whole issue certainly speaks to the tragedy that can happen over differences - differences of religion, differences of politics. We are indeed fortunate in this country that the political differences or other differences that we have, have not escalated to the point of violence, but I think we can never, as a democracy, either, take it for granted that something like this could never happen here. We must be vigilant. This is a way of, I think, stating our vigilance as well as speaking up for peoples past and present - the Armenian peoples. Thousands of those descendants of the atrocity now reside in Canada and British Columbia. As we just heard, only the last two original members have now departed us.

Madam Chair, I, too, want to close with supporting this motion, recognizing how important it is. Certainly, to the Armenian community it’s very, very significant. It’s been passed in Ottawa, and it’s time that we stand on board, as well, here in British Columbia and join Ontario and Quebec.

J. Yap : It’s my honour to also participate in this debate on this motion. I want to start by thanking the member for Vancouver-Kingsway for working on this and for bringing this motion forward.

As has been mentioned by every speaker this morning, this episode in history speaks to the inhumanity of man against man, inhumanity of people against people. While humankind is able to engage in and does engage in great acts of kindness and compassion, there is this other side to our human nature. With the terrible, terrible killings that occurred between 1915 and 1923, this was a dramatic example of that inhumanity.

I have to admit, along with other members, that really, individually, I didn’t know a lot about this terrible event. Thanks to this motion, I took the opportunity to learn more about this calamity in human history. It is one that is not unique. It is one, of course, that occurred at the early stages of the last century, but as has already been mentioned, we have seen many, many examples of man’s inhumanity. Specific ones include Cambodia ; Rwanda, of course ; Bosnia ; and Darfur, which is the most recent one that is happening on our watch as citizens of the world.

[1135] Madam Speaker, I think it is a testament to our blessings as our watch as citizens of the world.

I think it is a testament to our blessings as Canadians, as British Columbians, to be able to live in a society that is tolerant, that is respectful of differences between different communities and different cultures. We know that we live in a multicultural land here in Canada, in British Columbia. I believe that in Canada, we in British Columbia can really set the stage and really set an example for the world in how we deal with our differences, in how we respect each other, in how we tolerate each other and in how we can live in peace. The member for Nanaimo made this point as well, and I really appreciate that point. Our history is not without blemish, but on a scale of inhumanity we actually can take some solace at being a tolerant and peaceable nation.

There are, of course, many sides to an issue. In my research on this motion, I discovered that, of course, the people who speak out on behalf of the people of Turkey feel that there was another side to what happened those many years ago. What is not debated, though, is that many hundreds of thousands of people, even the Turkish people admit.... Hundreds of thousands of people - 600,000 people - perished that the people of Turkey admit, in their version of history. The number has been estimated as high as one and a half million, as has been mentioned. Whatever the number is, we do know that many hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million and a half people died. It appears that they died simply because of their culture, because of who they were. That, Madam Speaker, is an unspeakable tragedy on the scale of many that have happened, including the Holocaust of the Second World War.

I’m proud to be Canadian. I’m proud to be British Columbian, to be able to participate in the debate on this motion, and I support the motion. This is an opportunity for us as members of the Legislature in a democratic land to speak up, to say to the Turkish people and to the Armenian people that the time is now to start down the path of reconciliation. The people who were directly involved in this calamity 90-plus years ago are mostly gone. We heard that two living examples of survivors from the Holocaust passed away recently in British Columbia. Now it’s really about the future for the people of Turkey - and, more importantly, for the people of Armenia and all the people around the world, including in Canada, who have heritage from Armenia - to start down this path of reconciliation. If our efforts here in this House today can help along in a small way on this path to reconciliation, then all the better.

I’d like to close by saying that one of the reasons that each of us as members of this Legislature step up to become members of this House is to be able to talk about issues that sometimes can be very difficult. In this case we’re to debate a motion which really comes to the heart of what we all believe in : to ensure - just as we as Canadians and British Columbians enjoy justice, peace and harmony - that this is something that we can promote to all peoples of the world.

[1140] In respect to this motion, it’s my fervent hope that we as a Legislature add our voice to the people of Armenia and Turkey, to all the people with connections to Armenia and Turkey, that they start down this path to reconciliation.

H024/mcn/1140 Legislature add our voice to the people of Armenia and Turkey, to all the people with connections to Armenia and Turkey, that they start down this path of reconciliation.

J. Horgan : It’s a pleasure to stand in this place today to speak in favour of this motion brought forward by my friend and colleague, the member for Vancouver-Kingsway.

I always enjoy coming to work, but today was an especially enjoyable day. Both of my teenage sons, over the course of the weekend, were wondering - as I had piles of paper strewn about, as I was coming up to speed, as a historian, on an issue of historical significance that I, until this weekend, knew very little about.... My children said, “Well, what’s the deal, Dad ? What are you doing ? What’s going on ?” I recounted, for them, stories of horror and brutality that shook them to their very souls. As I went through the material, and as I discussed this issue with my colleague over the past number of days, it brought home for me - and I believe all members of this House - the importance of free people to protect freedom and to spread it wherever we can.

History is written every day. Today we get to participate, as British Columbians and as legislators in this place, in righting a wrong in a very small way ; 79 of us will have an opportunity at the noon hour to vote in favour of a motion that is courageous, but not near as courageous as those who are joining us in the gallery and their ancestors. The persecution over the past 90 years is profoundly disturbing.

I don’t want to take too much time because we have other speakers, and I want to be sure we vote on this motion today. My colleague from Burnaby-Willingdon inventoried some of the horrors in our recent past - in Bosnia, in Sudan and in Rwanda - and while our inhumanity to each other continues, we need to grasp humanity when we find it. Today we have that opportunity - to re-right, to correct a wrong - in a small way, as free people.

It’s all well and good for the state of Turkey to deny the murder of 1.5 million people. There are arguments that it was the transition from the Ottoman Empire to the new state of Turkey that led to a demonization of the victims. History is ripe with that sort of demonization. But that doesn’t make it any more correct. Denial must end before reconciliation can begin. In a small way we, as legislators in the province of British Columbia, can join with others around the world and other jurisdictions in Canada - in Quebec and in Ontario - to denounce the genocide of the Armenian people and to set aside a day, annually, that we can remember this tragedy.

As the Education critic, it’s particularly troubling for me to have two children that are studying world history now and to only be able to teach them about the Armenian tragedy through the Internet and through books that I bring home.

So to answer the question from a demon : “Who remembers the Armenians ?” From this day forward, let’s hope that all British Columbians will remember Armenians. I know that the people in my home - my sons, my spouse and myself - will always remember the tragedy of 90 years ago. I want to thank the member for Vancouver-Kingsway for bringing it graphically to my attention and to the members of this House and the people of British Columbia.

K. Krueger : I rise, of course, to support this motion. The 2001 census for British Columbia says that there were 1,505 people at that time in British Columbia whose mother tongue is Turkish, 900 whose mother tongue is Armenian. I thank God that I live in a province where people whose mother tongues are Turkish and Armenian and Mandarin and Cantonese and Japanese and Russian and German and.... In fact, you name a country around the world ; you can probably find British Columbians whose mother tongue is that country. I am so thankful that we live in the place that we do. But we can never take it for granted that it will remain the place we enjoy, unless we are resolved to keep it this way and make it better.

[1145]

Why do these terrible things happen ? Genocide - people attacking an entire people ? I’m a Christian. I’ve been a Christian all my life, and I’ve always wondered : how could the Crusades happen ? How could people go over and, in the name of Christ, kill other people ? People who worship a God who has said very clearly in the Bible that he hates H025/mem/1145

I’m a Christian. I’ve been a Christian all my life, and I’ve always wondered how the Crusades could happen. How could people -who worship a god who has said very clearly in the Bible that he hates three things above all others : a proud look, a lying tongue and feet swift to shed innocent blood - go over and, in the name of Christ, kill other people ?

My mother was a refugee. My mother’s family were Mennonites who had left Germany because they didn’t want to be drawn into the kaiser’s wars that they knew were coming. They were welcomed to Russia by Catherine the Great. They were industrious people who worked hard and built successful farms - my grandfather owned a flour mill that he built himself. They got rich in the Ukraine. The Communists hated them because of their ability to work hard and get rich. They were going to kill my mother’s family - they killed many Mennonites.

So the second time they’d seized all his possessions and it was really clear to my grandfather that his family was going to be wiped out, he got away with them and fled from Russia. My mother was just a baby at the time. It’s true that these genocides go on and on throughout history, and a number of them have happened just in the very recent past. To our shame, the world has not responded to them and isn’t responding to them.

There are Arab people who call themselves the Janjaweed wiping out black Africans in Darfur. Our famous general Roméo Dallaire came back a broken man from Rwanda from his awful experience in trying to stop a genocide there and seeing what happened. There was a genocide against his own people by a man named Pol Pot in Cambodia. I was sponsor of a World Vision little girl there, and I lost touch with her completely. I don’t know what happened to her.

When I was a youth, I felt terribly ashamed of my German roots, my German blood, because of my growing awareness of what Hitler did and what the Nazis did and how awful that was. I actually used to think when I was a young teenager, that perhaps I could get a total blood transfusion so that I wouldn’t have that blood in my veins anymore. But I could never do that because my father wasn’t a person who would ever have taken part in anything like that. In fact, he was the only son of his family, and there were a number of them, who volunteered to be in the Canadian army in the Second World War. He was so horrified at the thought of shooting anyone, even though he was the best shot in the family and in the military group he formed up with, that he pleaded to be allowed to be a stretcher bearer. So he was at Normandy at the D-Day invasion as a stretcher bearer, and he saw the mayhem around him and was horrified by it.

So those thoughts that started to form in me when I was a teenager about the shame of the inheritance that I had from my German extraction, I was eventually reconciled to by the fact that people can make a break from these awful things that have happened in their history. They don’t have to be loyal to that at all, while being loyal to their family.

[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]

I do not blame people of Turkish extraction of today for what happened to the Armenians. but I think that this motion is particularly good for British Columbia because it will establish a day where British Columbians - certainly a lot of them - think about this awful event, and we need to think about these things more because it could happen here. It can happen anywhere. There was an Olympics held in Yugoslavia. We’re looking forward to the Olympics in 2010. Olympics were held there, Sarajevo, not long before genocides were happening in Bosnia. We could name many days of the year as memorial days, and maybe we should.

This genocide started when World War I was only a year underway, and people called it "the war to end all wars", and they actually believed that it was. But this was happening and went on happening for another four years after that war - twice as long as the war that was supposed to end all wars. Wars don’t end genocides. What we have to do is attack the roots of genocide, and I say that the roots are racism and greed. Many times opportunists, racist opportunists, rise up at moments of opportunity and commit these crimes, because of their greed and their desire to own what their victims owned.

I’m thankful, as I said, for our multi-faceted and inclusive society. One day we had a citizenship ceremony on Canada Day in Kamloops, and I looked out at a sea of faces, new Canadians from all around the world, and this thought popped into my mind as I was making my remarks to them : it was Canada Day, and I said : "You’re Canada’s birthday present."

[1150] I’ve always thought of immigrants who become citizens since as birthday presents to Canada, whether it’s Canada Day or not when they take their oath.

H026/rxr/1150 remarks to them. It was Canada Day, and I said : "You’re Canada’s birthday present." I’ve always thought of immigrants who’ve become citizens since as birthday presents to Canada, whether it’s Canada Day or not, when they take their oath.

It’s wonderful to have a society that is inclusive, where a racist is a fringe person and knows it. Racism is to be shamed, and racists are to be shamed. I’m glad I live in a society where it is manifestly ridiculous to be a racist, because we live in something of a United Nations.

I’m very pleased that the member brought this motion that we will support. We will pass this motion, and we will have a day where we make sure that the Armenian genocide is remembered. Yesterday in the Times Colonist there was a headline, "Sectarian War Claims 14 Men Killed for a Name" - 14 men who were killed just because their name was Omar. This stuff is going on all around the world right now. I’m proud to stand against it with all of you.

M. Karagianis : I, too, rise to speak in support of this motion. I actually have an Irish history. That, indeed, is a history of economic genocide, and I am here because my ancestors in the mid-1800s fled poverty and starvation and came here as immigrants who didn’t even speak the English language. It’s been very difficult to even trace our heritage because of that kind of genocide. Whatever it was they were registering their information in, in Gaelic, we’ve been unable to trace.

It actually has given me a rich appreciation of the human condition around the world and the circumstances of genocide. I spent some time in the former Yugoslavia in 1978 to try and rescue some friends from that country before civil war struck, when Tito was dying. I watched with great sadness to what happened to that country and to my friends there in a subsequent genocide in Bosnia.

In the ’80s I did some business in Southeast Asia and at one point was on a plane with a complete planeload of Cambodian refugees escaping the horrors of their country. I remember the trip back from Southeast Asia with all of those people silent and terrified as they escaped what was happening to them in their country and ended up as refugees here.

More recently, of course, other speakers have referred to the genocide in Darfur. And of course we still have the ongoing occupation of Tibet and the genocide of the Tibetan people that occurs here in this world today.

One of the things I do know is that the root of the word "ignorance" comes from the word "to ignore." At any time in our history as human beings that we ignore the genocide of the past or the occupations and genocides that are occurring today in this world, we are all guilty of that. I think that Tibet and Darfur are living examples of the ignorance that government leaders and world leaders are participating in today.

I rise to speak in support of this motion because I think it’s really important for us to commemorate the Armenian history and the tragedy of the Armenian people. It is actually a commemoration for us all in all the genocides. Perhaps it will help us to think more and to take more action on situations like Darfur and Tibet, and to act on that.

I thank the member for bringing this motion forward and urge everyone in this House not only to support this but to think about how you can act and react to all the genocides going on all over the world - even now as we speak in this House.

D. Hayer : I, too, want to express my deepest sorrow for the great tragedy that struck the Armenian people in 1915. I had a meeting with the members of the Armenian community in my Surrey-Tynehead community office last year, who explained to me about this genocide of Armenians. I support this motion of the member for Vancouver-Kingsway. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY] [1155] Regrettably throughout history these tragedies have fallen on people of all races and ancestries. In fact, only four years later than the atrocities in Armenia, mass killings occurred in my parents’ homeland of Punjab, India. Thousands died before British machine guns on the day of Vaisakhi, April 13, 1919. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY] H027/klm/1155 only four years later than the atrocities in Armenia, mass killings occurred in my parents’ homeland of Punjab, India. Thousands died before British machine guns on the day of Vaisakhi, April, 13, 1919 at Jallianvala Bagh in Amritsar. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY] We hear every day of genocide : a few decades ago in Europe, a few years in eastern Europe, and as we speak, in Africa, and we all remember Rwanda. It is stunning that in a world that prides itself on being civilized, we face, almost on a daily basis, the deliberate slaughter of so many innocent people for no reason other than race, religion or political belief. I believe we do need a special day to honour the memory of those who have been lost through hateful wrongs of others. But we do also need to remember every day that there are terrible things happening in this world and that we all must stand and work tirelessly to ensure that one day those tragedies will not be permitted to happen again. When we do recognize a special day for all the atrocities of mankind, I hope that it will be one that acknowledges the suffering of all people who have faced such tragedy, including those of the Armenians. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY] In closing, I do support the motion of the member for Vancouver-Kingsway. I hope we learn from this so that we can stop history from repeating itself. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

R. Fleming : I’d like to also thank my colleague from Vancouver-Kingsway and all of the speakers this morning for debating this important, long-overdue motion. The 38th parliament has an opportunity today to join with parliaments around the world and the National Assembly of Quebec, the Ontario provincial parliament, the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada to recognize that the Armenian people were victims of crime against humanity of an organized campaign of extermination orchestrated in 1915 by the Ottoman empire under the cover of the First World War.

All of us in this House support the international movement in the march of human rights, democracy and the freedom to live in multicultural societies and nations which imbrace and respect the rights of all minorities. These are values that we hold strongly, and they abide us wherever we see fit to fight against hatred and the covering of it and those who persist in historical revisionism and the denial of one of humanity’s darkest chapters.

Two summers ago I had an opportunity to travel to Yellowknife, where among my itinerary, I met and socialized with a large group of skilled diamond cutters from Armenia who were in Canada on mult-year work permits. I thought I should correct them that Northwest Territories was not representative of all of Canada and explained some of the other parts of our country - this southern region where we are and Victoria, B.C.

I don’t think I was breaking through all of the language barriers, but when I mentioned the name Victoria, B.C. and that it was the home where Atom Egoyan grew up, one of our best film-makers in this country who has documented the story of the Armenian people in the film Ararat, that’s when I broke through and had a real meaningful discussion with these Armenians who were working and living in Canada.

I could see that it was a moment that the Armenian Diaspora and the modern day Armenian descendents and survivors of the 1915 genocide were given hope by the recognition of Mr. Egoyan’s film and given hope by the memory of the world community for their suffering in that 1915 genocide. Today let British Columbia join with that world community that has recognized that occurance.

Mr. Speaker : Seeing no further speakers, hon. members you’ve heard the motion. Motion approved.

Hon. C. Richmond moved adjournment of the House.

Motion approved. Mr. Speaker : This House stands adjourned until two o’clock this afternoon. The House adjourned at 12 noon. H028/jbp/1200 The House adjourned at 12 noon.
 
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