Canada set to recognize Armenian genocide

Canada set to recognize Armenian genocide
By David Ljunggren

21 Apr 2004 19:17:29 GMT

OTTAWA, April 21 (Reuters) – The Canadian Parliament looked set on
Wednesday to overthrow long-standing government policy, and anger
Turkey, by passing a resolution saying Ottoman Turks committed
genocide against Armenians in 1915.

Government sources said the motion was likely to be approved, making
Canada’s legislature one of the few in the world to describe what
happened 90 years ago as genocide.

Armenians say some 1.5 million of their people were deliberately
slaughtered by Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1923. Turkey denies the
charges of genocide, saying the Armenians were among the many victims
of a partisan war raging during World War One as the Ottoman Empire

Ottawa’s official position is that what happened was a tragedy but not
a genocide.

“It looks as though the government will lose. The Turks are not going
to be happy about this,” one senior government source told
Reuters. The motion says Parliament should “acknowledge the Armenian
genocide of 1915 and condemn this act as a crime against humanity”.

Ankara has fought hard to block attempts to press for international
recognition of the events as a genocide. The Turkish embassy in Ottawa
warned of negative consequences if the resolution was approved.

“Certainly, relations with Canada will suffer as the result of
adopting such a motion,” embassy counselor Fazli Corman told Reuters,
citing the example of Canadian firms seeking to sign contracts in

Canadian legislators have regularly defeated similar resolutions over
the last decade, in part because the governing Liberal party insisted
its members vote no.

But sources said Prime Minister Paul Martin, who took over last
December promising more freedom for legislators, had decided not to
issue voting instructions. Parliament is due to vote at about 7:30
p.m. (2330 GMT).

Liberal Member of Parliament Sarkis Assadourian, one of the backers of
the resolution, predicted victory and dismissed what he said were
warnings from the foreign ministry about the possible negative impact.

“Justice delayed is justice denied. How long do people have to wait
for the injustices of the past to be redressed?” said Assadourian, who
says his parents survived the events of 1915.

“Why do we have to be selective in our memories? If you’re going to do
it for one (genocide), why not do it for the others? Who is to say
Armenian blood is less valuable than some other blood?” he told

France’s parliament backed the Armenian case in 2001, prompting Turkey
to freeze official visits to France and temporarily block French
companies from entering lucrative defense contracts.

The U.S. Congress dropped a similar resolution in 2000 after the White
House warned it would harm U.S. security interests in the Middle East.

(Additional reporting by Randall Palmer in Ottawa)