MPs recognize Armenian massacre as genocide
Updated: Wed. Apr. 21 2004 8:50 PM ET
OTTAWA – Canada became one of few countries to formally recognize the
genocide of Armenian Turks during the First World War in a strongly
worded motion adopted 153-68 in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Government members were discouraged from voting for the motion, which
is sure to anger a Turkish government that has never recognized the
massacre of 1.5 million Armenians starting in 1915.
Following a charged debate at their weekly closed-door caucus meeting,
Liberal backbenchers voted massively in favour while the party’s
cabinet contingent rejected the Bloc Quebecois motion.
Prime Minister Paul Martin was absent during the politically sensitive
vote but Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham defended the
The Turkish government has warned that recognizing the genocide could
have economic consequences and Graham said he wanted to maintain good
relations with Turkey.
“Turkey is an important NATO ally in a region where it is a Muslim
country with a moderate government,” he said.
“What we seek to do in our foreign policy is to encourage the forward
dimension, we’re forward-looking. We’d like our Armenian friends and
our Turkish friends to work together to put these issues in the past.”
The motion read: “That this House acknowledges the Armenian genocide
of 1915 and condemns this act as a crime against humanity.”
The Turkish government rejects the charge of genocide as unfounded and
says that while 600,000 Armenians died, 2.5 million Muslims perished
in a periodof civil unrest.
Unlike the Liberal government most opposition MPs _ including
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper _ voted in favour of the motion,
which places Canada in a category of only about two dozen countries to
have recognized the Armenian genocide.
The United Nations has also recognized the massacre, and Armenians
have been fighting for decades throughout the world for that sort of
One opposition critic labelled the prime minister “hypocritical” for
promising more free votes and then forcing ministers to toe the line
on such a matter of deep personal conscience.
“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.”
Liberal Hedy Fry supported the motion but said it’s important to note
the atrocities were carried out under the Ottoman empire, which has
faded into history and was long ago replaced by a modern Turkish
“I think we need to recognize the past,” she said.
“I think it doesn’t mean we’ve broken ties with the current regime in
They are our colleagues, they are our NATO allies. They are a
moderate, Muslim government and I think we need to work with them.
Recognizing what happened in the Ottoman empire shouldn’t affect
Canada’s diplomatic relations with Turkey, she said.
Fry and many other former Liberal cabinet ministers who are now
backbenchers also voted in favour, including Martin Cauchon, Stephane
Dion, Maurizio Bevilacqua, Lyle Vanclief, Lawrence MacAulay, Herb
Dhaliwal and David Kilgour.
© Copyright 2004 Bell Globemedia Inc.