Turkey condemns Canada’s Armenian genocide vote

CBC Manitoba, Canada
April 22 2004

Turkey condemns Canada’s Armenian genocide vote

OTTAWA – Turkey condemned as “narrow-minded” the decision by Canada’s
House of Commons to recognize as genocide the mass killing of
Armenians during the First World War.

“Some narrow-minded Canadian politicians were not able to understand
that such decisions based on … prejudiced information, will awaken
feelings of hatred among people of different [ethnic] roots and
disturb social harmony,” a statement from Turkey’s foreign ministry

Canada became one of only a few nations to recognize the deaths of
1.5 million Armenians in 1915 as genocide when the House of Commons
late on Wednesday reversed Ottawa’s stated policy on the issue by
passing a private member’s bill.

Canada’s official position to date has been that the deaths
constituted a “tragedy” rather than the purposeful extermination of
minority Armenians by the then Ottoman Empire during the First World

But in a free vote, Parliament voted 153 to 68 to adopt the Bloc
Québécois motion which stated: “[T]his House acknowledges the
Armenian genocide of 1915 and condemns this act as a crime against

Bill Graham

Foreign Minister Bill Graham defended the government’s position
saying: “What we seek to do in our foreign policy is to encourage the
forward dimension,” said Graham. “We’d like our Armenian friends and
our Turkish friends to work together to put these issues in the

In 1915, during the First World War, Turkish troops put down an
Armenian uprising. Armenians say about 1.5 million people were killed
by the Ottoman Turks during an eight-year campaign.

Turkey has always fought attempts by Armenians and international
human rights organizations to have the events declared a genocide.
Previously, Ankara has warned countries contemplating similar action
that there would be negative consequences. In some cases business
contracts have been held up or denied.

In 2001 France backed the Armenian case. Ankara responded by freezing
official visits to France and temporarily blocking French companies
from competing for defence contracts.

The U.S. dropped a similar resolution a year earlier after the White
House warned it could hurt U.S. security interests.

The United Nations recognizes the events as genocide.

Liberal backbenchers, including former Chrétien cabinet member Herb
Dhaliwal supported the motion, while Cabinet members, including Prime
Minister Paul Martin, were largely absent from the charged debate.

The opposition, including Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, largely
voted in favour and accused Martin of hypocrisy for promoting free
votes but not showing up for one himself.

Armenian-Canadians greeted the vote with elation, but
Turkish-Canadian observers reacted angrily.

Armenian-Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, whose film Ararat was about
the subject, said: “What is amazing is that it’s law, and it’s
something that we can tell for generations to come.”

But Kevsai Taymaz of the Federation of Turkish-Canadian Associations
insisted: “It was a terrible time and both sides lost lives, it
wasn’t a genocide.”

Liberal MP Hedy Fry, who supported the motion, said it was important
to note the atrocities took place under the Ottoman empire, long ago
replaced by a modern Turkish state.

“I think it doesn’t mean we’ve broken ties with the current regime in
Turkey. They are our colleagues, they are our NATO allies. They are a
moderate, Muslim government and I think we need to work with them,”
Fry told The Canadian Press.