CTV News, Canada
April 22 2004
Turkey condemns Canada’s genocide vote
CTV.ca News Staff
Turkey is condemning a decision by the House of Commons to approve a
motion calling the Armenian genocide a “crime against humanity.”
Parliament voted Wednesday 153-86 in favour of a private member’s
bill formally recognizing the genocide of Armenian Turks during the
First World War.
Turkey had warned that Canada would face economic consequences if it
recognized the killings as genocide, and in a statement issued
Thursday accused Canadian legislators of being “narrow-minded.”
“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,” the statement said.
Prime Minister Paul Martin was absent for the vote on the motion,
which read: “… this House acknowledges the Armenian genocide of
1915 and condemns this act as a crime against humanity.”
Armenia says 1.5 million people were killed between 1915-1923, during
a campaign to force them out of eastern Turkey.
Turkey’s government rejects the label of genocide, saying 2.5 million
Muslims were also killed during this period of civil unrest. It
estimates 600,000 Armenians were killed.
Canada is among a handful of countries to formally label the killings
as genocide. They include Switzerland, France, Argentina, Russia, as
well as U.S. state governments. The United Nations have also
recognized the genocide.
When French legislators recognized the genocide in 2001, Turkey
cancelled millions of dollars worth of defence contracts.
The Canadian Embassy in Turkey issued a statement today distancing
itself from the vote.
“Debates and votes on private member’s business in the House of
Commons are an integral part of the Canadian democratic process but
private members’ motions are not binding on the Government of
Canada,” it said.
It also reiterated Canada’s position on the killings from a June
10,1999, vote in the House of Commons as “tragic.”
Most Liberal backbenchers voted for the motion Wednesday, while many
cabinet ministers were not present.
Martin was accused by the opposition of hypocrisy for promising more
free votes but not showing up for this one.
Liberal MP Hedy Fry, who voted for the motion, said it’s important to
remember the atrocities were carried out by the Ottoman empire, which
has since been replaced by the current Turkish state.
“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
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.”