Private member’s bill approved, but not ‘official’, Canada
April 23 2004

Grits get ripped

Private member’s bill approved, but not ‘official’

By KATHLEEN HARRIS, Parliamentary Bureau, Sun Media

Prime Minister Paul Martin is under fire for reneging on his promise
to empower MPs and tackle the “democratic deficit.” This week, the
House of Commons supported a private member’s bill formally
recognizing the genocide of Armenian Turks during WWI. But just hours
after the 153-68 vote, Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham issued a
statement declaring the motion doesn’t reflect the government’s
official position.

Debates and votes on private members’ business in the House is an
“integral” part of the democratic process, but motions aren’t binding
on the government, he said.

NDP MP Alexa McDonough blasted Martin and his “gutless” cabinet
ministers, accusing them of putting economic self-interest before
principle. Turkey is a key ally and had warned of economic


“I think it’s unspeakable arrogance and proves that their commitment
to actually addressing the democratic deficit is virtually
non-existent,” she said.

Turkey called Canadian MPs who supported the motion condemning the
genocide “narrow-minded.” In Ottawa, a top diplomat said there would
be consequences for judging Turkish history.

“Parliamentarians shouldn’t be judges or historians,” said Fazli
Corman, consul at the embassy. “But when they act because of their
ridings, because of their need for votes, they are acting.”

Ara Pappin, Armenia’s ambassador in Ottawa, wasn’t upset the motion
wasn’t formally adopted.

“We are more concerned about the opinion of Parliament, because
Parliament is a reflection of people’s opinion,” he said.

Conservative MP Stockwell Day accused Martin of being hypocritical
for ordering his cabinet ministers to vote against a “painful” motion
then failing to show up.

“I don’t think this reflects well on him, that on a vote of
conscience, a vote of the heart, he refused to allow his ministers to
vote with the heart and didn’t appear with them to share the grief,”
he said.