CBC Ottawa, Canada
April 23 2004
Turkey denounces Armenian genocide vote in Commons
OTTAWA – The Turkish government called in the Canadian ambassador on
Thursday to express disappointment over a House of Commons vote that
recognizes the death of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923
as a genocide.
Armenians blame the Ottoman Turks for the massacre of their people.
Turkey denies the charges.
The Turkish government says by siding with the Armenians, Canadian
MPs are rewriting history. A spokesman for the Turkish Embassy in
Ottawa says relations between Canada and Turkey will be harmed by the
Armenian Canadians hold a vigil on Parliament Hill
For decades consecutive Canadian governments have dodged the
sensitive issue by calling what happened in eastern Turkey a
“tragedy,” stopping well short of referring to the events as
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 a brutal 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.
Prime Minister Paul Martin joined other members of his cabinet in
insisting the motion is not binding on the government.
Martin came to office promising to allow more free votes on critical
issues. It’s part of his commitment to erase the “democratic deficit”
by giving MPs more power on Parliament Hill. But some politicians are
questioning his commitment in light of the government’s decision to
ignore the results of the vote.
Martin didn’t show up for Wednesday night’s vote recognizing the
Armenian genocide, but he didn’t escape questions about whether there
is any value in allowing more free votes if his government is just
going to ignore the results.
Martin said he felt Parliament and the government could have
differing views, “And that, in fact, is one of the great benefits of
dealing with parliamentary reform and parliamentary democracy.”
The government’s view is that the events nearly a century ago in the
Ottoman Empire were a tragedy, but not genocide.
Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis says the clear majority of Parliament and
a majority of Liberal MPs see it differently. They want Martin to
live up to his promise to give MPs real clout. “The people elected
parliamentarians to come here and rule the country,” he said.
Fellow Liberal Sarkis Assadourian has the same message. “They should
stand up and take note.”
In the House of Commons, Bloc Québécois MP Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral
also questioned Martin’s commitment to democratic reform. “Is the
prime minister saying, ‘Talk, talk all you want, but we’ll do what we
Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said the government has enormous
respect for the sentiments expressed in the motion, but he says
foreign policy must rest in the hands of the government.
Finance Minister Ralph Goodale said there was nothing about the
government’s response to the vote that undermines its commitment to
He said there will always be a difference between the will of
Parliament and the cabinet’s job to set official government policy.
But the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa wasn’t buying the argument. Fazli
Corman, a counsellor at the embassy, told CBC News, “This move will
affect Turkish-Canadian relations negatively.”
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress