ANC of Canada Meets With Foreign Minister

*Following the meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs–ANC of Canada is optimistic and calls on the community for support.

MONTREAL–The Armenian National Committee of Canada issued an announcement Monday detailing its activities to promote the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Canada. The communiqu details the ANCC’s meetings and projects and encourages community participation in the aforementioned effort.

Below is the text of that announcement:

In January of this year–Mr. Jim Karygiannis–Liberal Member of Parliament for Scarborough-Agincourt–approached the Armenian National Committee of Canada–asking to support his Private Member’s Motion on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The ANC of Canada agreed to support Mr. Karygiannis’s Motion–knowing full well that the Government is not prepared to go beyond the resolution adopted by the House of Commons on April 23–1996. An opportunity had risen for discussing the issue of the Armenian Genocide in the House of Commons–and it was to be utilized to its fullest.

Under the guidance of the ANC of Canada–local chapters of the ANC contacted Members of Parliament from all parties and in general received positive commitmen’s. During these contacts–it became clear once again–that the Government did not view the contents of this resolution favorably and has even instructed its Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries not to support the resolution.

In order to discuss this position–and–in general–the issue of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide before the discussion in the House of Commons–the ANC of Canada requested a meeting with advisors in the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. On February 15–1999–in the House of Commons–during the debate on the non-votable motion moved by Mr. Karygiannis–the representatives of the Bloc Quebecois–the New Democratic Party and the Progressive-Conservative Party spoke in favor of the resolution. The statement read on behalf of the Government by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs–Mr. Julian Reed–caused great outrage. Contrary to the policy expressed by the 1996 resolution–the statement questioned the events and equated the sides–namely the victims and those who committed the crimes.

Immediately following the debate in the House of Commons–the ANC of Canada informed the media and political circles of its profound dissatisfaction. The representatives of the ANC of Canada met with the Office of the Minister as well as Members of Parliament from different parties. In response to our request for a meeting with Mr. Axworthy–the Minister’s office undertook to arrange a meeting.

On February 17–1999–during Question Period in the House of Commons–in response to a question by Mr. Sarkis Assadourian–MP–the Hon. Lloyd Axworthy–Minister of Foreign Affairs–responded that he had asked the Armenian National Committee to meet with him–"so that we can foster a broad dialogue that will help develop understanding–heal wounds and forward the process of reconciliation among all Canadians about this very serious tragedy that occurred many years ago."

Prior to the meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs–the Armenian National Committee contacted and held meetings with members of the cabinet–Members of Parliament–and officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On March 5–1999–the Hon. Lloyd Axworthy–Minister of Foreign Affairs–received at his ministerial office a delegation assembled by the Armenian National Committee of Canada. The delegation was composed of Mr. Viken Tufenkjian (Vice-Chairman ANC Canada)–Bishop Khajag Hagopian (Vicar General–Prelacy of the Armenian Church of Canada and Eastern USA)–Dr. Girair Basmadjian (President–ANC Canada)–Mr. Aris Babikian (President–Armenian National Federation of Canada)–Mr. Apkar Mirakian (Board Member–Armenian Community Center of Toronto and ANC Canada) Mr. Giro Manoyan (ANC Canada). Also attending the meeting with the Minister were Mrs. Raymonde Folco–MP for Laval West–and two officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

During the thirty-minute meeting–the delegation representing the Armenian Community Centers of Montreal–Toronto–Cambridge–St. Catharines–Hamilton–Windsor–Vancouver–and Laval–as well as their affiliate community organizations and churches–presented clearly to the Minister our position and expectations; i.e.–that the Government adopt a position affirming the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide and pronounce that position in an appropriate manner. In addition to his warm reception–the Minister stated that the February 15 statement did not express the Government’s position–which had not changed since 1996; furthermore–the Minister repeated that he has initiated a process in which Members of Parliament will also take part and affirmed that he had fully grasped our deman’s.

The ANCC has every reason to be optimistic subsequent to the meeting with the Minister–and has drawn up an action-plan to be implemented by local ANC chapters–in order to bring the process initiated by the Minister to a conclusion in accordance with our expectations.

The ANCC will regularly inform the public about developmen’s regarding this issue. We appreciate the enthusiasm expressed by members of the community and our friends – as a result of which around three thousand letters have been sent to the Minister – and call upon the community to continue its efforts–so that this important step of Hai Tad activities is successfully concluded.

Armenian National Committee of Canada

March 8–1999

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