MONTREAL (Horizon)–October 4 became a historic day for the Canadian-Armenian community–especially the community of Montreal and surrounding areas–since that afternoon more than 2,000 community members turned out for the official unveiling ceremonies for an Armenian Genocide monument–which is also dedicated to all genocides of the 20th century.
The monument–which is called "Reparations," stands tall at Marselin-Wilson park and is the first such structure–dedicated to the Armenian Genocide to be erected in a public place in all of Canada. [The first Genocide memorial monument in Canada was unveiled 14 years ago at the Toronto Armenian Center].
The official ceremonies–which were organized by the City of Montreal–were attended by numerous political officials representing federal–local and state government–and were headed by Montreal Mayor Pierre Bourque.
Also present was the Armenia’s Ambassador to Canada–Levon Barkoudarian–the religious leaders of the Canadian-Armenian community–representatives of Armenian organizations in Canada and more than 2,000 community members.
The ceremony began at 2 p.m. Sunday with the Homenetmen marching band playing the Canadian and Armenian national anthems. Addressing the crowd were the president of the Executive Council of the City of Montreal Noushig Eloyan; the artist behind the monument Francine Larive; chairman of the Armenian National Committee of Canada Dr. Jirair Basmadjian; chairman of the Montreal ANC Roupen Kouyoumdjian and Mayor Bourque.
In her remarks–Eloyan–who played an integral role in the completion of the monument project–commended the ANC and the Montreal community for their grass-roots activism and efforts. She also thanked Mayor Bourque–the Montreal City and Executive councils–whose members did not succumb to pressures exerted on them and stood for justice.
Eloyan also praised Larive who carved out "our collective sentimen’s." She also praised the staff and employees of the City of Montreal who stopped at nothing to ensure the timely completion of the monument project.
Also commending the City of Montreal and the ANC–artist Larive thanked the Armenian community for entrusting her with the project.
In his remarks–ANC of Canada chairman Basmadjian outlined the phases in which the monument was constructed–stressing the obstacles and pressures the project faced from Turkey and the Canadian federal authorities.
Basmadjian also congratulated and praised Mayor Bourque and the Montreal City Council for standing true to the project. He also emphasized the important role and contribution of the Montreal Armenian community–through whose efforts the project was completed in four years.
The ANC leader stated that the work and the mission of the Armenian community did not end with the erection of the monument–but rather–it provided a renewed impetus for fighting until the just resolution of Armenian deman’s.
Speaking in French–ANC of Montreal chairman Kouyoumdjian called on the Canadian government to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide.
In his remarks–Mayor Bourque commended the role Eloyan and the ANC played in realizing this project and emphasized that the erection of the monument corresponded with Montreal’s multi-ethnic image and its values.
Archbishop Souren Kataroyan–Prelate of Peria (Syria) officiated a memorial mass. He was joined by Canadian Primate Arch. Hovnan Derderian–the Prelacy’s Canadian Locum Tenens Bishop Khajag Hagopian–Catholic Archdiocese Locum Tenens Father Kevork Zabarian–Pastor Mher Khatchigian of the Armenian Evengelical Church of Canada–as well as the clergy from the Montreal and Laval communities and the choir of the Sourp Hagop Armenian Cathedral.
In his remarks–Arch. Kataroyan commended all those involved in the monument project.
At the conclusion of the program–the first wreath was laid alongside flowers placed at the monument by the reverend clergy by Mayor Bourque–Eloyan and Ambassador Barkhoudarian. A second wreath representing the Armenian community was laid by Jirair and Giragos Basmadjian and Kouyoumdjian–while a third wreath was placed at the monument by Genocide survivors Marivon Kenderci and Melkon Meterisian.
The program ended with public flower and wreath laying.
The monument–which is called "Reparation" is made of white marble and symbolizes the rift created by genocide in human’society. The wound of genocide–made out of red granite–bears a carving which reads "In memory of victims of all genocides of the 20th century." Among the victims mentioned are the Armenia’s–Ukrainian–Crimean Tatars–Jews–Gypsies–Timors–Bosnians–Tutsis–Hutus–Cambodians Kurds and "all those who have been ignored."
Two plaques stand at the foot of the monument. The first explains the symbolic meaning of the monument and introduces the artist–while the second reads–"On the occasion of the 83rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide–during which 1.5 million Armenia’s perished–we dedicate this monument to all victims of all genocides. We invite all people to take charge in the name of tolerance and social harmony…"
The monument will be surrounded by oak trees and apricot trees brought from Armenia. Beneath the monument a time capsule has been deposited–containing holy bread–salt–a cross–the list of all donors–as well as soil brought from many parts of Armenia and Der-el-Zor.
The monument project began in 1994–when the City of Montreal agreed to a preliminary proposal by the ANC. The cost of the monument was around $250,000 (Can)–half of which was raised by the Canadian Armenian community–per an agreement with the City of Montreal.