OTTAWA, Canada–A record number of Canadian House of Commons and Senate members have joined the newly-reconstituted Canada-Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group. During the March 25 Annual General Meeting, Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga, MP) was elected chair of the group. Nicole Demers (Laval), Reymonde Folco (Laval-les Iles) and Peter Stoffer (Sackville-Eastern Shore) were elected vice-chairs. Senators Con Di Nino and Jerahmiel S. Grafstein, both of Ontario, were also elected to the board.
The friendship group’s past-chair, Hon. Gary Goodyear, welcomed and thanked the parliamentarians and said: “Members of the group, those from the Armenian community and all those who contributed to this group’s success deserve our praise."
Hon. Goodyear emphasized “Armenia needs the help of the outside world to overcome its difficulties. Facing an unjust blockade by two of its neighbours, a devastating earthquake in 1988 and a shortage of financial and technical capital, Armenia has welcomed Canada’s support.” He added that Canada and Armenia are continuing to “pave a road to a peaceful and prosperous relationship and I look forward to the results.”
Hon. Goodyear praised the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) and its executive director, Aris Babikian, for the support they provided him during his three-year tenure as head of the Canadian-Armenian group.
Following his election as chair, Mr. Albrecht thanked his colleagues for their trust, and for the privilege granted to him as chair of the group. He said: “Your interest in Canada-Armenia relations will continue to give rise to a prosperous future that rests on the foundation of an already peaceful and rewarding friendship. The work we do here is important to the three million Armenia’s living in Armenia and to the over five million in the rest of the world and particularly the 80,000 Canadian-Armenia’s who live in every province and territory of Canada.”
Mr. Albrecht said that he extended “our gratitude for the contributions of the Armenian people and all Canadians who are of Armenian descent.” He said that he considered “Canadian Parliament’s recognition and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 were important milestones in our journey forward. Armenia’s have courageously worked to move beyond the pain of the past and work toward a brighter future.”
The new chair concluded his remarks by reassuring that “Canada stands as a friend with Armenia. As an interparliamentary friendship group, we have the privilege and duty to work together to build on our accomplishmen’s.”
Following the election of the rest of the board, the new chair invited Dr. Girair Basmadjian, president of the ANCC, to address the gathering. After thanking the friendship group and its new board, Dr. Basmadjian reminded new members that the task of the group has changed drastically since its formation 24 years ago. “Today many more challenges face Armenia and the friendship group. Establishing a Canadian embassy in Armenia, the lingering effects of the devastating 1988 earthquake, the illegal blockade of Armenia by Turkey and Azerbaijan, the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict, and Canada-Armenia bilateral relations are among many issues which will challenge the group,” said the head of ANCC.
Dr. Basmadjian concluded his remarks by wishing the friendship group success, and pledged ANCC’s support and solidarity. In addition to Dr. Basmadjian, the annual meeting was attended by Krikor Der Ghazarian, Paul Douzjian, Roupen Kouyoumjian, Edward Agopian, and Aris babikian, and board members of ANCC.
The meeting was followed by an ANCC-hosted reception to celebrate the momentous event. During the reception many of the new members of the friendship group had the opportunity to get acquainted with ANCC representatives and with the committee’s 45 years of advocacy. The parliamentarians also had the opportunity to discuss many of Canadian-Armenian community’s concerns.
Also attending the gathering was Hagop Evereklian, chief of staff, Ministry of Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism.
In preparation for the annual general meeting, the ANCC and its affiliated nation-wide chapters and supporters worked diligently in the last few months to solicit the participation of the largest number of parliamentarians possible in the friendship group. On March 11, an ANCC delegation joined Executive Director Aris Babikian to launch a final blitz in Ottawa to urge ministers, MPs and Senators to join the Canadian-Armenian group. During the blitz ANCC members met more than 50 parliamentarians. The ANNC is confident that soon the friendship group’s membership will reach sixty.
The ANCC is the largest and the most influential Canadian-Armenian grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout Canada and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCC actively advances the concerns of the Canadian-Armenian community on a broad range of issues.