Canadian House of Commons Debate
Canadian House of Commons Resolution - April 23, 1996
I remind this House that Canada signed that convention. That is why I do not understand our government's persistent refusal to officially recognize the Armenian genocide. I deplore and condemn that attitude because denying the genocide is playing into the hands of those who committed it and who want their acts to be forgotten, which is the same thing as condoning their actions.
In order to show our respect for all the victims of the past and to reaffirm our determination to use all our energy to prevent new massacres, I ask the government to officially recognize the Armenian genocide as a historical fact. Michel Daviault MP
Genocide strikes at the very root of humanity. It is the sort of thing that causes us to shudder no matter where in the world it takes place. When a government or a group attempts to obliterate a people through violent means to achieve their own selfish political goals, all humanity is diminished and suffers because of it. Bob Mills MP
Memory is often dulled with the passage of time, but democracy must never allow the truth to be denied. This first genocide of the 20th century was and still is a crime against humanity and civilization. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral MP
Why, people may ask, is it so important to recognize an event that occurred over 80 years ago? We must always remember that those who disregard history are condemned to repeat it. Just think if the international community had reacted to this as it should have at the time. Would the atrocities of the second world war ever have taken place? Perhaps not. Eleni Bakopanos MP
The hon. member calls the Armenian genocide a tragic incident. It is much more than a tragic incident. It is the extermination of one and a half million Armenians. It is the deportation of half a million people. It is the destruction of numerous churches and monasteries. It is the dispersal of Armenians all over the world. Osvaldo Nunez
We have been slow in coming to grips with recognizing what actually took place. The historical record is clear. There is no room for ambiguity or ambivalence. That tragedy did take place. That genocide is a fact of history. Whatever we say about it cannot change that incontrovertible fact. Jim Peterson MP
Canadian House of Commons Resolution - April 23, 1996 - Full Text
Government Orders - Supply - Allotted Day-Inhumanity of People to One Another
Mr. Michel Daviault (Ahuntsic, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I move a motion requesting that the Canadian government finally recognize the Armenian genocide by designating a week to commemorate the crimes against humanity committed in the past, a commemoration that will help us prevent the same thing from happening again in the future.
I want to point out that the timing of this motion has a symbolic value. On April 15, Jewish communities throughout the world and people of all denominations gathered to commemorate the six million victims of the killing frenzy of the Nazi regime during World War II.
Tomorrow, the Armenian community will be commemorating the genocide that started on April 24, 1915 in the Ottoman Empire, a genocide that left more than 1.5 million victims. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Armenian community in Montreal and elsewhere in this country, and point out its contribution to our collective life.
The resolve with which the Armenian people is conserving its culture, its refusal to forget about the past, and its untiring efforts to gain international recognition for the Armenian genocide deserve everybody's admiration. The designation of a commemorative week would allow citizens of this country to show their respect for people who suffered extermination or fell victim to crimes against mankind, in particular the Armenian and the Jewish communities.
This is not the first time we speak in this House of crimes against mankind or that we deplore past genocides. On April 3 of last year, the hon. member for Don Valley North put forward a motion similar to the one I am moving today. At the time, the Bloc amended the motion, with its mover's assent, to specifically refer to the Armenian genocide. Unfortunately, the hon. member for Halifax, the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, opposed the motion under the pretext that we should not designate any precise period to commemorate genocides because we think of them every day.
The hon. member spoke fine words but failed to act upon them. She contradicted herself when she said first, and I quote: ``I believe genocide is so horrible that the memory of past genocides will always be with us'', but said to conclude and I quote again: ``I must say that I would be concerned if we were to designate a particular period of time for commemorating genocide''.
Faced with such opposition by an hon. member associated with the executive body, the mover withdrew his request for the unanimous consent of the House for a recorded division on the motion and thus allowed the government to avoid voting on the question.
The attitude of the parliamentary secretary may have been due to her ignorance of the terrible lessons of the past, or perhaps it reflected the lack of political fortitude of this government and its lack of determination to defend human rights internationally.
That is why my colleagues and I-and, I hope, the government and other opposition members will join us-will remind the people of the odious crimes of the past. In memory of that past, we will ask the government to adopt from now on a firm position on the respect of human rights in the world, starting with the recognition of the Armenian genocide.
I demand that the government stop selling out Canadian traditions in favour of human rights and to show its true determination by the formal recognition of the Armenian genocide that happened in 1915.
Most people have already heard about the holocaust, the genocide of Jewish people by the Nazis. Our parents lived through the second world war know and have told us about it. Recently, the younger generation had to opportunity to see the movie ``Schindler's List'', but how many people are aware of the genocide which took place during the first world war?
Actually, very few people know that a million and a half Armenians were killed and that hundreds of thousands of others were deported in 1915 and after, under order of the Ottoman Empire that ruled Turkey at the time.
The fact that the allied governments and the League of Nations neglected to publicly recognize this genocide and to take sanctions against those responsible for it mat well have had crucial consequences afterwards. Indeed, on the eve of the second world war,
Adolf Hitler said to his SS: ``Who remembers the Armenian genocide today?'' Personally, I refuse to prove Hitler right.
The official opposition recognizes the Armenian genocide and wants to help make it known in this House, to our viewers, to the population at large. But first, let us give a brief historical outline.
The Ottoman Empire was established in the 14th century, after Constantinople fell to the Turks. At one point, this empire covered most of the Middle East and of North Africa. Many Christians lived in this empire, in particular Greeks and Armenians.
The Armeninans lived in Anatolia, the eastern part of modern Turkey. These Christians came under Turkish authority, but they were tolerated because they acted as a link in the trade with the Western world. During the first world war, the government of the Ottoman Empire, fighting against Russia to the east and a Franco-British army to the west, came to consider its Christian subjects as traitors and suspected them of collaborating with the Allies because of their religion. Then came a series of humiliations, followed by arrests, torture and, finally, executions and massive deportations.
In addition to the massacres perpetrated by the soldiers or the civilian population, the massive deportations were secretly aimed at exterminating the Armenians. A large number of Armenians died of hunger, thirst and exhaustion caused by a forced exodus in atrocious conditions. Nowadays, this would be called ethnic cleansing.
A note from the allied forces dated July 17, 1920, and kept in the French national archives described the Armenian genocide in the following terms, and I quote: ``The Armenians were massacred in conditions of incredible barbarity. During the war, the Ottoman government's actions in terms of massacres, deportations and mistreatment to prisoners went far beyond anything it had ever done in these areas. It is estimated that, since 1914, the Ottoman government has massacred, under the untenable pretence of a presumed revolt, 800,000 Armenian men, women and children, and deported more than 200,000 Greeks and 200,000 Armenians. The Turkish government has not only failed to protect its subjects of non-Turkish origin against looting, violence and murder, but a large body of evidence indicates that it also took a hand in organizing and carrying out the most ferocious attacks against communities which it was its duty to protect''.
Unfortunately, the Allies did not follow up on the massacres. They spent more time dividing up the former Ottoman possessions in the Middle East, Syria, Iraq and Palestine, than condemning what has come to be known as the first genocide of the 20th century.
It was not until 1948 that a definition and a formal prohibition of genocide were enshrined in international law. In the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted that year, genocide is defined as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
I remind this House that Canada signed that convention. That is why I do not understand our government's persistent refusal to officially recognize the Armenian genocide. I deplore and condemn that attitude because denying the genocide is playing into the hands of those who committed it and who want their acts to be forgotten, which is the same thing as condoning their actions.
Since the Armenian genocide, in 1915, the inertia and the passivity of the international community have caused other people to suffer large scale massacres. Beside the Jewish people, whom I mentioned earlier, we could mention the war in Biafra, Nigeria, from 1967 to 1970, where a whole civilian population was deliberately starved in front of helpless young French doctors who were later to create the organization Médecins sans frontières.
In 1978, in Cambodia, the Khmers Rouges deported all political opponents into the countryside and into the fields. One million and a half of these deportees never came back and, a few years later, giant mass graves were discovered. Since then, the Cambodian government has built a museum gathering together the evidence of this genocide so that the victims will never be forgotten.
This sort of slaughter is still going on, brought to us live on television for our passive consumption. We watched powerless as the tragedy unfolded in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing took place in Bosnia. I call upon each member sitting in this House to ask themselves how many other similar massacres we are going to allow. What is our responsibility as elected representatives to prevent other tragedies and suffering?
Since my arrival in this House, I have on many occasions criticized the government for its failure to do anything to recognize the Armenian genocide. But recently, I was shocked and outraged to learn that, in addition to doing nothing in this regard, the government has actually exerted pressure on the City of Montreal to halt the construction of a monument to the memory of peoples martyred in modern times, particularly the Armenians.
According to representatives of the Armenian national committee, the mayor of Montreal admitted that the Minister for International Cooperation, and member for Papineau-Saint-Michel, had intervened to stop the plan to build a monument commemorating the Armenian genocide. Despite the minister's denials, the mayor of Montreal stood by what he said. The mayor of Montreal has always stood by what he says.
Already in 1990, the Turkish ambassador wrote to Mayor Doré requesting that another monument not refer to the Armenian genocide. These dubious actions make us wonder if the present Canadian government has an official policy of putting a price tag on its principles. They are a reminder of other events in which the Canadian government intervened in an equally deplorable manner.
In 1988, under another government, a senior official of the Department of External Affairs wrote to the Ottawa school board to object to the mention of the Armenian genocide in school textbooks. This official then explained to the media that the Canadian government had taken the action so as not to jeopardize millions of dollars in commercial contracts with Turkey.
When a Canadian monument to human rights was erected in 1991, undue pressure was apparently brought to bear by foreign governments, leading to the suppression of two plaques referring to the Armenian genocide and the massacre in Tiananmen Square.
In fact, since coming to power, this government, like the one before it, has adopted the despicable habit of subordinating the respect of human rights to political and economic interests. Over the years, Canada has acquired an excellent reputation the world over, not just for its respect of human rights within its own borders, but also for its involvement internationally in the promotion of human rights and the values of tolerance and peace, ideals held by all citizens of this country whatever their political stripe. Unfortunately, the recent events in Somalia have tarnished our reputation.
Our government too has recently changed its foreign policy. In the future, in order to ensure the media success of the Prime Minister's tours abroad, any public challenge of these countries' human rights record must be avoided.
The episode of an embarrassed Prime Minister, as 13 year old Craig Kielburger travelled to India to denounce forced child labour in his presence, is most revealing. I remember also the red carpet and honour guard treatment for Rumanian dictator Ceausescu under the Conservative government, which wanted to sell him a nuclear reactor. A few months later, after Ceausescu's overthrow and execution, the Prime Minister of the day rejoiced at the fall of this blood-thirsty tyrant. In the case of Turkey, sales of both a nuclear reactor and weapons are involved. There is spinelessness, whether Conservatives or Liberals are in power.
This type of behaviour, in which injustices are denounced only when it is worthwhile for publicity or political gain, is contrary to traditional Canadian values. Canadians want this government to have principles and to stand up for them at all times. That does not mean that all trade with certain countries must be cut off if we do not approve of their human rights record, but we must make it very clear to them that trading with them does not indicate approval, that it will not stop us from criticizing them if they commit reprehensible acts.
Canadians do not expect complacency from their government; they expect it to denounce injustices throughout the world. I will offer a few examples of flagrant human rights violations which our government prefers to ignore.
After the Gulf War against Iraq, Canada took part in operation ``Provide Comfort'', aimed at protecting the Kurd populations in northern Iraq against bloody attacks by Sadam Hussein's government forces. On the other side of the border at the same time, only a few kilometres away, the Turkish government was arresting and executing hundreds of Kurds rebelling against its authority. But, because the government of Turkey is our ally, we closed our eyes. How could there be good Kurds who merited our protection, and bad Kurds whose fate we did not care about?
During Team Canada's trip to China, and when Chinese officials visited our country, the government remained totally silent in the face of the repression against pro-democracy Chinese since the Tiananmen square massacre. Nor has a word been said about the methodical process of assimilating the Tibetan people. Recently, the hon. members for Longueuil and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce have spoken out against the torture and summary executions in East Timor, which is under military occupation by Indonesia.
Finally, the hundreds of casualties in recent months in Burundi, victims of the clashes between Hutu and Tutsi, make us fear a repeat of the genocide that occurred in neighbouring Rwanda. Although the term ``genocide'' frightens the Canadian government so, it did use it in reference to Rwanda. Will it allow another tragedy to happen when there is still time for something to be done?
In order to show our respect for all the victims of the past and to reaffirm our determination to use all our energy to prevent new massacres, I ask the government to officially recognize the Armenian genocide as a historical fact.
Canada is far from being a leader on this issue. Actually, it is behind the times, because many foreign governments and parliaments have already recognized and condemned the Armenian genocide.
The Permanent People's Tribunal declared, on April 16, 1984: ``The Armenian genocide is an imprescriptible crime against humanity and an international crime for which the Turkish state must take responsibility''.
On August 20, 1985, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights recognized the Armenian massacre by the Ottoman Empire as one of the genocides of the 20th century.
The parliament of the Argentina and the national assembly of Uruguay also recognized it. On June 18, 1987, the European Parliament recognized the historical fact of the Armenian genocide and added that the refusal of the Turkish state to recognize the genocide was an obstacle to Turkey's joining the European Community.
On April 22, 1994, the Douma, or Russian parliament, recognized the Armenian genocide and severely condemned its authors. On April 27, 1994, the Israeli government officially condemned the Armenian genocide despite the fact that Turkey is Israel's ally in the region. The secretary of state for foreign affairs declared:
``We will reject any attempt to erase its record even for some political advantage.''
This was an act of courage on the part of the Israeli government.
In May of last year, Bob Dole, the leader of the Republican majority in the Senate of the United States and a Republican candidate in the presidential elections condemned Turkey for persisting in its refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide. He declared:
``I recently with many of my colleagues called on the president, Mr. Clinton, to reaffirm the Armenian genocide as a crime against humanity as he did many times in the 1992 presidential campaign.''
Finally, I want to point out that, as early as 1980, the Quebec national assembly and the Ontario legislature, which together represent 60 per cent of the Canadian population, both officially recognized the Armenian genocide and asked the Parliament of Canada to also do so on behalf of all Canadians. I hope that this clear message will finally be heard by the federal government.
In 1994, when he was premier, the ally of the federal government and leader of the Liberal Party of Quebec, Mr. Daniel Johnson, stated: ``The anniversary of the Armenian genocide reminds us of one of the most tragic moments in the history of our century and moves us to express our deep sympathy for this people''. We are not going to water down the proposal by trying to replace the term genocide.
The German government, which long ago acknowledged its moral responsibility in the Jewish genocide by the Nazi regime and has offered reparation, must be given credit. The German Criminal Code even provides for sanctions against people who try to deny this historical fact. More recently, the Russian government courageously acknowledged its responsibility in the execution in 1940 of 4,500 Polish officers in the Katyn forest. Turkey has historical responsibilities and must bear them.
On several different occasions, a number of members of this House have spoken about the Armenian genocide. It is now time to act. I ask all members to convince their colleagues to vote in favour of this motion and to take advantage of the 81st anniversary of the Armenian genocide to take a courageous stand on behalf of our fellow men and women who face difficult circumstances in countries where democracy has not yet prevailed.
The Deputy Speaker: I would inform the House that because of the ministerial statement, Government Orders will be extended by 72 minutes.
Mr. Sarkis Assadourian (Don Valley North, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have followed very carefully the comments made by the hon. member for Ahuntsic. I want to take this opportunity to thank him for his presentation but also I want to remind him that the way he went about doing this was quite upsetting to me. However, that is said and done, it has passed and I want to go forward to the future.
The hon. member made a comment in his statement that the mayor of Montreal promised to erect a statue to commemorate the genocide of the Armenians in 1915. Then he went on to blame the federal government for intervening in this matter.
I want the record to show clearly that neither federal government in any way, shape or form nor the Department of Foreign Affairs were involved in the promise made by the mayor of Montreal. I want him to correct that statement please because that is not the case. The Government of Canada does not get involved in the erection or the removal of monuments.
I was previously involved with the Vietnamese monument here in the city of Ottawa. The Government of Canada took the same position when the Vietnam monument was erected. That is the same position the government has taken in the case of the monument in Montreal which was promised, reneged on and not delivered by the mayor of Montreal.
Mr. Daviault: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments. I want to point out that The Gazette reported comments attributed to members of the national Armenian committee concerning the monument to be erected in Montreal to commemorate the genocide. The comments of the mayor of Montreal were also reported, and the mayor did not deny them. But these comments were denied-
Mrs. Bakopanos: The mayor's comments or the minister's comments?
Mr. Daviault: The mayor's comments were denied by the minister. No, the mayor did not confirm the minister's comments.
The Minister of International Cooperation and of the mayor of Montreal disagree on what happened. When I asked a question in this House, the member for Saint-Léonard told me that the minister had only restated the way the Canadian government dealt was handling this issue. It is already quite something to repeat that the Government of Canada prefers not to use the word genocide, that it wants to use the words atrocities and tragedy, but not the word genocide. This word was used for the genocide in Rwanda, but the government still does not want to use it concerning Armenia.
Today, you will have a chance to vote on the motion, on the term genocide. If you want to take on the unenviable task of changing the motion by deleting the term genocide, you will be showing your true colours. Then, Armenians and Canadians will know where you stand on this issue.
Mrs. Eleni Bakopanos (Saint-Denis, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the opposition member on introducing this motion in the House. I would point out, as did my colleague, that it was the member for Don Valley North who initially introduced this motion in the House of Commons.
Secondly, I would perhaps echo my colleague's question and comments. It is all very well to read the comments by the mayor of Montreal in the papers, but there is no evidence. I would like the hon. opposition member to provide written or verbal proof that the minister or a representative of the Canadian government said we were opposed to a monument being erected.
There is no proof, it was only the mayor's word. It is the mayor of Montreal, Mr. Bourque, who is responsible for this matter. He must assume his responsibilities and keep his word to the Armenian community and to others, because the monument is not just for the Armenian genocide, but for all crimes against humanity. We were 100 per cent in favour of the idea, and there is no evidence to the contrary. I would prefer people did not invent stories and did not attribute remarks to someone, if they are not what the person said in this House.
I would also like to ask the opposition member what led him to raise this motion in the House at this specific point in time.
Mr. Daviault: Mr. Speaker, as far as the first part, with respect to the monument, is concerned, the Government of Canada has no business getting involved in this matter. I recalled the remarks attributed to the mayor of Montreal. I recalled the denials by the minister and I recalled the fact that the mayor of Montreal did not confirm the minister's denials. Enough has been said about this responsibility.
I agree with you that the monument must be erected and that it is the responsibility of the mayor of Montreal. However, when the example of inaction on the matter of the Armenian genocide comes from as high up as our government-either Conservative or Liberal-which refuses to recognize the genocide, we can hardly criticize others for lack of courage when we ourselves lack such courage.
Last year, the member for Don Valley North acted very positively in making his proposal. However, as I said in my speech, he had asked for unanimous consent for a vote and this was denied by a parliamentary secretary. As parliamentarians, we know what this means. It means that the motion is dead.
This year, using an opposition day, one of our exceedingly rare opposition days where a vote may be taken, we are forcing a vote on this issue and on the method, because today or tomorrow there will be 3,000 or 4,000 Armenians on the Hill, who will judge our actions as parliamentarians today. Let us act courageously.
Hon. Hedy Fry (Secretary of State (Multiculturalism) (Status of Women), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to thank the member for Ahuntsic for tabling this motion in the House.
The points raised by the motion deal with universal rights, equality, and the fight for freedom the underprivileged peoples of the world have been waging since the dawn of civilization.
I support the principles in the hon. member's motion. In fact I applaud them. It is for this reason that I would like to propose an amendment to the motion. I move:
That the motion be amended (1) by deleting the word ``genocide'' and substituting therefor the words ``tragedy which claimed some 1.5 million lives'', and (2) by inserting immediately after ``1915'' the words ``and in recognition of other crimes against humanity''; and (3) by deleting all of the words after the words ``as the week'' and by substituting the words ``of remembrance of the inhumanity of people toward one another''.
I would like to see the scope of the motion broadened to cover all peoples who have suffered in their quest for justice and freedom.
Therefore I would like to see us acknowledge a tragic systemic massacre and degradation of the Armenian people which began in 1915 under the Ottoman empire and recognize the day April 24 as a day to mourn for those who suffered. Yet on April 15 we also mark the holocaust as a day to remember with sorrow the slaughter of millions of Jews and on April 27 we celebrate the death of apartheid, the triumph of freedom over the decades of legislated racism, bigotry and murder of black South Africans.
This amendment seeks to remember all of these peoples and more. It proposes to set a week to mourn man's inhumanity to man, all the women who for millennia have been raped in the name of power, all the children who have been orphaned in the struggle for freedom, all those who have been humiliated, degraded, imprisoned, killed because of their religion, the colour of their skin or their sexual orientation.
To narrow this motion to recognize the plight of one people is laudable in its intent but it misses the opportunity to make a statement on behalf of those who do not have a special day of remembrance but who have suffered similar injustices over the history of humankind.
The shameful history of man's inhumanity has never been selective, nor has brutality ever been focused in one place, one community or one people. The tragedies such as we mourn on April 15, 24 and 27 may have been brought on by discrimination, bigotry and the misuse of power but it has not been limited to a particular race, religion or ethnic group. The brutal murder and incarceration of women, men and children simply because they wished to worship their own god or walk side by side in equality and justice with other members of the human race in kinship and respect is a tragedy the entire human family must bear with shame.
The motion moved by the honourable member for Ahuntsic reflects the fundamental values of the people of Canada. As a people we have opened our arms and our country to victims of pain, tyranny and injustice.
We are recognized the world over as a people who not only believe in peace, justice and respect but we practise it. We have legislated it. Our multiculturalism policy has ensured that all of the diverse people who make up our nation must live in respect of each other's culture, religion, race or ethnicity. We seek not to assimilate others but to allow for the ultimate freedom of the individual to pursue what makes him or her unique and special.
We believe that all Canadians can be one people united under one flag and one nation and yet celebrate and respect the diversity of our geography and our people. Multiculturalism is part of making sure we are sensitive to the pain of those Canadians who may at one time have been victimized by the inhumanity of war or by bigotry and oppression. Multiculturalism promotes healing and fosters a cohesion of people.
By and large we are a country of immigrants and refugees within an aboriginal country. We have come together from each corner of the world to build a society, recognized not for a particular language or a specific skin colour but by the values that bind us together, values of justice, equality, respect and peaceful resolution to conflict.
We are a unique nation. We are the global nation and we wear the title with pride. We stand as a role model to the world of a nation where all people can find peace, order and good government, can co-exist in harmony with intercultural understanding and sharing, with respect for differences.
Here in Canada this motion will strengthen the way we hope to build a nation. It will send a message to other nations and people who struggle under the yoke of oppression that in Canada there is a policy of respect, that here they can be free to worship their god and walk down the street equal to other Canadians, equal under the eyes of the law, free from fear of discrimination as enshrined in our Constitution, free to dress in the manner of their choice, free to participate in the benefits of this society fully, and to accept and fulfil the responsibilities of a Canadian citizen in equality.
If we are to change our world, if we are to hope that one day humankind can live together in peace and respect, we must always be mindful of the cruelty of tyranny, of the massacres of peoples, of the incarceration, degradation and inhumanity that man has wrought on each other in the name of power, intolerance and religion.
This motion would enshrine the week of April 20 to April 27 as a week to remember, to mourn and to celebrate the martyrs who have gone before in history, like the Armenians we remember today, so that the pursuit of freedom and justice will remain clear in our hearts and in our legislation, so that we may remain on guard wherever human rights are in jeopardy, as we have done whenever we have traded. We have taken the opportunity to speak to leaders of regimes that do not hold the same human rights values which we hold dear. We have a reputation as peacekeepers around the world.
We will learn from the lessons of the past. It is fitting this motion is placed before the House of Commons of the Canadian Parliament. As Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said to our Prime Minister at the United Nations 50th anniversary, the world has always looked to Canada with hope, as a people who have lived together in diversity with respect, as a people who have sought peaceful resolution to conflict.
Let us not disappoint them. Let us remain true to the mandate of our unique policy of multiculturalism which seeks to strengthen a cohesive, respectful, inclusive and democratic society and a shared sense of identity reflective of the diversity of Canadian people.
The Deputy Speaker: The amendment is being studied and it has not been ruled as being receivable. As soon as possible, the Chair will make a ruling on that matter.
Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank our colleague for the sensitivity she has always displayed concerning the issues of racism and social justice. However, I want to make sure I understand the true meaning of the message she has delivered this morning.
She shares the concerns of members as a whole regarding the use of violence which has become too widespread throughout this century. I want to make sure that she believes, as I do, that violence, whatever its form, is unacceptable.
However, there is in Canadian policy a certain amount of inconsistency I have trouble understanding; my colleague will perhaps take the time to clarify this for me. The Canadian government has committed $500,000 to set up a human rights tribunal to investigate war crimes and wrongdoings in the former Yugoslavia. This international tribunal will be made up of nine judges, including one Canadian.
We followed very closely the statements made by the Canadian government on Rwanda. In both cases, the Canadian government had no qualms about talking of genocide. The reason being that, when it comes to words, there is a scale of sorts to describe things.
My colleague will agree that genocide is violence at its worst. Why is it that the Canadian government does not hesitate to talk about genocide regarding events in Rwanda? Why is it that it has no qualms about freeing $500,000 in the case of the former Yugoslavia? Why is it reluctant to describe for what they were the events which occurred in Armenia in 1915 and had the hallmark of a genocide, and to call a spade a spade?
Ms. Fry: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has said very clearly that Canada has given aid and brought its own particular principles to areas like Rwanda, Bosnia and other parts of the world where there has been inhumanity to man.
We are supportive of the hon. member's motion. We are just changing the words to express the tragedy of the 1.5 million people who were killed. We are also widening the scope of the motion to make the week one of remembrance for all people, such as April 15 to commemorate the holocaust and April 27 for the death of apartheid. We are just trying to widen the scope of the motion so that it will be a commemorative week for all people who have suffered over the years.
Mr. Jim Silye (Calgary Centre, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, why in her amendment to the main motion does the hon. member recommend the deletion of the word genocide?
Ms. Fry: Mr. Speaker, we are recommending substituting for the word ``genocide'' the words ``tragedy which claimed some 1.5 million lives''. Genocide is a specific term. We do not feel we can use that term at this time. We are mentioning the deaths of 1.5 million people. We are supporting the motion, but we are broadening the scope of it.
Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, what we have heard is part of the problem we have in the House where there is a play on words and we do not say what we mean. On a number of occasions I have had cause to lament that sort of thing and be upset by it. Obviously, we are all opposed to genocide and the planned killing of people by their own governments or by other governments. We must make a clear statement to all humanity.
It is with pleasure that I speak to the motion which condemns genocide as an instrument of national policy. While there are few problems with the wording of the proposed amendment, I am going to suggest at least one subamendment at the end of my presentation.
As the foreign affairs critic for the Reform Party, I am pleased to say that I will be supporting the motion with the amendments. It is important that we clearly let the world know what we think of these acts.
When we received the motion yesterday, it was difficult to decide how to approach it. In many respects it is a motherhood issue. We are all opposed to genocide. This morning I intend to try and develop my and my party's approach to the subject and try to put a little more humanity and understanding into it.
Genocide strikes at the very root of humanity. It is the sort of thing that causes us to shudder no matter where in the world it takes place. When a government or a group attempts to obliterate a people through violent means to achieve their own selfish political goals, all humanity is diminished and suffers because of it.
Those who have committed genocide often attempt to blame the victims or deny reality, but the truth must be remembered. To honour the memory of the victims we must remind our children of what happened. We must not let these memories die. Hopefully they will prevent future atrocities.
It is a cliche, but a true one when we say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This truth has haunted us in the House of Commons over the past couple of years as we have watched in horror as hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, have been slaughtered in places like Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
The saddest thing about these recent genocides is that historians 100 years from now will probably see them as only two of a long series of genocides stretching throughout the century. The ultimate horror is that there have been so many mass slaughters this century it is tough to keep track of them. The future does not bode well for stopping them, even though we say this must be the last.
There is the Armenian genocide that this motion speaks to. We have the Jewish Holocaust. We have Stalin's purges. We have the Chinese situation in Nanking. We have mass murder in East Timor, the disappearance in Central and South America of many people, tribal slaughter in Burundi, government sponsored famine in Ethiopia, and the list goes on and on. As I said at the beginning, it touches all of us as human beings living on this planet.
Each one of these represents a human disaster of epic proportions, but all have been reduced to historical footnotes because there are so many. That is why I believe the House should vote in favour of the motion, which serves to remind us and helps us to keep a vigilance; a vigilance that we cannot forget history.
The motion does not cost anything, but it is a powerful show that the House is not indifferent to genocide. It shows that members in this place prefer to speak out rather than perpetually sit in an uncomfortable silence waiting for the next disaster.
A few members today have presentations which will deal specifically with the genocide of the Armenians during the early years of this century. I would like to support those members but I must tell them I do not know a lot about Armenian history and I will leave it to my colleagues to talk about it in their presentations. I will deal with several other issues that relate to genocide with which I am more familiar.
Obviously we could go back to World War II and the Jewish Holocaust. It is amazing that some people deny this happened. Obviously it did happen. It should have been a valuable lesson in history, but unfortunately it was not. The Jews in Europe had suffered for centuries from prejudices and intolerance, but the rise of Hitler brought the hatred of Jews to a whole new level.
Under the Nazis the Jews became the scapegoat for all the ills of society. Hatred became a unifying force and the Jews were systematically dehumanised by Nazi propaganda to such a degree that their mass murder went from being an outrageous idea to the final solution to Germany's problems.
The use of propaganda and the media to dehumanise and discredit people who were subsequently massacred is unfortunately a tradition that has stood the test of time. Therefore this is the first lesson we must learn. We might call it the CNN factor. The use of television, the use of communication today is an important part of ploys used by many terrorist groups. Last week we had an example of that. We must be conscious of it. We must remember the media can be used to promote hate and that it must be monitored in Canada and throughout the world.
We must have set standards in the international community so that we see both sides of the story, not simply the side the CNN reporter wants us to see. We must not let the media be manipulated by various powers. I am sure some terrorist groups have a training program which involves the use of the media. We must be conscious of that and vigilant that we get both sides.
Another lesson we learned from the Jewish Holocaust is the indifference of the international community. As Europe's Jews desperately tried to escape they found many countries would not accept them. Not only that, the international community appeased Germany and continually caved in to its increasingly outrageous policies. This gave the perception of silent approval of Germany's actions, a perception that proved fatal to over six million Jews.
Clearly the international community can never again sit by in stunned silence while such outrages occur. We must be vigilant, speak out and take firm action when the need arises.
I will now talk about a couple of recent examples of genocide. I will start with the former Yugoslavia and then I will talk a bit about Rwanda and conclude with an overall approach to genocide itself.
The Deputy Speaker: I wonder if the hon. member would permit a very brief interruption. The member has indicated he wishes to make a subamendment. It would probably be of assistance if he knew what the Chair has ruled on the previous amendment. With his permission I would like to give that ruling now.
The amendment proposed by the secretary of state is an acceptable amendment. Accordingly, when the member for Red Deer wishes to make a subamendment he may wish to keep in mind the amendment was accepted by the Chair.
Mr. Mills (Red Deer): Mr. Speaker, that does clarify what I will be doing at the end of my presentation.
I will use a couple of examples. I will use recent ones familiar to the House. Those still speak to the motion of the Armenian question.
When we look at the former Yugoslavia, I know members do not need a history lesson on some of the problems. However, there are a few facts we need to outline as to exactly what happened.
It is fair to say, hopefully in an unbiased evaluation of the situation, that there is no side right or wrong. There are lots of wrongs but it is a matter of not being able to pick the good guy from the bad guy. That is a big problem in today's post-cold war situation in which we find ourselves.
It is often easier for people of the world community to sit idle while these wrongs are occurring. I have mentioned that the media plays a major role in promoting and sometimes in formulating ideas within our community which are incorrect.
We must also recognize in the former Yugoslavia that this is a civil war. It is not like the gulf war. Civil wars are different from where we have an aggressor attacking another country. In looking at the facts we must always recognize that. We must look at the external forces which come into play when such acts of genocide occur. We must also always understand history and look back however far we have to to understand the nature of the problem.
If we look at the former Yugoslavian problem we need to go back at least 1300 years and even back to Greek and Roman times.
We can go through the 6th century and the Slavic tribes as they worked through that area. We can look at the effect of Rome and Constantinople, the Catholic and Orthodox church in the 10th century. We can go through the Islamic expansion of the 14th century. Very clearly we start to see the effects of not only the people but of external forces coming into play.
We have to also recognize the way governments rule. The Muslim rule of the 15th century was pretty grim stuff. The Turkish empire and the way it handled things was a pretty rugged way of running a government by our standards.
As we move to more modern times we see the influence of the Treaty of Berlin of 1878. We look at the alliances that occurred up to the end of the first world war. Then we look at what happened during the mid-war period and then on to the second world war and the alliances there. In Hitler's alliances with Croatia, 400,000 Serbians living in Croatia were massacred because of outside forces. They were massacred for all kinds of reasons.
Then we come to Tito's time. Tito ruled Yugoslavia with an iron hand from 1945 until 1980 when he died. There are six republics and we must understand the history of those republics and why they lived in so-called peace.
From there in 1991 when the Croats and Slovenians declared independence, I guess not unlike Quebec's declaring independence from Canada, we can see the terrific pull that would have on the people of that country.
The point is that no matter what history tells us and no matter what politics tells us, genocide is not acceptable under any conditions. Countries and the peoples of the world must find a way to deal with their problems, but not to those kinds of extremes. That has to come loud and clear from countries like ours. It has to come loud and clear from the UN. The UN desperately needs to be modernized and become efficient so it can respond to these issues.
If there is one thing we can blame ourselves and the world community for it is the inability, the lack of desire, or whatever the reason, to modernize a 50-year old organization that can today not deal with its problems because it is top heavy, bureaucratic, under funded, inefficient, and so on. We must deal with that problem. That is our problem. It will lead to future genocide in other countries if we do not have a UN that can respond effectively, efficiently and quickly. We are all concerned and desire that. We have to have a plan. We have to do something about it. We as parliamentarians must demand that we take that leadership role as Canadians.
I move on to Rwanda. I know members across have heard my speech on Rwanda before. I do not intend to repeat all of that but I do think it demonstrates something that was very graphic to everyone. The genocide that occurred in Rwanda was unbelievable. It is certainly in all of our minds. We saw it because of CNN.
In 1985 I was on an Air France 747 with 20 people. We landed in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. My wife and I got off the plane. The rest said ``good luck''. I did not really know what they were talking about, but it seemed like we had landed in the jungle, and the plane left. Then we had armed guards around us and we went through the immigration procedure and had all of our medical certificates and documents in order.
As we moved away from the airport we moved into gorgeous countryside that is very similar to what we might see in Belgium.
As I only have two minutes left I would like to move a subamendment. I move:
That the amendment be amended by inserting after the word ``tragedy'' the following: ``of genocide.''
It would then read the ``tragedy of genocide.''
As we went through that countryside we saw the markets. We spent close to a month in that country. We were out in the villages, we were travelling with a local Rwandan gentleman who introduced us to his parents and his relatives. In the markets we saw the salt and the utensils. We saw the barter system. Some people walked 20 and 30 miles to get to the market.
We went to the tea plantations developed by China. We saw the hotels and some of the infrastructure that the Belgians and the French had built. As we got more and more involved in that country we saw some warnings. The NGOs told us there was unrest. The church said there was unrest. The French troops said there was unrest. The United Nations said there was unrest.
I cannot help now thinking, was that what it was like in the period from 1930 when the people knew that something was wrong in Germany?
Obviously genocide is something about which we must all speak. It must be done through the UN, through this Parliament. It is a motherhood topic for all of us.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais): The Chair would like to advise that the subamendment submitted by the hon. member for Red Deer is receivable and accepted.
Mr. Michel Daviault (Ahuntsic, BQ): Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for his subamendment and his vigilance.
As I expected, the government changed the word ``genocide'' to the word `tragedy''. It is not acceptable to us. It is not acceptable to the purpose of the motion.
I thank the hon. member but I noticed he was perhaps missing a couple of minutes. Maybe he could expand on his speech and talk to us a bit more about human rights.
Mr. Mills (Red Deer): Madam Speaker, I had planned to close with the questions that I believe we as part of the international community must ask, particularly as they relate to Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. I am sure many years ago they could have applied to Germany or Armenia.
How much intervention would it take to stop what happened? That question has to be asked. In the case of Rwanda, very little. In the former Yugoslavia, probably a lot more. We are probably seeing that now with IFOR.
Second, who should have been responsible? Who is responsible? Are we all responsible? I put forward that we are all responsible for this, that this issue goes far beyond partisan politics, and we are responsible as the world community.
Third, will this happen again? Unfortunately I think the answer is yes. We must deal with this problem. I have suggested the UN is certainly an avenue.
How much external pressure causes this sort of thing to happen? What if there had not been so much external pressure on these countries? I am most familiar with Rwanda. If there had not been the colonial influence of the Belgians and the French, then what? Maybe this is going back to something we cannot have any control over, but we must ask these questions and we must find answers to them for the future. We must look at our history, our past, to understand the future. That is so critical in this whole thing.
I thank the member for the opportunity to complete my remarks.
Mr. Philippe Paré (Louis-Hébert, BQ): Madam Speaker, I am glad I have the opportunity to participate in this debate on genocides, not only the Armenian one, but all those that took place in other countries and are still happening today.
I was listening when the previous member said we should all be concerned. I think he is perfectly right. This is a question of human rights and everybody should be concerned.
As critic for the Bloc Quebecois, I was particularly pleased to hear that the Leader of the Opposition chose to give the first speech on that motion. I feel it is important for a party leader to state his position and give his point of view on such an important issue.
Last week, I participated with colleagues of all parties in a conference on official development assistance. Some representatives of non-governmental organizations said they were still hoping, after two and a half years of Liberal presence in the House, after two and a half years of Liberal government, for the first speech of the Prime Minister of Canada on the human rights issue. But the Prime Minister will not deliver any speech on human rights. He indicated that very clearly during the first tour of Team Canada in Asia.
At that time, the Prime Minister said: ``I could give a headline-making speech on that issue, but I prefer to open markets and promote trade. The walls will eventually come down''. The problem is he did not say when. Will it take 50 years for the walls to come down?
These words show clearly that this government does not consider human rights to be an important issue. However, if we want to deal with poverty in the world, we must consider sustainable development. And the notion of sustainable development encompasses greater issues like democratic development, the participation of populations in their own development, and human rights. We will get nowhere if we think we can help developing countries without taking into consideration sustainable development, human rights, democratic development and the importance that should be given to these concepts.
I am convinced that the tragedy suffered by Jews during the second world war has already been mentioned this morning. I am quite sure that Cambodia was also mentioned because hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Cambodians were killed by the Khmers Rouges.
Maybe we did not talk enough about the Sudan, this forgotten African country which, for the last ten years, has suffered a savage war pitting the north against the south. So far, more than one million people have been eliminated. Yet, nobody talked about the Sudan.
Of course we talked about the former Yugoslavia and the ethnic cleansing there. The hon. member who spoke before me talked about Rwanda and the massacres that took place in that country. Unfortunately, history repeats itself and we do not learn for past errors.
After the last war, the heads of states assembled in San Francisco to create the United Nations said: ``No more wars''. I am sure they were sincere. However, war continues to be a dreadful scourge.
There is a question related to genocides and human rights which, I think, is too easily ignored. It is the whole question of impunity. Why do we have genocides decade after decade? I think one of the reasons is that the international community has not found an effective way of dealing with people responsible for genocides.
During the last three or four years we have seen the same thing happen in Haiti. We know that 3,000 or 4,000 people were killed. Yet, what happened to General Cédras? He got a pocketful of money and was told to go. The same happened with Duvalier, the previous dictator. For years, dictators inflicted torture on the Haitian people. But when the dictator is finally forced out of power, he does not suffer any consequences.
In the former Yugoslavia, we see people responsible for ethnic cleansing parading in front of television cameras, and the international community seems unable to do anything.
The saddest part of all is that it never stops. There are other hot spots and, regrettably, Canada maintains relations with countries where torture is allowed and practised. We think of China where human rights are systematically violated and freedom of speech is denied: political dissidents are muzzled, human rights advocates are attacked, and so on.
We think of Nigeria where dissidents are eliminated. But we have to point something out here. Because Nigeria is not a very powerful nation, Canada might try to take economic sanctions against it. Will we do the same thing against China? Will we do the same thing against Indonesia? And against Vietnam? We practice double talk, and pay lip service to human rights.