A Bad Start for 2011

Keghart.com  Editorial Board, 16 February 2011
 
Toronto Armenians take just pride in their cohesion, support of the motherland (including Artsakh) and for their passion when it comes to Hye Tad (Armenian Cause) and other Armenian affairs and concerns. However, two of its more prominent organizations started the 2011 on a wrong footing.
 

Keghart.com  Editorial Board, 16 February 2011
 
Toronto Armenians take just pride in their cohesion, support of the motherland (including Artsakh) and for their passion when it comes to Hye Tad (Armenian Cause) and other Armenian affairs and concerns. However, two of its more prominent organizations started the 2011 on a wrong footing.
 

On Jan. 14 the Armenian National Committee of Toronto (ANCT) held a “town hall” meeting which was billed as an “interactive meeting to discuss ANCT issues and initiatives with community members.” It was also meant to “serve as an opportunity to create a dialogue and strengthen the bonds between the community members and the ANCT executives.”
 
The guest speaker was Toronto MP Rob Oliphant. What did Mr. Oliphant talk about? About his recent trip to Armenia. The politician regaled his audience with a tired travelogue, as if the audience had not been to Armenia or seen pictures of Khor Virab, Mount Ararat, Etchmiadzin a thousand times. The speech was heavy with travel-writing clichés and light on meaningful observations and facts. It sounded like a high school “How I spent my summer vacation” speech.
 
However, there was a more serious shortcoming to the politician’s presentation. Mr. Oliphant put on his political pundit hat and lectured Armenians not just in Toronto and Canada, but Armenians in the Diaspora and in Armenia about Hye Tadd. He declaimed that Armenians should learn from Jews regarding the Holocaust and the Genocide. He said that Armenians should put the past (read Genocide) behind them to move forward. Armenians should do what Jews had done, said he.
 
While the comparison between the Jewish and Armenian tragedies is invidious and egregious, what was as disturbing was that no ANCT executive challenged Mr. Oliphant’s false comparison. Shouldn’t someone have told Mr. Oliphant that Germany has recognized the Holocaust, given billions of dollars to Jews and to Israel and is one of the major diplomatic/political/military/financial allies of Israel while Turkey continues to deny its butchery of 1.5 million innocent Armenians? Do we need lessons from a politician who has become an expert on Armenians and their destiny after spending a couple of days in Armenia?
 
It’s standard procedure for event organizers to vet the speech of a speaker a priori. Did the ANCT know what Mr. Oliphant was going to say? If yes, why did they give the green light to the offensive “advice”?
 
This is the second ANCT fumble in as many months. In late 2010 its executives decided, without consultation with the community, to support a mayoralty candidate who had no links to the Armenian community. The candidate was soundly defeated. Since then the newly-elected mayor has had cordial meetings and photo-ops with another Armenian group which some consider a rival to ANCT.
 
The ANCT “town hall” event was attended by a mere 50 people–far short of the attendance one would have expected from such a community-wide gathering. The question arises whether the meeting was competently publicized.
 
The ANCT has a long history of admirable work on behalf of the Armenian Cause and Armenian national preservation. It’s disappointing to see its recent missteps.
 
A few weeks later (Feb. 5) the Canada Armenia Business Council (CABC) held its annual banquet in a Toronto suburb. To commemorate the occasion, the CABC published a 20-page booklet which carried eight pages of advertisements. One of the full-page ads was inserted by the Mosaic Institute and the Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council (TABDC). The ad was paid for by Vahan Kololian, who runs the Mosaic Institute (MI). Reports from insiders say that Mr. Kololian made the inclusion of the TABDC logo, including the Turkish flag, a condition of his purchasing the $1,000-page space.
 
The TABDC and MI ad was objectionable for several reasons.
 
At the bottom of the ad there was the following statement: “Partners in advocating opening the border and promoting free trade between Turkey and Armenia.” At no time has the Republic of Armenia (ROA) advocated free trade with Turkey. Thanks to the subsidies many Turkish corporations receive from Ankara, thanks to the experience of Turkish businessmen, and thanks to the large domestic market Turkish corporations command, Armenia’s economy would collapse within days if there was free trade between Yerevan and Ankara. On what basis and by whose authority do the two organizations flash their misguided motto remains a mystery. One thing is clear: The statement is blatant interference in the internal and foreign affairs of ROA by a business group with an agenda.
 
There’s also a mystery about TABDC’s leadership and financing. On its website main page, TABDC boasts: “More than a Business Group, co-established on 3 May, 1997 in Istanbul and in Yerevan, is the first and only official link between the public and private sectors in each of the two countries’ communities. The TABDC is co-chaired by Arsen Ghazarian and Kaan Soyak.”
 
More than a business group, according to TABDC.
 
Although Ghazarian is cited as TABDC co-chair, of the 43 news releases (listed on the main web page), 27 have Soyak’s name in their headlines. Mr. Ghazarian? He is mentioned once. Reading the website one inevitably reaches to the conclusion that hugely invisible Mr. Ghazarian is no more than a figurehead.
 
Who is Kaan Soyak? He is an Istanbul businessman who frequently visits North America. He is a staunch supporter of the discredited protocols between Armenia and Turkey. Indeed, the TABDC website still lists a number of articles in support of the defunct protocols.
 
Who funds the activities of TABDC? Is it the Turkish business establishment?
 
We believe in talking with Turks so as to resolve our differences, but TABDC is not the right medium for such a conversation. Intentionally or unintentionally, TABDC provides a fig leaf for Turkish propaganda… to divert and distract us from Hye Tad … and enable Turkey to claim that all’s well between the two nations and the two states, although Turkey denies its horrific crimes and continues to blockade Armenia.
 
Who is Mr. Kololian? He is an Armenian-Canadian businessman, based in Toronto. He runs MI. The insertion of the ad in the CABC booklet wasn’t his only disappointing act this past year. Last April he appeared on a nationwide television program to discuss the Genocide of Armenians. The moderator was Turkish and so was Kololian’s co-panelist Demir Delen. The latter is the past-president of the Federation of Canadian-Turkish Associations. He is a professional Genocide denier who lectures on how “Armenians killed Turks.” During the discussion, Mr. Kololian described the Genocide as “a controversial subject” and made no attempt to refute Mr. Delen’s well-versed boilerplate propaganda. He also didn’t interject Dalan when the latter transformed the discussion into an apparent “treatise” on Armenian terrorists of the ‘80s. Furthermore, Kololian didn’t provide a rebuttal when Delen falsely stated Canada was the only country which recognized the Genocide. A painful mismatch by any measure.
 
Did the full CABC executive know about the content of Mr. Kololian’s ad? If yes, why did it approve its publication? It couldn’t have been the allure of $1,000? Does CABC have procedures in place whereby the content (editorial and advertising) of its program booklets is checked? Was the publishing of the ad a failure to exercise oversight?
 
The CABC is a valuable organization which has done commendable work. In this instance it failed to put the dots and cross the “tees”. Once the credibility of an organization is harmed, it’s difficult to restore it. We hope CABC and ANCT learn from their recent stumbles and avoid consequences which could harm Hye Tad. Armenians can’t afford to make too many mistakes. The enemy is too strong; the enemy is ever alert to undermine our efforts.
 
15 comments
  1. Canadian MP

    What a jerk, the MP! Could they not find a better guest to invite? With "friends" like these, who needs enemies? The history of the world in recent decades shows very clearly that any problem "swept under the carpet" without being solved will come back to haunt with a vengeance.

    Shame also on the hosts who would not challenge such an enormity, and shame on all the  MP’s electors, Armenian or non- Armenian, for having voted him in. If he handles constituency and national issues with the same sort of argument, boy am I glad not to be living in Canada…

  2. Excellent article

    Another excellent article by Keghart.

    As happens, in the US, not just Canada, when Hye-Tahd people are not sufficiently active and on top of things, the non-Hye Tahd type of Armenians start to fill the void.

  3. Waiting for the Other Side

    I am anxious to read the comments of the organizers mentioned in this Editorial, because I believe there is a reason behind all these mistakes. We should hear both sides to know the truth. So far they are silent.

    How come Keghart readers are also silent, and we don’t see numerous comments and replies to this important issue?

    Shame on the organizers for allowing the MP to get away with his statement, and shame on the audience for not challenging him.

     

    1. Waiting for godot

      I agree with you Nercess, the people mentioned in this article would’ve replied by now if they had a justification for their actions.
      1. Sending the link

        Guys, some of the people mentioned in this article might not know that this is published.  I think keghart editors should send this link to the respective people letting them know so that they can defend themselves.  I am sure there is an explanation. Our organizers and organizations are not that stupid.
  4. The fundamental question

    This editorial is certainly an impressive piece of investigative journalism.

    On the affairs of the Mosaic Institute, I can say that I have always welcomed its philosophy of creating positive dialog between Armenians and Turks and Armenians and Azeris. I have even visited their sister organization in Armenia (International Center for Human Development) and was quite impressed by its professional think-tank approach to analysing issues.

    On the other hand, Keghart is right on. Free trade with Turkey was never an official policy of the ROA. Opening borders unconditionally is. Hence the TABDC and the MI would be guilty of deliberate obfuscation (because they certainly could not be guilty of ignorance) when they try to merge the two issues.

    In any case, the ANCT and the CABC have no excue if they let organizations and politicians pursue their own agendas at the expense of the community. After all, if anyone should be accountable, then it should be them.

    The question though is, to whom are they accountable? To their members? To their financial backers? Or to the community?

    Paregamoren

    Viken L. Attarian

  5. Relax

    Building an ANCT that is viable and CREDIBLE means that when you pick who you support in mayoral elections, you look at their position on the issues that matter – not only their likelihood of winning. ANCT isn’t here just to cheer on the favourites. Ours is a matter of principle. If you want credibility, you have to take the good with the bad. I guess it’s fun to be a critic when all is already said and done – but the mayoral race was a close one and the critics should be fair.

    Smitherman embraced our community. Ford was a tactical late entry to the game. I wish nothing but the best to those who have achieved those elusive photo ops with Ford. Congratulations. If he truly has any useful sentiment for our community, ANCT is dynamic enough that we will build a mutually beneficial relationship before long.

    As this country allows free speech, there is no censoring people that you bring to your town hall. His opinions on what our attitude ought to be about the genocide are misguided – doesn’t mean he should be alienated. Developing political friends is a process. ANCT’s mandate is broad and encompasses more than just the Genocide. As such, you need to keep your friends close, and develop your relationships.

    What is the common thread that runs through these two comments? Critics: Don’t be so shortsighted.

    Thank you

    -a

     

    1. Commendable……but

      I join Keghart in commending the long time good work done by the Armenian National Committee of Toronto (ANCT). I am sure Armenians of Toronto are aware of ANCT’s efforts and are deeply appreciative. I particularly commend ANCT for attracting and nurturing  young people to take on from the older generation and to continue our sacred mission. I wish other Armenian organizations did the same. Vartskernit gadar, I say, to our young activists at ANCT.

      However, I have to point out that contrary to the comment by Mr. Hasserjian, ANCT didn’t give mayoralty candidate Rob Ford the opportunity to state his position. To my knowledge, ANCT leaders did not meet him. As well, the mayoralty race was not close. Months before the election, it was widely known that George Smitherman was falling behind in electoral support. That is the reason his fellow Liberal and friend Premier McGuinty of Ontario issued instructions to party members and to functionaries to support Mr. Smitherman. These facts are public knowledge.

      I am still scratching my head, trying to determine on what basis did ANCT support Mr. Smitherman. The man was oblivious to Armenian affairs and concerns when he was a minister in the Liberal cabinet. I don’t remember any occasion when he embraced our community.

      The promise that ANCT will “build a mutually beneficial relationship before long” is encouraging. However, three months after Mr. Ford’s election, ANCT hasn’t even sent a congratulatory letter, I understand, to Toronto’s new Mayor.

      Anahit 

    2. Don’t be so shortsighted?

      If there is no criticism people will never correct their mistakes and will not advance.  Criticism is an essential part of society. Unfortunately, as Armenians, we lack the courage to publicly criticize and hence we help generate organizations that lack vision and ‘correctness’.

      I would assume that ANCT has done a lot of good deeds to Armenians and might be a great organization.  But even the greatest of them would sometimes make mistakes and they need to admit and try NOT to repeat it again.

      It’s a principle that we are asking Turks to follow…

      I don’t agree that the critics are shortsighted; just the opposite, they are trying to make a point to our so-called leaders that they need to be more accountable for their actions because times have changed for the better and Armenians are watching now globally.

  6. Ineptitude of our traditional BBBs

    As very aptly expressed by Ara Baliozian,  the BBBs, meaning bishops, benefactors and bosses of our Diaspora have again exposed their ineptitude…

     

    1. Blundering BBBs

      Gaytzag,
       
      Surely you are not referring to the Ara Baliozian who, in his latest blogs, claims that he has “been taken in so many times by my fellow Armenians that I now reserve my trust only for an Armenian who speaks against his own interests – not something that happens every day”.
       
      Blundering BBBs make Baliozian’s trusted friends. I am referring to what happened on that particular day in Toronto. Ara could not have been critical of the leadership of ANCT for their ineptitude, but would have felt a momentary kinship with them. 
      1. To Apel et al

        There is only one ARA Baliozain, writer, translator (Gostan Zarian and a host  of 
        others, from Armenian into English).

        He was and I take he still  is an outspoken critic  of  the BBB´s. But, on another thread  and Forum – years ago when  he passed the margin, generalizing all ARMENIANS, I stopped corresponding with him and suggesting that he give  up that. Since  then, I believe  he is a bit  more carfeful  not to generalize  when commenting on those ….

        Hope this takes care  of your query. On all that  I have "saved"  copies  of some  of these posts  on Hayaastan @usc.edu,  a site  that  a friend of mine,  Asbed Bedrosian  is owner  and general manager. Also  of GROONG Armenian site.

  7. “Umbrella” Needed

    A very eloquent article which explains how we are improperly organized and how we are unprepared to face any contingency that may arise. Reluctantly, I agree with Mr. Oliphant when he states that Armenians should do what Jews had done. We lack a supreme organization (“umbrella” as proposed by Harut Sassounian) that embodies all other organizations, to act in sync and in the same way on all fronts for a single goal, to ensure that mistakes are not made anymore. A ship carried by many captains is destined to sink.

    Paregamoren,

    Ari Armen

    1. “A Ship Led by Many

      "A ship led by many captains is destined to sink."

      One sentence describes all our history.

      When will we learn?

      1. A Ship vs. Many Ships
        I rather have more than one ship heading to a destination instead of a single ship lead by a captain and his/her crew.

        The Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) is not one ship but an armada of ships. JFNA is comprised of independently-functioning entities, as I understand its structure reading Wikipedia.

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