An Unprecedented 46 Parliamentarians Join Canada-Armenia Friendship Group

Press Release by ANCC, 29 March 2009

In a democratic country, such as Canada, it is fair play in politics to promote any organisation or political party short of misrepresentation when national interests are at stake. Unfortunately, that civic obligation is not honoured, and it is a commonplace phenomenon to see pronouncements where there is an implied message that the authors represent the whole community or its majority.  Readers are reminded of this concern while reviewing ANCC’s most recent press release of 29 March 2009 copied at the end of this posting.

Press Release by ANCC, 29 March 2009

In a democratic country, such as Canada, it is fair play in politics to promote any organisation or political party short of misrepresentation when national interests are at stake. Unfortunately, that civic obligation is not honoured, and it is a commonplace phenomenon to see pronouncements where there is an implied message that the authors represent the whole community or its majority.  Readers are reminded of this concern while reviewing ANCC’s most recent press release of 29 March 2009 copied at the end of this posting. contacted some friends who are active in the community and are aware of the ins and outs soliciting their comments. Below are some points that the readers may take into consideration.

* The event is certainly a positive one as more and more parliamentarians become aware of Armenian issues. Nevertheless, that’s where the whole show stops. In the past, many organizations – including the AGBU – have worked hard to create this awareness and expand the group. 

*ANCC certainly deserves credit for doing a lot, but to trump it as an incredible achievement is certainly an exaggeration. 
* Regarding Raymonde Folco – one of the new vice chairs of the Friendship Group – the ANCC worked very hard to defeat her in the last federal election.  Thanks to non-ANCC committed friends, she has put aside that episode. For ANCC to claim that she is a friend of Armenians because of their “lobbying” requires a lot of cheek.
* The Canada Armenia Friendship Group has been around for a long time and its ardent supporters included Sarkis Assadourian and Eleni Bakopanos.
* This Friendship Group is not the equivalent of the US “Armenian Caucus”. It has no official status, no funding, and it is not related to voting in parliament. It is simply a friendship group as its name suggests, related to creating awareness. The Canadian Parliament   recognizes only five Associations – Canada-China Legislative Association, Canada-France Inter-Parliamentary Association, Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group, Canada-United Kingdom Inter-Parliamentary Association, Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, and on the multilateral side Canada is a member of seven associations which include: Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association, Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas, Inter-Parliamentary Union. These parliamentary groups obtain official funding and have clear policy agenda. 
* Mr. Taro Alepian, Chairman of Congress of Canadian Armenians filed the following communication:
The Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) is controlled by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation of Canada (Tashnags). When the Canada-Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group (CAPFG) was given a list by the ANCC of Armenian community leaders, they were unaware that the ANCC had purposefully left out everyone from the numerous organizations throughout Canada that are "Etchmiadsnagan". The parliamentarians, who acted in a trusting fashion, were fooled. That is why we were not present at the gathering in Ottawa referred to in the ANCC press release dated March 29. I asked Harold Albrecht, the new Chairman of the CAPFG, whether he was aware that what the ANCC was doing was misrepresentation, and he replied that he was totally unaware and that he would like to work more closely with us in the future.
Perhaps more devastating to our reputation as a community is what will be happening in April of this year. The Congress of Canadian Armenians, with the enthusiastic support and input of over 20 major Armenian organizations from across Canada, is hosting a significant event on April 21 in the Parliament Building in Ottawa to mark the 5th anniversary of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the House of Commons. All Members of Parliament, many Senators and the Ambassadors of countries that have also recognized the Armenian Genocide are invited. Those who voted in favour of the recognition will be honoured.
On March 14, in a formal letter delivered to Dr. Vagharch Ehramdjian who is Chairman of the Tashnags in Canada, I requested their support and involvement in this event. Similar letters were sent to four other organizations that are closely affiliated with the Tashnags. The Central Board of the Tashnags formally replied on March 20, declining our invitation and saying that in fact they will not even attend our event. They further said that they had decided to hold an identical event to ours in Ottawa on April 28 exactly one week after our event. Not a single "Etchmiadsnagan" organization has yet received an invitation to their event.
Can you imagine the confusion among the parliamentarians who have now received two identical looking invitations from what they thought was a single community? Can you picture the embarrassment?
We are still hopeful that in time we will be able to cooperate with the Tashnags in such matters. To date all of our numerous approaches have been rebuffed by them. Perhaps with pressure from their own rank and file, all of whom are good Armenians, they will relent. Let us hope so for the sake of Armenian interests.
With kind regards,
Taro Alepian
Chairman, Congress of Canadian Armenians
Armenian National Committee of Canada
Comité National Arménien du Canada
130 Albert St., Suite/Bureau 1007
Ottawa, ON
Tel./Tél. (613) 235-2622    Fax/Téléc. (613) 238-2622
E-mail/courriel:[email protected]
For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                        Contact: Roupen Kouyoumjian
March 29, 2009                                                                 
An Unprecedented 46 Parliamentarians Join Canada-Armenia Friendship Group
Ottawa –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 Armenians living in Armenia and to the over five million in the rest of the world and particularly the 80,000 Canadian-Armenians 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. Armenians 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 accomplishments.”
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.
  1. Some points to ponder about the above comments

    I read the above comments and related press release with some amusement. As the saying goes, it would have been comic if it weren't tragic.

    Just a few points that I feel should be rectified:

    I'm very well aware of the issues the Laval community faced when Mme Folco was pitted against an Armenian candidate in the last elections. Fortunately, the "odars" have a much broader view than us when dealing with electoral partisanship. The elections are history and life follows its course. But to say that " Thanks to non-ANCC committed friends, she has put aside that episode" is more than twisting the truth. The ANCC did more than its fair share to mend the somewhat twisted relations with Mme Folco. In fact, even during the elections, the ANCC had sent some members to work for her campaign.

    I would also like to remind Mr. Alepian that the issue of separating church and politics was resolved 150 years ago, at least for the Western Armenians. The fact that he keeps seeing everything through the Etchmiadznagan-Antiliasagan filter only means that the organisation he claims to represent is nothing more than a backward looking social club longing for the good-old-days and has nothing to do in the political arena. He, of all people, should think more than once before throwing around his lies and half truths. People have not yet forgotten that when the Montreal community was fighting for the erection of the Genocide monument, many corporations were lobbying actively against us for the sake of their business interests in Turkey, including one corporation where he held a high position (VP or something equally pompous). If he's half-serious about politics, he should know that any Ottawa event is a political one, not a social affair, and he should not expect invitations for the many family-business type of organisations that his claimed list of "20 major Armenian organizations from across Canada" is composed of.

    By the way, I heard that Mr. Alepian and his Congress intend to honour the former MP, Mr Sarkis Assadourian, during their event. Before going further into the nice words that will most certainly be said during the event, Mr Alepian should ask Mr. Assadourian about his vote on the Armenian Genocide bill of 1996 […], when the Chretien government forced the removal of the G word, and replaced it with the word Tragedy. I remember very well that Mr. Assadourian VOTED  FOR THE REMOVAL of the word, while he could have, despite all the rigours of party discipline, very understandably abstained. He also could have left the Chamber and not participate in the vote. He did none of the above and shamefully voted for the removal of the word Genocide.

    1. Viken Who? Let the Public be the Judge

      In response to Viken,  who has "neglected" to divulge his full name, I would like to make the following remarks:
      At the time that the private member's bill was introduced, the matter was handled not by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but by the Ministry of Justice. The Honourable Minister informed me that the government would oppose the motion. When I asked why, I received the following answer, "We don't want any bombs and killings in our Capital and we don't want to provide any excuses." It was clear that the motion would be defeated.
      Under those circumstances I tried at least to save something for the community. Instead of defeating the whole motion, through hard negotiations on my part, and with the agreement of Robert Mills MP, it was possible to have a compromise solution to the effect of dedicating a week of Remembrance covering the period April 20 – April 27; that assured inclusion of APRIL 24.
      Following the motions, deliberations and voting in the parliament, the representatives of ARF – the Armenian Revolutionary Federation – sometimes mediated by ANCC- were in Ottawa. I explained to them what had transpired. They were happy with the compromise and the reasoning related to terrorism furnished by the government. Moreover, the  ARF leaders were so satisfied with my stand that they decided to support me in the following election of 1997. Later, in the same year, they asked for my help to arrange meetings with political leaders in Ottawa for their church leader – The Catholicos of Cilicia – having failed to do so themselves. Additionally, they supported my son's candidacy for city council.
      The record is out there in the public domain regarding my tenure as the first and very proud Canadian-Armenian member of the House of Commons of Canada from October 1993 to June 2004. That includes the period of April 2004, when the House passed the resolution recognizing The Genocide of the Armenians. It was accomplished through an initial phase of compromises and teamwork, eventually garnering the support of all parties.
      Similarly, my record as Citizenship Court Judge is available.
      My suggestion to Viken, his likes, their cohorts and comrades is to look at those records and not misrepresent the issues. I am ready to meet him, his followers and leaders in any public forum, in the court of public opinion or in the court of law.
      Sarkis Assadourian
      Former member of Parliament of Canada

  2. Time to Honor!

    Instead of honoring our people in the public domain, we like to badmouth them. Reading Sarkis Assadourian’s reply to Viken I feel ashamed that the work done by this parliamentarian is not only unappreciated, but thrown into the garbage. No wonder young Armenians have alienated themselves from the traditional Armenian political parties. Who loses?

    Nanor – Springfield

    1. Ապրիս՛  Նանոր

      Ապրիս՛  Նանոր,

      Sometimes in order to appreciate and understand someone in the true sense, we have to 'depart' ourselves from the parties that we belong to.
      Almost all Armenians who are fanatically attached to their political parties, unfortunately are detached from feeling and being Armenian!

      Also we have to look at the whole picture from all angles and never judge something or someone from what 'others' are saying…

  3. Deleted Comments

    It is much appreciated and encouraged receiving comments. Some are deleted because they contain inuendos and qualifiers about persons and do not address issues.


    Dikran Abrahamian

  4. Sarkis Assadourian

    In 1996, I was also very angry with Sarkis Assadourian, whom I personaly knew from Hay Getron in Toronto, I would have chosen to loose my seat rather than give up the Genocide  word for Tragedy. I was then and I am now a card carrying Liberal in a province like Alberta, but I tip my hat to Steven Harper in this regard.

    Vrejouhy Atikian

    Calgary, AB

  5. Just for the record

    While this issue has been garnering a lot of rightful attention and indignation from many sides, I would like hereby to clearly and unequivocally state that I am NOT the Viken who posted the comment in question, to which Sarkis Assadourian has replied.

    I know that many are already aware of this, but many are also not. I have been receiving personal emails "questioning" me for my said "position".   You should know by now that any piece I write and/or  post bears my name in full, i.e. Viken L. Attarian or rarely my initials VLA.  A simple Google with my name will show numerous comments on forums that I write on and the signature that follows.

    While I do not know who the Viken in question is, I would not want to be confused with him or her (as it could be an alias),  nor I am sure he would want to be confused with me.

    The least thing we now need is a "Comedy of Errors".  Like all humans, we already lead a tragi-comic existence.

    Viken L. Attarian

  6. Let’s move forward

    This posting, complaints and counter-complaints illustrate one important sore aspect of our community life. Although all of us, or at least those who are interested in our community’s major activities, share the same goals, we hardly see each other eye to eye.

    Sadly, no constructive criticism has been heard. We know what’s wrong, but how to improve the situation, how to move forward is missing. May be a step at a time is necessary, regardless of how miniscule that is.

    Does anyone have a suggestion?


  7. Jealousy is a brute force

    Whoever this Viken is does not matter. It is obvious that some people out of envy or plain meanness will stoop very low to throw cheap shots right and left. Politics is the art of the possible, of compromises and strategic retreat to fight another day. Our history of the last century is full of  literary people who thought they could be political leaders, but missed golden opportunities for the nation.
    Sarkis Assadourian deservingly should be proud of his accomplishments. Most people, no matter which sector of the community they come from, agree. Some will never accept that he accomplished a lot by his political smarts and determination. They will always pretend that only an organization’s support got him the accolades. A few others tried to follow his example but got nowhere.
    It is not surprising that former Prime Minister Jean Chretien liked him and appreciated his work, because he saw in him his own image: smart, tough and underestimated.
    Incidentally, in addition to other positions Mr. Assadourian was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration for a while.

    Jealousy is a brute force. It devours the holder rather than the target.

Comments are closed.

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