Canadian Museum Recognizes Armenian Genocide

Sarkis Assadourian, Toronto, 16 February 2012

Keghart.com received a copy of the below letter by Mr. Sarkis Assadourian, former member of the parliament and citizenship judge. It is reproduced verbatim. Ed.
Dear friends,
 
From the first day of my election to the Parliament of Canada on Oct. 25, 1993 , to this day, despite many obstacles, real and artificial, I never wavered from my strong conviction of justice and human rights. I honoured my conviction to the best of my abilities.

Sarkis Assadourian, Toronto, 16 February 2012

Keghart.com received a copy of the below letter by Mr. Sarkis Assadourian, former member of the parliament and citizenship judge. It is reproduced verbatim. Ed.
Dear friends,
 
From the first day of my election to the Parliament of Canada on Oct. 25, 1993 , to this day, despite many obstacles, real and artificial, I never wavered from my strong conviction of justice and human rights. I honoured my conviction to the best of my abilities.

To this end, I spoke in the Parliament on many occasions about the Armenian Genocide. On April 3rd, 1995,  for the first time in history I introduced a motion titled "Crimes Against Humanity" for the purpose of an all inclusive museum in Ottawa.

On April 21,  2004, The House passed the historic motion recognizing the events of 1915 as a GENOCIDE. On the very same day, I received a letter from Ms. Gail Asper (which was read during victory celebrations in my office) stating that " the Armenian Genocide will be prominently displayed in the Canadian Museum of Human rights." This was the  result of  my  participation (as well as some prominent Canadian-Armenians) and involvement in this project with the late Izzy  Asper,  the original visionary of this Museum.

As a member of Parliament, I was invited for the ground breaking ceremony in Winnipeg.

Today, I am pleased to share  with you all,  two paragraphs from a letter I recently received from the "Canadian Museum of Human Rights", which was the result of our collective work and efforts.

" …The Breaking the Silence gallery will focus particularly on the five genocides officially recognized by Canada’s Parliament, including the Armenian genocide, and will highlight diaspora communities in Canada who have successfully fought to break the silence regarding genocides against their group.  The experience of these groups will show the power of breaking the silence and finding a voice to gain recognition of large-scale violations.

…Given your experience as a Member of Parliament during the time the Armenian genocide was officially recognized by the Government of Canada, we would be honoured if you would be willing to meet with us to discuss your experiences and insights into breaking the silence about the Armenian genocide…"


At this point, I would like to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to our Prime Minister, The Right Hon. Stephen Harper, the Government of Canada, the Provincial Government of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg for their unreserved moral and financial support  towards the realization of this unique project.

The Canadian  Museum of Human Rights is a true reflection of our national aspirations and values espoused by our nation and by all victims of crimes against humanity all around the world.

I am very pleased to inform you, that the Armenian Ambassador to Canada H. E. Armen Yeganian is committed to work with us and pledged the cooperation of the Armenian Genocide Museum in Yerevan Armenia with the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

In the next few weeks and months, I will be sharing with you the news of progress achieved. At this point, your active participation in this project is highly recommended.

You may visit the website of  " The Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg"  for more information.
 
Best Regards,

Sarkis Assadourian

Attached is the partial list of all relevant debates and Motions that I had  the privilege of introducing  them in the House of Commons.
 

(35-1) M–282—Mr. Assadourian (Don Valley North)—Week commemorating

 

Man’s Inhumanity to His Fellow Man—Notice—April 14, 1994

 

Placed on the Order of Precedence—October 7, 1994

 
 

(36-1) M–502 —Mr. Assadourian (Brampton Centre)—Armenian genocide—Notice—October 27, 1998

Withdrawn—January 28, 1999 

 

(36-1) M–570 —Mr. Assadourian (Brampton Centre)—Armenian genocide Notice—January 28, 1999

 
 

(37-1) M–285 — Mr. Assadourian (Brampton Centre) — Armenian genocide — Notice — February 27, 2001

 

Placed in the order of precedence — March 21, 2001

Dropped from the Order Paper — April 25, 2001

 

Reinstated in the order of precedence — April 30, 2001 (See Other Business No. 4)

 

 
 

(37-1) M–450 — Mr. Assadourian (Brampton Centre) — Armenian genocide

 
 

(37-2) M–237 — Mr. Assadourian (Brampton Centre) — Armenian genocide

 

— Notice — October 21, 2002

 

Withdrawn — February 5, 2003

 
 

(37-3) M–237 — Mr. Assadourian (Brampton Centre) — Armenian genocide

2nd Session — 37th Parliament
Notice — October 21, 2002
Withdrawn — February 5, 2003
 
Transcripts (Evidence) from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (HERI) meetings held about Bill C- 224, Recognition of Crimes Against Humanity Act are available at the following link:

 
The committee report entitled “Report 3 – Subject matter of Bill C-224” is available at http://www.parl.gc.ca/CommitteeBusiness/ReportsResponses.aspx?Cmte=HERI&Stac=625457&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=36&Ses=2

11 comments
  1. Preferential Treatment

    Why is the suffering of one community being elevated above all others in a taxpayer funded national museum? Why shouldn’t all acts of genocide be treated together, in a comparative, thematic, and inclusive way? Why does the Armenian community in Canada not break the silence on this? No community should get permanent, privileged and preferential space in a Canadian national institution.

  2. Genocide Museum

    What’s the matter with Mr. Assadourian? There he goes again, in his letter, promoting himself with hyperbole. From start to finish, the letter is an exercise in hogging. There are 13 "I"s and 6 "my"s in his letter. Someone should tell the former MP these "Advertisements for Myself" have become not only embarrassing but also annoying.

    The letter leaves the impression that the Genocide of Armenians will receive appropriate displays at the Winnipeg museum. Fat chance. The focus of the museum will be the Holocaust. Then there will be some small satellite exhibits about the Ukrainian, Cambodian, Rwandan, and Armenian genocides. Token in other words. That is why, I believe, Ukrainians have rejected the museum and some Armenian organizations have stayed away from the sham. By not pointing these facts, Mr. Assadourian fails in telling the whole story about what’s going on at the mostly taxpayer-funded "Asper Museum" in Winnipeg.

    I am also wondering why Mr. Assadourian keeps sending these self-advertisements to Keghart. Are these first drafts of his flyers for his next election campaign–federal, provincial, municipal, school board?

     

    1. I’m Not Sure

      I'm not sure why you are picking on the individual who brought this article and cause out–Mr. Assadourian.
      I find this as great news for Armenians, even if it will be a "small satellite exhibit," it's better than nothing and a step forward.

      Attacking his personality is naive. Obviously you are one of his opponents in politics. This is not the place to indulge in a fight. 

      Such personal attacks should not even be allowed to be published on this site.

    2. To Vahakn

      Educational page for Vahakn.

      From the first communique I published as an MP in Ottawa, on March 1999, in relation the the proposed Holocaust museum in Ottawa, I said: "I regret that the Canadian Jewish Congress [CJC] has informed me in letter dated Jan. 27th 1999 (cc to Aris Babikian Armenian National Federation of Canada and Hagop Der Khatchadourian Chairman of Armenian National Committee of Canada) That I oppose one inclusive museum, insisting on a separate museum for victims of the Nazi Holocaust. This position is unacceptable to myself and many Canadians in general and Canadians of Armenian decent in particular."

      The letter from CJC said: "…We find it surprising and disappointing that you would adopt this position taking in to consideration the long standing and close association between you and the Jewish Community. As well your position differs from that of the official representatives of organizations of your own community which supports the establishment of a Holocaust Memorial Museum in Ottawa. We thought, in the light of this that it would be especially important for you to be aware of the Jewish community’s position…

      "…We add that we fully understand the need for and welcome the establishment of a separate memorial to the unfortunately all too many instances of genocide and other murderous crimes against humanity. Such a project, however, should be considered once the Holocaust museum is well on its way to completion.

      "Let’s work together in a spirit of co-operation and mutual understanding as we have done so well in the past."–Sincerely Yours, Moshe Ronen, National President, Canadian Jewish Congress.

      Well Vahakn, I hope, that you are more educated now than before you received instructions to make your comment. For more information and correspondence on this subject, you may contact these two organizations and their leaders at the time.

      Let’s remember that governments are NOT in the business of franchising multiple museums to vaarious causes. Remember also that there will be one museum ONLY, either you are IN or you are OUT.

      Best Regards,
      Sarkis Assadourian

       

      1. Entire Letter

        Mr Assadourian,
        Instead of issuing a partial comminque based on a letter you received from the CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, why not put the entire letter on line for everyone to read, so that we know exactly what Mr. Murray wrote? An excerpt is not enough.

      2. Replying to Mr. Assadourian

        Mr. Assadourian,

        I was about to reply to you when I read the Zoryan Institute (George Shirinian) letter in Keghart. Since it said what I was planning to say, I don’t see any point in repeating their clear-cut ellucidation.

    3. Politicians

      Mr. Assadourian is a politician, or at least I consider him as such. All politicians use "I" in their communication. Show me any politician who doesn’t.

      I believe he wouldn’t use the Armenian issues for any campaign because it would be a negative for his career. If any Armenian would try politics, we should help them achieve their seat, even if they are not from our political party. We don’t have enough people in politics and we should keep those that we already have, instead of attacking, alienating and insulting them in such a bad manner.

      Shame on Vahakn for using his personal reasons to attack someone who, at least, is doing something. Surely Vahakn has done nil for his community, other than discourage and insult people who try.

      But again, we are Armenians and jealousy is in our blood. We are notorious in putting our good people down, instead of lending a helping hand and making them achieve a common goal.

  3. Letter from Zoryan Institute

    How Will the Canadian Museum for Human Rights Represent Genocide?
    Toronto, Canada—The International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (A Division of the Zoryan Institute) (“IIGHRS-Zoryan”) was invited to a public gathering in Winnipeg by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (“CMHR”) in April 2003, after an initial meeting with Gail Asper in Toronto. As a Canadian institution, we lent our name publicly in support of the CMHR at an early stage.

    Our early enthusiasm diminished over time, owing to the politics surrounding the museum. Owing to such politics, we still have no idea how the Armenian Genocide and other cases will be represented in the CMHR. The IIGHRS-Zoryan made a detailed presentation to CMHR officials in December 2009, as part of its public consultation, on how to represent genocide in general, and the Armenian Genocide in particular. When we found that the public consultations were not being taken into consideration by museum officials, and there was an outcry from various communities about what they felt was unfair treatment, we subsequently issued two public statements on this issue in February and August 2011, and wrote directly to Stuart Murray, the museum’s President and Chief Executive Officer. None of the points have been dealt with by the CMHR, nor has our letter been responded to.

    The arguments can be read in detail on the IIGHRS-Zoryan website, at

    http://www.genocidestudies.org/Announcements/How%20Genocide%20Should%20be%20Represented%20in%20the%20CMHR%20v20.pdf

    and

    http://www.genocidestudies.org/Announcements/Genocide%20Multiculturalism%20and%20the%20CMHR.pdf

    The essence of the arguments is as follows.

    The lack of responsiveness of the CMHR and the absence of information about how cases of the gross violation of human rights will be represented raise questions as to which cases will be included, how much space will be allotted to each case, what their content will be, if they will have a permanent or only temporary exhibit, and how these decisions are made. Moreover, there is a close relationship between the gross violation of human rights and genocide that is being neglected in the museum’s planning. Unless we study such cases comparatively, the lessons that can be learned are of limited value, particularly with a view to the prevention of such cases.

    In trying to fend off criticism from various community groups over its handling of these issues, the CMHR posted a statement on its website, originally appearing as a letter in the Globe & Mail on March 23, 2011, that the museum is not about genocide and never was. The August 2011 IIGHRS-Zoryan editorial rebutted this with explicit statements to the contrary from the museum’s own publicity. The editorial also argued the benefits of studying the known cases of genocide on a comparative basis. Finally, the editorial pointed out that as a federal institution, the CMHR was legally required to adhere to the official Canadian policy of multiculturalism, which is to integrate all citizens into Canadian society and treat them fairly and equally.

    We recently learned from Armenian community representatives that the museum will include the five genocides officially recognized by Canada’s Parliament, including the Armenian Genocide, but we still do not know how they will be represented or how the CMHR will deal with the fundamental questions raised in our two public statements. It seems that the CHMR is playing community politics by contacting different groups at different times, while ignoring the challenging questions raised by an institute whose mission is the study of these very issues. We raise these issues today to make the Armenian community aware of what has transpired over the past eight years. The IIGHRS-Zoryan calls upon the Armenian community of Canada to speak with one voice and to demand answers to these questions, for which we have been awaiting an answer for a long time.

    George Shirinian, Executive Director

    Zoryan Institute

  4. ANCC/ANF Involvement in the Canadian Museum

    Dear Editor,

    Further to the exchanges regarding the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, I thought your readers would be interested in the below summary of the museum project background.

    ANCC/ANF involvement in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, The Holocaust Museum (predecessor of CMHR) and CGM, The genesis of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and the involvement of the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) and its sister and affiliated organization, the Armenian National Federation of Canada (ANF), go back to the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien’s premiership and his promise (1998) to create a Holocaust Museum in Ottawa. Unfortunately, that promise fell apart because a number of bigoted individuals and organizations in the Canadian civil society.

    At that time handful members of the Liberal caucus, in cooperation with a number of individuals, created an ad-hoc organization called Canadians for Genocide Museum (CGM).

    The declared intention of CGM was to advocate for the creation of an inclusive genocide museum, instead of the Holocaust Museum. In reality, the main intention was to scuttle the building of the Holocaust Museum. Accordingly, the two people who spearheaded the establishment of the CGM, with the assistance of a handful MPs turned the Holocaust Museum establishment issue to a controversial public issue and forced the PM to back-track on his promise.

    In 2000 the above mentioned players came up with another gimmick to kill and bury the Holocaust Museum project. A member of the Liberal caucus presented a private members motion to create an exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Civilization to recognize the crimes against humanity. The issue was referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (SCCH) for study. The committee organized public hearing to seek input public and stakeholders input on the issue. After two days of hearings, the SCCH decided that the government of Canada should not be involved in any such venture.

    The ANF was one of the organizations which were called upon to make a deputation at the SCCH hearings regarding Motion Bill C-224. The ANF-ANCC joined the CGM. Believing that the project (Holocaust Museum /Genocide Museum) is a noble and worthy concept, ANF/ANCC tried to bring all interested parties together to agree on a compromise solution. Because the Jewish community was not member of the CGM, ANF president tried to bridge the gap and act as intermediary between the CGM and the Jewish community. Unfortunately the two main players at the CGM were not acting in good faith. The process broke down and ANF withdrew from the CGM.

    After the above episode, and realizing that the creation of a government-sponsored Holocaust/ Genocide/ Human Rights museum will be impossible, philanthropist Izzy Asper decided to create a privately-sponsored human rights museum. The ANF and ANCC wholeheartedly supported the project. Unfortunately, the CGM once again reverted to its old habit and tried to kill the project.

    When the CMHR became a government-sponsored project, the CGM and some individuals intensified their effort to trivialize and dilute the Holocaust’s impact and importance. Furthermore, they started spreading innuendos and half-truths about the CMHR. They also launched a campaign of post cards, letters and petitions, addressed to the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and MPs.

    The ANF/ANCC, in cooperation with other stakeholders, launched a campaign in support of the CMHR project. They wrote letters of support to the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and MPs. They lobbied politicians and Canadian notables in support of the CMHR. At the end, when the CGM efforts failed and the Government of Canada decided to take over the project and make it a government-run museum, a group of stakeholders placed an ad in major newspapers thanking the Government of Canada for its moral fortitude and vision in taking over the project. One of the signatory of the ad was the ANF/ ANCC.

    In addition to the above, the ANF/ANCC was in regular contact and coordination with the Asper Foundation, the CMHR, the Zoryan Institute, and other interested parties. ANF/ANCC attended fundraising events, coordinated and participated in consultations, and finally, brought its valuable national and international expertise as a human rights organization to the successful conclusion and materialization of the dreams of so many.

  5. Johnny-come-lately

    A few years ago Mr. Assadourian worked against this same Winnipeg-based museum. He actually was one of the people spearheading the opposition. He was involved in a campaign of petitions and letters to scuttle the museum. Now he is working or trying to work with them. From the beginning to now, the concept and the format of the museum has not changed.

    Nothing has changed about the content of the museum.

    So what happened that Mr. Assadourian suddenly changed his mind and became a supporter of the museum? Is he more of an expert in genocide museums and genocide studies than the Zoryan Institute?

    At the time when Mr. Assadourian was picking fights with the museum people and the Jewish community, other Armenian organizations and churches were working, behind the scenes quietly, to ensure a respectful and appropriate representation of the Armenian Genocide in the museum.

    Mr. Assadourian, in this instance, is Johnny-come-lately. He tries to take the credit for the work of other people.

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