Canadian Turks Should Condemn, Not Condone, Genocide Denial

By Harut Sassounian, Publisher, The California Courier, 9 January 2014

Canadian Turks launched a petition last month seeking the removal of all references to the Armenian Genocide from the 11th grade curriculum of Toronto high schools.

This petition is a part of Turkish denialists’ long-standing efforts to reverse the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) 2008 decision to educate students about the Armenian, Jewish, and Rwandan genocides. TDSB’s action follows the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Canadian Senate in 2002 and the House of Commons in 2004. In addition, since 2006, successive Canadian Prime Ministers have issued official annual statements acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, despite intensive political pressure and economic blackmail by the Turkish government.

By Harut Sassounian, Publisher, The California Courier, 9 January 2014

Canadian Turks launched a petition last month seeking the removal of all references to the Armenian Genocide from the 11th grade curriculum of Toronto high schools.

This petition is a part of Turkish denialists’ long-standing efforts to reverse the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) 2008 decision to educate students about the Armenian, Jewish, and Rwandan genocides. TDSB’s action follows the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Canadian Senate in 2002 and the House of Commons in 2004. In addition, since 2006, successive Canadian Prime Ministers have issued official annual statements acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, despite intensive political pressure and economic blackmail by the Turkish government.

Back in 2008, a similar Turkish petition failed to sway TDSB to amend the genocide curriculum, after gathering over 11,000 signatures, mostly from Turkey. Indeed, the Ankara government and its Turkish proxies in Toronto have done everything possible during the past seven years to undermine this curriculum.

Below are the baseless claims made by the Turkish petition against TDSB’s genocide curriculum, followed by my rebuttal:

Turkish Petition: "As the Turkish/Turkic speaking parents of students attending the Toronto District School Board, we are deeply concerned about the negative impact of the current curriculum module on ‘Armenian Genocide’ and the learning resources adopted by the Board since 2008."

My response: There has been NO violence or intimidation against a single Turkish student in Toronto schools even though the genocide curriculum has been taught there for several years. The reason is that Armenians do not hold today’s Turks responsible for the crimes committed by the Government of Ottoman Turkey almost 100 years ago, except those who associate themselves with these crimes by their denial. The Republic of Turkey, on the other hand, as successor to the Ottoman Empire, is responsible for the continuing consequences of the Armenian Genocide. Denying the facts of the Genocide has a far more serious negative psychological impact on Armenians than its inclusion in the curriculum on Turks. Furthermore, the truth cannot be concealed in order not to offend the sensibilities of those who wish to cover up historical facts. Would anyone advocate erasing all references to the Jewish Holocaust from history books so as not to offend present-day Germans?

Turkish Petition: "The textbook on the Genocide of the Armenians and other readers, such as Barbara Coloroso’s Extraordinary Evil, unremittingly discredits one community's narrative over the other; and, adversely affects the students of TDSB with Turkish and Turkic heritages."

My response: There cannot be two narratives or two versions of the proven facts of the Armenian Genocide. There can only be one version — the truth!

Turkish Petition: "We firmly believe that the values of mutual respect, understanding and peaceful coexistence can be achieved through an honest and open dialogue on history. Moreover, fair and unprejudiced learning should be based on historical facts and not solely on the narratives of select communities while ignoring others. It should also be noted that there are no court decisions on any of these historical claims and the opinions of historians differ regarding the details and the definitions of these events."

My response: 'Mutual respect, understanding and peaceful coexistence' cannot be achieved through distortions and lies. Only after acknowledging the truth and making appropriate amends, Canadian Turks can talk about such lofty ideals. Furthermore, contrary to the Turkish claims, there are several court verdicts on the Armenian Genocide, starting with the Turkish Military Tribunals of 1919, and judgments by Argentinean, Swiss, and U.S. courts. Significantly, the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities adopted in 1985 a report acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. The ultimate arbiter of any genocide is the United Nations, since the Genocide Convention is a UN document.

To sum up, this latest Turkish petition is a total failure since its initiator, the Federation of Canadian Turkish Associations, has so far collected less than 2,000 signatures out of a claimed membership of 200,000 in Canada. Interestingly, most of the signatories are not from Canada, but Turkey where the petition has been widely circulated.

A more worthwhile initiative for Canadian Turks would be to start a petition urging the Turkish government to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and make proper restitution to the descendants of this heinous crime on the occasion of the Genocide’s Centennial.

 

 

4 comments
  1. Positive Curriculum

    My understanding is that the curriculum is creating a healthy dialogue between Armenian and Turkish students to discuss the issue and create friendships in contrast to what the Turkish Federation is claiming. The curriculum is healing the long-held wounds rather than aggravating them.

  2. Promoting Hatred

    Instead of condemning the curriculum, the Turkish Federation in Canada should pressure the Turkish Government to revise its racist educational system which incites hatred against Armenian in Turkey. Turkish school curriculum uses hostile language against Armenians to deny the Genocide and sow further seeds of hatred in a society where it's an insult to be called Armenian.

    How can Turkey be accepted in civilized society when for more than a century it has filled the hearts and minds of Turkish students with falsehood and hatred?

  3. Shred of Evidence

    There's no shred of evidence from any authority that Turkish-Canadian high school students have been bullied or have become objects of hate or ridicule in Canada because of the Toronto District School Board's Genocide curriculum. Raising fear that mentioning the Genocide of Armenians would result in the persecution of Turkish students is a red-herring intended to instill fear among Canadians. 

    To follow the Turkish Federation's logic, Western history books should not mention that the Ottoman armies twice threatened to conquer Austria and eventually Western Europe. And perhaps while they are at it, French, British, American history books should not mention that the Turks fought against them during the First World War.

    The Turkish-Canadian Federation's fabrication of fears is an old ruse. Realizing how important multiculturalism to the fabric of Canada, the Turkish lobby never fails to raise false fears that this or that, including the Genocide curriculum, would be threat to Canadian multiculturalism. The Turkish strategy underestimates the knowledge and intelligence of Canadians.

  4. Kudos to Mr. Sassounian

    Despite overwhelming documentation by international scholars, the Turkish denial machine continues to deploy falsehoods, innuendo, unsubstantiated accusations and revisionist historical discourse to promote its unique version of history. It has borrowed the methods of the old tobacco lobby which claimed there was lack of scientific consensus on smoking, and has even hired some of the same American lobbying firms. 

    Genocide denial plays upon our innate sense of fairness. It manipulates the lofty premise that every story has two sides that deserve equal hearing. Genocide denial succeeds by casting just enough confusion in the minds of well-intentioned third parties to cause some doubt about the reality of the Genocide. The deniers do not have to prove their allegations, only plant doubt, and then leave it to others to prove or disprove the facts, which most third parties do not have the expertise, time or patience to pursue.

    The importance of not succumbing to genocide denial is not only to preserve the memory of historical events, but also because truth is a way of paying our respects to the victims. Denial robs us of a portion of our humanity. Moreover, if genocides can be perpetrated and successfully denied, tyrants of the world will draw their own conclusions, as the notorious statement by Adolf Hitler in 1939 proves. Trying to justify his plans to invade Poland and annihilate the Polish people, the Nazi dictator said: “Who today remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?” Finally, genocides that are denied tend to be forgotten, thus cutting us from knowledge that might help prevent future atrocities. For this reason, denial of the Armenian Genocide is not just an Armenian issue. It is an issue for all of humanity. It is an attack on all history and on the way we transmit the past to the future.

    Kudos to Mr. Sassounian for exposing another Turkish denial scheme. 

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