Canadian MP Ignores the Genocide…Again Editorial, 16 January 2018

Most Metropolitan Toronto Armenians live in the northeast and eastern part of Canada’s largest city. Three churches, the Toronto Armenian Centre, the Armenian day school and many Armenian businesses and residences are in this area. And right in the heart of the northeast is the Don Valley East federal riding. The MP representing Don Valley East is Yasmin Ratansi, a member of the ruling Liberal Party. Of East Indian background but born in Tanzania, she has a loyal following among East Indians who make up more than ten percent of the district’s population.

Like other Liberal MPs, at year-end Ms. Ratansi mails a free desk calendar to residents of her riding. The black-and-white calendar lists Canadian, religious, ethnic, cultural, civic, and other holidays and commemorations of MP Ratansi’s choosing.

The 2017 calendar had a host of holidays and commemorations listed but not the Genocide of Armenians. When contacted last year by a reporter about the glaring omission, MP Ratansi promised to look into the matter. But early this January, when the 2018 calendars were delivered to Don Valley East households, the Genocide of Armenians was once again absent, although the Ukrainian Holodomor (genocide) and the Holocaust of the Jews are listed.

The Ratansi Calendar recognizes sixty-nine occasions, including such vital “holidays” as Valentine’s Day, Halloween, International Transgender Day of Visibility, International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia, World Oceans Day, Police and Peace Officer’s National Memorial Day, World Teacher’s Day, World Animal Day, Transgender Day of Remembrance, World AIDS Day…

But to be fair to Ms. Ratansi, we have to point out that her promotional calendar doesn’t list Groundhog Day (Feb. 2) or National Pink Shirt Day (Feb. 28).

The Ratansi Calendar lists nine Jewish and four Muslim religious occasions. Also mentioned are the Independences Days of Philippines, Pakistan, and India. The birth of guru Nanak Jayanti, the Lantern Festival, St. Patrick’s Day, Diwali, and Vaisakhi are also recognized in Ms. Ratansi’s made-to-order calendar. The Orthodox Christmas and New Year are mentioned but these religious holidays are not particularly Armenian. We share them with a dozen or so Churches. And to be technically correct, the Armenian Church is not a member of the Orthodox Church. The Armenian Church calls itself “Apostolic”.

A few weeks ago a Keghart reader sent an email to Ms. Ratansi asking for an explanation re the omission of the Genocide in the 2017 and 2018 calendars. The letter reminded Ms. Ratansi of her 2017 promise to look into the matter. MP Ratansi has not replied. Ken Lister, her constituency assistant, said it can take anywhere from one to three months for her to reply. Ms. Ratansi must be one busy MP, although she has the time to go halfway around the world to Taiwan. The trip cost? $6,123.81.

Why would MP Ratansi ignore the most important national day of Armenians? Is it because she was the chair of the Canadian-Azeri Interparliamentary Friendship group? She has visited Azerbaijan on a “search mission”, according to her. The trip was sponsored by the Embassy of Azerbaijan. While the cost of such trips is public (see: the Taiwan trip in the previous paragraph), her Azerbaijan trip tab is unavailable.

Per its notorious “Caviar Diplomacy”, the Azeri government makes a habit of doling visiting diplomats and politicians with hand-woven carpets, Czech-made coffee and tea sets, executive briefcase. It also hands as much as $2,500 honorariums for “hail to Aliyev and Azerbaijan” speeches by visiting politicians. Was Ms. Ratansi beneficiary to such Azeri largesse? We don’t know. Does Ms. Ratansi ignore the Armenian Genocide because she is close to the Turkish community and has been feted at such occasions as the Turkish Mant banquet organized by the Federation of Canadian Turkish Associations?

Ms. Ratansi was born to an East Indian community in Tanzania. Most probably she is descended from indentured labourers who were brought to Africa by the British colonial authorities more than a century ago. In her native Tanzania, Ms. Ratansi was a member of a doubly persecuted minority: she was not only Indian but also an Ismaili Muslim—a sect which some Muslims scoff as inauthentic. According to her, Tanzanians called the local Indians “blood suckers”. Discrimination finally forced her to leave for Britain, eventually settling in Canada in 1974. When she arrived in Canada, she had to go through the predictable obstacles a newcomer faces, especially as an ambitious brown-skinned woman. We are certain that during the many years she has represented the Don Valley East riding Armenian organizations and spokesmen have familiarized her with the Genocide. Thus one would think with her background, experience, and knowledge she would be extra sensitive to the pain of a minority which has suffered centuries of discrimination and was victim to one of the bloodiest racial persecutions of the 20th century.  Knowing that Turkey continues to deny committing genocide, MP Ratansi, one would expect, would be outspoken in her condemnation of Ankara’s denialist policy. But alas, that’s not the case. According to MP Ratansi, Halloween is more worthy of recognition than the Genocide of 1.5 million Armenians. She must have really enjoyed the “manti” the Federation of Canadian-Turkish Associations regaled her with at the residence of a local Turk.

Things go better with raki, MP Ratansi?

  1. Toronto Armenian

    Toronto Armenian organizations and activists should make sure politicians in Toronto and in Montreal read this editorial. I also encourage local Armenian publications to reprint the article so that Armenians learn who is not sympathetic to the Armenian Cause.

  2. What are the Armenians doing in …?

    Dear Sirs,

    What are the Armenians doing in Canada? They better emigrate to Armenia and sacrifice working hard to help improve the Armenian generations of the future in their homeland. There is no need to give so much information and so many details about a person whom you are showing no attraction in your article. It is like begging to be part of the not-so-important affiliations of that lady.

    You may wish to show positive and constructive approach through a more efficient media in our aim as a valuable, creative, persevering, historic nation, rather than giving so much attention to the records on the calendar.

    Our place is not in Canada, nor for that matter, in Australia nor USA, even if for some far-reached improbable achievement when the president of one of these countries will be of Armenian origin some millenniums later in the future.

    1. Move to Armenia

      Mr. Kaloustian's brave words ring hollow. It's something an elementary school student living in dreamland would have recommended. I am amazed someone would make such an unrealistic suggestion.

      Canadian-Armenian moved here for economic and safety reasons. It was no fun to leave behind the places they were raised and to move 8,000 miles away to a new country. Now that (after huge effort) they've established themselves here and are mostly middle-aged or beyond, it would be lunacy for them to uproot yet again and move to an impoverished country where the rule of law is iffy, where the ruler is an oligarch (similarly the Catholicos), where the "aghper" mentality still exists, and where most natives would love to depart because of the above conditions.

      P.S. What about Canadian-Armenians who have children or adult offspring? What if family members don't want to settle in Armenia?

  3. Ignoring the Armenian Genocide

    After experiencing so many Genocides, like in 1895-96, 1909, 1915, the Armenian Genocide in Baku, in Sumgait etc. My conclusion is that, in the desk calendar or not, enough is enough!

    Nicolai Romashuk Hairabedian

  4. I will respect the evaluation

    I will respect the evaluation of my comments that are coming from other than those remote areas mentioned above.

    While raising voices from far may have an impact, it will not have the forceful impact that we see and witness from within Armenia. If  it is claimed that these voices from far are effective, then this will encourage the citizens to leave Armenia and make their voice heard resulting in a poorly evaluated decision thus weakening the effort that the citizens and the individuals with strong nationalistic optimism within Armenia are striving for from within.

    It is only reasonable the emigrants to those countries will support their move to these countries under true or false excuses. Their move is justified temporarily. To those who are interested Armenia is one of the 10 most valued countries talked about in the world. This in turn encourages non-Armenian citizens of other countries to evaluate and do business with Armenia.

    We may need to develop the culture of long-term projects involving the future generations.

  5. Ms. Ratansi

    She is from my riding and I noticed in the last election that she was accompanied by a Turkish national. I spoke in Turkish and they thought I was Azeri. When I told them that I was Armenian, their color changed.

    She is Liberal and the first Muslim woman elected to the Canadian parliament. Her background is Ismaili, born in Dar el-Salam Tanzania. Somehow, non-Arab Muslims think that they have loyalty to other Muslims.

    We will see what we can do in the next election. Certainly elect a Conservative.

    Dear Shahe, do you live in Armenia?

  6. I appreciate your observation

    I appreciate your observation for whatever it deserves. The basic issue you have not had the chance to ponder about especially due to possibly lack of historical information is that in a sense you encourage emigration to remote countries, and especially Australia, where the vast unpopulated areas are the result of the nuclear detonation test done above ground in the sixties against humanitarian standards.

    Other than that, historically, the present president is the only president over the probably three millenniums who has done more good to Armenia than others. Governing a state like the state in which the present Armenian Republic is, and based on basic rules of governance, starts by spending most of the resources in defending the boundaries of that republic. You are a promoter of emptying Armenia after another three thousand years. This will not happen.

    I am a mechanical engineer from AUB, '67 promotion and the son of the late Prof. Khatcher Kaloustian with all family members Ph.D including my three daughters and have served and presently serve our country Lebanon with great sacrifice against all odds and immense difficulties. It is my conviction that changing a rather non-national sentiment to national sentiment requires sacrifice in blood. Every true Armenian can boast to be ready for sacrifices. Your blood as an Armenian should not be looked as though it costs more than the blood of young soldiers who defend their land inch by inch. Armenia is today internationally rated as one of ten most sought state in terms of security and culture. 

  7. With all due respect

    Allow me to interject. The article is about a Canadian MP who knowingly does not insert the Genocide of Armenians in her calendar for public dissemination, yet she mentions the independence, celebratory and commemoration days of other countries/people.

    There is nothing in the article about emigration/immigration to/from other countries, including Armenia.

    Why is this article hijacked? Please stick to what the article is highlighting. If you wish to talk about other subject(s) then there are many articles in this website dealing with a variety of issues, including immigration and pros/cons regarding Armenia and its governing system. Please use those relevant sections if you are insistent on talking about other matters that are not covered in this article.

  8. Recognition of Armenian Genocide.

    The important issue here is the recognition of Armenian Genocide. Remember this is happening in a riding where Armenians have an appreciable voice, and in a country that has already recognized the Armenian Genocide!

    We are being fought at every level and must respond on every level. We have a voice outside Armenia and are not using it to its full extent.

    This issue could be taken to Justin Trudeau. Do you know how apologetic he was to a 12 year old girl for a hijab attack that never happened!

    Turks are acting like they represent the Muslim world and trying to form a united front. Hatred towards Armenians is increasing.

  9. Is Hon. Ms. Yasmin Ratansi in an awkward position?

    Canada, as mentioned by Houry Ellezian, has recognized the veracity of the Genocide of Armenians, so have many European countries, the European Union, Russia, several of the South American nations and at least one Arab Muslim country.

    Although the USA administrations have not officially made recognition for geo-political reasons, all recent presidents have privately made forceful and unambiguous statements. Forty-eight states out of fifty have in one form or another acknowledged. To my knowledge the only hold-outs are Mississippi and Alabama where among other matters anti-black and anti-Muslim sentiments keep on percolating at alarming levels.

    Hon. Ms. Yasmin Ratansi, at a certain level, seems to have positioned herself along Alabmanians and Mississippers (Mississipians).

  10. Honored not only in Canada but all over the world

    It is unbelievable and very sad that despite so many historical facts about Armenians there still are some people / politicians who ignore or minimize the importance of the Armenian Genocide. They simply are not willing to admit the historical truth because of their personal beliefs!  I feel extremely disappointed.

    April 24 is the day when Armenians, as well as many other nations and countries do commemorate, remembering  all those 1.5 millions of Armenians who were massacred / perished over a century ago.  I deeply believe that the day of commemoration will be marked and always honored not only in Canada but all over the world.   

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