Ex-MP Explains Why NKR Prez Didn’t Visit Canada

20 December 2011

Bako Sahakyan, the president of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), was scheduled to visit Canada following his US tour for "Hayastan Himnatram” fundraiser in November. Mr. Sahakyan didn’t make his scheduled trip to Canada. The explanation for the no-show, circulated by word-of-mouth within the Canadian-Armenian community, was that he was denied a visa. Keghart.com contacted several knowledgeable Canadian-Armenians for an explanation. No source would confirm or deny the reason(s) for Mr. Sahakyan’s cancelled visit. Keghart.com interviewed former MP Sarkis Assadourian to shed light on the unexplained and worrisome episode.
 

20 December 2011

Bako Sahakyan, the president of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), was scheduled to visit Canada following his US tour for "Hayastan Himnatram” fundraiser in November. Mr. Sahakyan didn’t make his scheduled trip to Canada. The explanation for the no-show, circulated by word-of-mouth within the Canadian-Armenian community, was that he was denied a visa. Keghart.com contacted several knowledgeable Canadian-Armenians for an explanation. No source would confirm or deny the reason(s) for Mr. Sahakyan’s cancelled visit. Keghart.com interviewed former MP Sarkis Assadourian to shed light on the unexplained and worrisome episode.
 

Keghart: Why did Canada ban Mr. Sahakyan’s entry?
Sarkis Assadourian: We were told by our "leaders" that President Sahakyan travelled with a NKR passport. Canada does not recognize the passport. We were also told he applied too late for the visa, yet he entered the United States and other countries without any problem. We have to look elsewhere for the source of the visa rejection.
 
Over the past two decades citizens of Armenia or NKR and Armenians from other countries who are leaders/members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation party, by and large, have been denied entry to Canada. This is related to events in 1980s. Recently NKR’s minister of foreign affairs was elected to the highest leadership, the bureau of ARF. In my view, the denial of the visa is a retaliation by the government of Canada. Based on my contacts in ARF/ANCC and from what I was told by many government sources, this is the main issue along with other excuses.

Keghart: Why did the US allow Mr. Sahakyan entry?
SA: The US government, to my knowledge, acts in a similar way but is a bit more discreet than Canada. The US has a vastly different geopolitical interests in South Caucuses and the world than Canada.

Keghart: Why have "Hatyastan Himnatram” (Canada) or other Armenian organizations been silent about this unfortunate development?
SA: All organizations involved with Hayastan All-Armenia Fund have a stake in keeping the incident hush-hush. After all, it’s embarrassing for the organizers to face this kind of problem which involves millions of dollars. Now is the time for all Armenian organizations to review this matter. We know it’s hurting our national cause ("Hye Tadd") and our nation’s aspirations to go forward. I hope all Armenian organizations will look at this issue and take an active role in resolving it.

Keghart: Do you know whether the Azeris in Canada played any role in the visa rejection?
SA: This kind of problems is playing in the hands of the Azeris and the Turks. I know this from my 11 years of Ottawa experiences as a member of the Canadian Parliament. On one occasion, I was initially denied a visa to Azerbaijan with the Canadian government delegation, headed by the Hon. Gar Knutson. The trip included stops in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Following a protest from the Canadian government to the Azeri authorities, I was issued a visa but I refused to take part in the Azeri leg of the trip. This and other public information leads me to believe these communities are very active in Canada and around the world, sabotaging Armenian efforts.

Keghart
: Are you aware whether any role was personally played by the Canadian Minister of Immigration and Citizenship in the Mr. Sahakyan episode?
SA: Only fools would believe when the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration says "I have no choice in this matter" to an Armenian delegation. He is the minister, and that’s that. Now that the government in Canada is a majority, the Conservatives will follow the advice of Ottawa civil servants and bureaucrats.

Keghart: Would you like to add further comments?
SA: On many occasions ARF approached me in Ottawa and elsewhere. I had one advice that was true then and is true now: take the government to court, and try to resolve this nagging issue which is hurting Armenians everywhere. Petty politics has to take back seat when it comes to national issues of importance, such as why NKR is not recognized as an independent state, like Kosovo? The situation is the same. To suggest that there is an issue with the charter of the All Armenia Fund is a ridiculous point. How many Canadian organizations forward millions of dollars to the West Bank, which is not recognized by Canada or any other nation in the world?

Armenian traditional parties have to come out of the 19th century and become truly modern parties. The mentality of punishment, of harassment, bullying, and hurting their own members for having differences of opinion or approach is damaging us. This incident must be an opportunity for Armenian parties to look at what’s at stake, to renew internal policies and revitalize themselves, instead of pushing matters under the rug.

 
1 comment
  1. Azerbaijan Ambassador

    Over the weekend I was in Ottawa for the bi-annual convention of the Federal Liberal Party. I was introduced, by one of my colleagues, to His Excellency Farid Shafiyev, the ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It was our first meeting. Soon after the introductions, the Azeri diplomat said that he knew me. "I read about you last month in Keghart.com.," he said.

    I asked what did he think of the Keghart interview.

    He replied, "I do not appreciate people like you getting involved in the internal matters of my country."

    I asked what country was he referring to.

    He said, "Azerbaijan."

    "I never said a word about your country. I referred to NKR," I replied.

    "That’s my country, and you are Canadian. You should talk about Canadian issues," he replied angrily.

    "I am a free-thinking Canadian. I do not need to be told what I can or can NOT say or do," I said and reminded him that his country had refused to grant me a visa to travel to Azerbaijan with a Canadian official delegation. He replied, "We have some information about you; and you constantly interfere in our country’s internal affairs."

    "This is something new to me," I said, as I concluded the unplanned encounter. He was one of the few foreign diplomats at the convention–if not the only one and he was very active.

     

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