Who Does the Congress of Canadian Armenians Really Represent?

Dr. Dikran Abrahamian

By Dikran Abrahamian, BA, MD, Ontario, 24 September 2009

Dr. Dikran AbrahamianTraditionally, students of Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) affiliated schools automatically were considered members of the Union. If after graduation they continued to pay their dues and following a specified period, they were “upgraded” to the rank of Veteran. There was nothing grandiose about it, but one had a nice feeling for being acknowledged by a great organization. Those who personally know me are aware that I was bestowed the Veteran rank in my thirties, along with my classmates at Hovagimian-Manoogian Secondary School for Boys in Beirut.

By Dikran Abrahamian, BA, MD, Ontario, 24 September 2009

Dr. Dikran AbrahamianTraditionally, students of Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) affiliated schools automatically were considered members of the Union. If after graduation they continued to pay their dues and following a specified period, they were “upgraded” to the rank of Veteran. There was nothing grandiose about it, but one had a nice feeling for being acknowledged by a great organization. Those who personally know me are aware that I was bestowed the Veteran rank in my thirties, along with my classmates at Hovagimian-Manoogian Secondary School for Boys in Beirut.

Over the years, my relations with AGBU were at arm’s length, due to personal circumstances. However, despite being an “inactive member”, I silently supported many AGBU projects which I thought benefited our people in the Diaspora and in Armenia.

My attitude towards the AGBU became complicated when Louise Simone Manoogian, the President of the Union (1991-2002) encouraged the emigration of Armenians from the Middle East to the United States. I thought it was a shortsighted view, to say the least. The closure of Melkonian in Cyprus was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Since that misguided decision, I have developed an aversion to the leadership of the AGBU.

At present, my dilemma is whether I am an AGBU member or not. I know many others who are also wondering about their status. I consider myself a member in spirit, and as such, I morally feel obliged to comment on the latest statement of the Congress of Canadian Armenians (CCA) regarding the Protocols. The Congress purports to be an umbrella organization of several associations or patriotic unions.

Being familiar with the views of the CCA leadership, I am not surprised by their support of the protocols. I do not share their stand; that is abundantly clear from the Keghart initiated Opposing Some Provisions in the Protocols petition. Yet, I strongly believe that every Armenian, Armenian association or party is entitled to have a say in this vital national dialogue, to define what course of action we should collectively take in the Diaspora and in Armenia.

Putting aside the analysis of what the CCA has to say about the protocols–their statement is published elsewhere in Keghart—I would like to address one particular aspect of their announcement so as to explain who the CCA might represent.
After the introductory remarks, the CCA statement  goes on to say, “together with the Armenian General Benevolent Union , the Armenian Assembly of America [AAA] and many other respected organizations in the Diaspora, [it] supports normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey without preconditions.”

Superficially, the adjective “respected” used in this context appears to be an innocent qualifier. However, in politics words may have the exact opposite meaning when applied to adversaries. One gets the impression that those organizations which oppose the protocols are not necessarily “respected”. Is that the case? Am I stretching my interpretation? Are the organizations and individuals who do not approve the CCA position lacking in “respect”?

Secondly, which “other respected organizations” in Canada are we talking about?

There’s none to see in the body of the statement, although there is mention of “many of the large Canadian Armenian organizations" in the footer. I ask the question, because the CCA is a Canadian-Armenian entity and as such, it is expected to express the will of Canadian-Armenians, and not organizations south of the border.

One is left clueless, because the CCA statement does not mention any names other than the AGBU and the AAA. To my knowledge, none of the AGBU chapters in Canada is an affiliate of the CCA. On the contrary, the former chair of the Montreal chapter, along with many Canadian AGBU members, has endorsed the petition against some provisions of the protocol. Wouldn’t it be more truthful to make the distinction and identify the AGBU as that of the board in New York? By inserting the AGBU name one suspects that the CCA has resorted to confusing the AGBU members in Canada and has issued the statement without getting their consent. This is unbecoming to an organization that seeks “respect”.

That leads me to my next objection. Why is the CCA “importing” the AAA’s endorsement? Is it to impress Canadian-Armenians? The AAA does not speak for Canadian-Armenians.

On August 2, a news release on the CCA website stated, “Last week, the Armenian Assembly met with members of the Congress of Canadian Armenians (CCA) in Canada to discuss issues of mutual concern and cooperation.” It added, “The Armenian Assembly of America and the Congress of Canadian Armenians entered into a formal cooperation agreement in 2008.” … “In March of this year, the CCA sent a student delegation to Washington, DC to take part in the Assembly’s 2009 National Advocacy Conference & Banquet.”

It appears that relations between CCA and AAA have matured to such an extent that the two groups are indistinguishable from each other. Hence, the CCA statement could not have been any different from that of the AAA.

The AAA’s statement, both in form and in content is akin to statements issued by the United States administration. Adding “Armenian” in front of the statement does not make it so. Ultimately, one wonders whether the CCA is playing the role of the AAA’s Trojan horse in the Canadian-Armenian community, by espousing views concocted by the American administration. 

Previous appearances in Keghart.com

Do Not Ratify! 1 September 2009

Thirty Years Later 29 August 2009
Sharing Some Thoughts About Recent Articles
 28 July 2009
Yes, Taking Stock Mr. Oskanian And Mr. Ayvazyan
10 May 2009
A Word of Caution When Using Commercial Forms!
 3 May 2009
Genocide Commemoration Day-Toronto-Video Clips from Hai Horizon TV

Remembrance Day in Memory of the Martyrs
26 April 2009
D. Abrahamian’s Speech at the United Remembrance Day in Toronto
26 April 2009
Is President Obama Detached From Reality?
 10 April 2009
An Apology, a Thank You and Dialogues
February 9, 2009
Is Erdogan’s Anger for Real?
2 February 2009
Belonging to a Community: Is a Political Affiliation or a Religious Stripe Necessary?
  30 January 2009

A Turning Point: Armenian Officials Take the Bold Steps 13 November 2008  
A Letter to a Friend – Why the Silence and Inactivity? 10 November 2008
In Lieu of a Mission Statement – Reflections on the Occasion of the First Anniversary of Keghart.com 18 October 2008
Where is the beef?  September 17 2008
Six Months and Counting 24 August 2008
Reactions of Armenian Communities in North America to the Presidential Election & March 1st Tragedy 20 June 2008
Jirayr Sefilyan And Bigotry 2 June 2008
An Accident, A Tragedy 20 April 2008  
In Solidarity With Tibetans   28 March 2008
Reflections On The Recent Tragedy In Yerevan March 9, 2008
Looking ahead into the future and distancing from the past is unequivocally Obama’s path 2 February 2008
"Hopes in … dreams last much longer than fear instilled through murders."  19 January 2008
  1. CCA and Knights of Vartan

    Dear Dikran,
    I realized that founding members of CCA are also members of Knights of Vartan. Is CCA an offshoot of Knights of Vartan?
    1. An interesting observation
      Dear Hagop,
      I am not privy to such information. Probably a member of Knights of Vartan or the executive of the CAA may shed light on this matter.

  2. CCA

    The Hnchak Party of Canada is a member of the Congress of Canadian Armenians (CCA), according to the latter’s website. Since the CCA supports the Protocols, it follows that Hnchak’s are also pro the protocols. However, two weeks ago, at a televised public gathering in Glendale, California, the Hnchak spokesman denounced the protocols without equivocation. I am confused. Are the Hnchaks pro or anti the protocols?

    1. Curious development
      I think AGBU Montreal chapter too was a member in CCA, but not now. I will not be surprised to hear that the Henchaks of Canada will withdraw their membership in CCA following the latest developments related to the Protocols. They endorsed the joint declaration of the three traditional parties and took part in the popular political gatherings against the protocols. It would at least sound unprincipled to endorse such a declaration and at the same time be part of an umbrella formation that by and large supports the present course of the Government of Armenia.

  3. Hnchags divided?

    Like divided RAG, who can play on two strings, may be Hnchags are playing the same game. There is a term for that in Arabic, “neither tied nor divorced…”.
    Do the members of these parties read their initial manifesto? How do they feel about their daily lives when the organization like Hnchag was founded on social democratic principals?


  4.  Thank you for this

    Thank you for this commentary, Dikran.

    I know many Armenians who feel as you do (including myself), about how these organizations do not represent their views. Many organizations are led, dictatorially, by individuals who gain from aligning themselves with Armenia’s criminal regime. They may benefit in the form of receiving presidential awards or dual citizenship; receiving the right to purchase large tracts of land (even if they are protected regions); benefitting from the suspension of laws that are null for such allies but still apply to everyone else, etc.

    I also feel that "normalization of relations" between Turkey and Armenia cannot occur until Turkey takes responsibility for the Armenian Genocide and all that entails, not to mention guaranteed self-determination for Artsakh. Most "No Protocols" petitions out there right now (and the views of at least one recent columnist appearing in Keghart) treat it as a foregone conclusion that normalization of relations must occur between these nations at this time, even if the genocide issue is marginalized, ostensibly forever.

    This treatment of the issue as a foregone conclusion is rarely discussed. In fact, those who do discuss it are often labeled "naive," "hostile," and even psychopathic because such ideas disrupt the balance of power existing between many of our organizations and the current regime.

    I do not agree with the premise that normalization must occur right now  — a normalization that does not serve human rights but serves anyone who benefits from a pipeline going through the region.  Armenia’s geographic position makes it incredibly valuable to the West, a value that carries bargaining power with it, much as the West wishes us to believe Armenia is a charity case and nothing more. In fact, despite this knowledge, I have signed a petition or two that refer to "no preconditions for the normalization of relations" because the main point made, that the protocols must be rejected, seemed paramount. 

  5. Suggestion for a model

    Though I am not certain if these few lines will be published here, I do understand the dilemma the author describes quite well in regard to his "unfortunate experiences ", shall we say, with some of our organizations.

    There is so much to disapprove, rather – not be in accord – with those some …I better keep quiet.

    My efforts have always been to "suggest", never advise, nor offer, nor even convince, persuade…my compatriots to whatever organization or political party they belong to. I "suggest", for I am scared, afraid to tell my compatriots, for we are rather a race – people of Ishkahns and Ishkhanuhis.

    When I first entered the Armenian activism -never been a partisan and don´t wish to be so- I always respected them all, and tried to keep a distance.

    If we aspire or pretend to be a nation that has acquired or reached the stage of having "Formacion Social", then we should all respect each others viewpoints, ideologies, irrespective of our disagreements. That is current political parties and/or even those who do not bear a particular ideological denomination.

    They are all Armenian, but…

    Before we can claim that we have attained that said stage, we should also consider the great big collectivities: the "Professional Colleagues", already formed Associations. There are already 5 on the scene. These good people
    represent our backbone. I dare say they are 100,000 strong or more. They are endowed both with human resources and material. There will some day, hopefully, become 11 more such Associations, electing their delegates for
    their merits to the Interprofessional Colleagues’ Associations, the Elite, by "campaigning" based on the following

    (a) having advanced positions in their respective fields,
    (b) having attained respected recognition in national and international culture, apoliticized persons with networking capacity
    (c) having financially sound positions.

    Gaytzag Palandjian

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