Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book "The Call from Armenia: Canada's Response to the Armenian Genocide" Discussed in the Canadian Senate

Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, as we continue to reflect on the impact of the First World War and its commemoration, let us remember that April 24 of this year marked the one hundredth anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
I would like to bring to the attention of honourable senators a new book recently launched to coincide with the centennial commemorations of the Armenian genocide, which details Canada's specific response to that genocide in 1915-16.
The book is titled The Call from Armenia: Canada's Response to the Armenian Genocide, and it is written by Aram Adjemian, who is, as it happens, also a research assistant in my office. The book is illustrated with hundreds of archival documents, illustrations, photographs, advertisements, newspaper articles and editorial cartoons to enhance the reading experience. The book also presents new research regarding Canada's specific reaction to atrocities perpetrated on the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire from the late 19th century to the 1920s.
It is appalling that roughly 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives. That represents 22 per cent of all civilian victims of the First World War.
At that moment, Canadians' reaction to the Armenian genocide was substantial, although information about it has been forgotten over time. Canadians were most engaged following the First World War. Large-scale fundraising drives for Armenian relief and well-organized letter-writing campaigns motivated the Canadian government, aware of its increasing international influence, to write a series of official communiques to Great Britain on the issue.
Let us not forget that the Ottoman Empire was allied with the German Kaiser against Canada and the Allies during the War. Here is a brief excerpt of a letter sent by the Acting Secretary of State for External Affairs under Prime Minister Robert Borden's Union government, Newton W. Rowell, which outlined Canada's position as the Peace Treaty with Turkey was being deliberated on February 20, 1920:
. . . the undersigned suggests that the Canadian Government should place itself on record as absolutely opposed to the return of any of the Armenian provinces of Turkey to Turkish rule and that this view should be communicated at once to His Majesty's Government.
Allow me to read part of the testimonials on the back of the book, which include one from our former colleague, Senator Roméo Dallaire:
This interesting work sheds new light on one of modern history's forgotten catastrophes and serves as further evidence of Canadians' enduring concern for human suffering around the world.
I believe this book fills a void in the scholarship relating to the Canadian reaction to the Armenian genocide. It should be particularly useful for those who have an interest in the topics of genocide and human rights studies, Canadian missionary involvement abroad and religious movements in Canada, and the early years of Canada's international capacity on the world stage.
Yes, honourable senators, Canada was on the right side of history.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.


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