Dr. Girair Basmajian, President, Armenian National Committee of Canada has sent a letter to the Globe and Mail’s editorial staff in response to a grossly inaccurate and fact-less opinion piece written by columnist Doug Saunders on October 19, the Horizon Weekly reports. The letter reads:
“I am writing to you on behalf of the Armenian National Committee of Canada. The Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) is the largest and the most influential Armenian-Canadian grassroots human rights organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout Canada and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCC actively advances the concerns of the Armenian-Canadian community on a broad range of issues.
We write in response to one article published in the Globe and Mail on Saturday, October 19, 2013 under the title “Genocide – is it a question worth answering?” and “A Fight Over The Word ‘Genocide’ Is No Way To End The Aboriginal Crisis” by Mr. Doug Saunders.
We are concerned, and the Armenian-Canadian community is outraged, that this article confuses facts with opinions and doing so confuses the reader as to whether or not the term “genocide” can be applied to the events of 1915 – 1923 with respect to the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire.
Mr. Saunders begins his column by saying that if the Republic of Turkey had ever said Canada committed genocide “Ottawa would reject it, and many Canadians would be outraged to see their country put in the same column as Nazi Germany.” Does Mr. Saunders have any proof of this? Has he discussed this matter with Canadian government officials or is he simply presenting his personal beliefs as fact? We believe that if the world community concluded that Canada (or colonial powers governing the areas now constituting Canada) had committed genocide with respect to its aboriginal population, the Canadian government would not reject that notion.
Similarly, Mr. Saunders goes on to say “Many people, especially Armenians, consider it a genocide, although this definition is controversial” with respect to the Armenian Genocide. What Mr. Saunders does not say is that the definition is controversial simply because the Republic of Turkey denies the matter and that just about every genocide scholar or historian not affiliated with the Republic of Turkey recognizes that the fact of the Armenian Genocide. Simply put the Armenian Genocide is controversial the way that the guilt of a convicted murderer who denies his crime is controversial. A more accurate statement would be “The Armenian Genocide is subject to a campaign of denial by the Republic of Turkey.”
Also, Mr. Saunders states “Were those acts, as the genocide convention requires, committed with “intent to destroy, in whole or in part” the group’s population? In both the Turkish and Canadian examples, this is an open question.” There is no doubt by any objective observer that the Young Turk government intended to destroy the Armenian people in the Ottoman Empire. Again, the “open question” arises solely because the Republic of Turkey has acted to make this an open question, whether through the criminalization of discussion of the topic within its own borders, its intense lobbying campaign against recognition in other countries (including Canada) or by funding dubious, one-sided historical scholarship throughout the world.
Finally, Mr. Saunders states “Nobody wants to be labelled genocidal. Modern Turks live in a state that was created in the 1920s in opposition to the Ottomans who committed the Armenian atrocities. Post-1967 Canadians tend to see indigenous mistreatment as the act of less tolerant Dominion-era Canadians.” This statement is inaccurate even within the context of Mr. Saunders’ own beliefs because just a few paragraphs earlier he states that some Canadians would cheer being labelled genocidal, but it is also inaccurate in saying that the modern Republic of Turkey was created in opposition to the Ottomans. The modern Republic of Turkey arose from the defeat of the Ottoman Empire following the First World War and while there was some opposition to the past, by the 1930s the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide were being honoured as heroes in Turkey and the state began a full-on campaign to recognize and glorify many aspects of its Ottoman past. As someone who has spent considerable time in Turkey, Mr. Saunders is no doubt aware that the Republic of Turkey is proud of its Ottoman roots and constantly makes reference to them (except with reference to its treatment of minorities).
The Armenian National Committee of Canada believes that in order to counter Mr. Saunders’ conflation of opinion and fact, the Globe and Mail should provide space for an article to set out the facts on the Armenian Genocide and to act as a counterbalance to Mr. Saunders’ article. The ANCC would be happy to provide the names of various prominent Canadian figures who would be willing to author such an article or, alternately, to prepare the article itself. We believe that the readers of the Globe and Mail would benefit from having access to information that accurately sets out the historical truth of the Armenian Genocide and the following campaign of denial by the Republic of Turkey rather than simply relying on Mr. Saunders’ confused explanations.
We would also like a meeting with the editorial board of the Globe and Mail so that we can provide more accurate information about this topic and we can begin a dialogue about improving communication between the media and our community. The Armenian-Canadian community is an important part of this country and we believe that our media would better serve all Canadians if it better reflected our participation and history in our country.”
Here is the link to Doug Saunders’s article