Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey as thousands of people gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday and then marched through the streets of the capital to mark the 104th anniversary of the tragic event.
“Today, we join Armenian communities in Canada and around the world to honour the memory of the victims of the Armenian genocide, a dark chapter in human history which must never be forgotten,” Trudeau said in a statement.
“Although more than a century has since passed, the memory of those who unjustly lost their lives and suffered reminds us that we must never respond to hatred or violence with indifference.”
Historians estimate that nearly 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered or died during death marches into the Syrian desert organized by the government of Young Turks as they sought to find a “final solution” to Turkey’s “Armenian Question” during WWI.
Within a short span Turkey’s millennia-old Armenian community was essentially wiped out from its historic homeland with survivors scattered around Diaspora communities in the Middle East, Europe, North and South America.
To this day the government of Turkey has refused to acknowledge the genocide, saying the number of victims has been inflated and that Turks as well as Armenians and other Christian minorities were killed during inter-communal strife.
April 24 marks the symbolic beginning of the genocide when 234 of prominent Armenian intellectuals, politicians and community leaders were rounded up by Turkish police in Istanbul and sent to camps in the interior of the country where most were executed.
The Canadian government recognized the events of 1915 as genocide in 2006, under then Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In addition, the Senate and the House of Commons of Canada have also adopted resolutions recognizing the events of 1915 as genocide.
In 2015, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion declaring April 24th as Armenian Genocide Memorial Day.
“As we observe this solemn day and pay tribute to the strength and spirit of the Armenian people, we also look forward to a future built on peace and mutual respect,” Trudeau said.
“The Government of Canada pays tribute to the victims of this tragedy and reaffirms its commitment to strive for a world in which nobody – regardless of faith or ethnic background – fears discrimination or persecution because of who they are.”