Report: Armenian Genocide Centennial Events organized by the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Ontario
Report: Armenian Genocide Centennial Events organized by the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Ontario –
Fellow Ontario Armenians,
June 2015 marks the culmination of phase one of our Armenian Genocide Centennial functions in Ontario and start of the second phase of the planned events. The Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee trusts that the forthcoming events and projects will be as forceful and as successful, as long as we have the support and cooperation of every Armenian organization and the participation of all members of our community. We will try in this article to present an overall summary of all the functions that took place from January to May 2015 and give you a brief overview of the events planned for the rest of 2015.
As a reminder, the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee is composed of representatives from the core Armenian organizations; the four churches, the three traditional political parties, and the two main charitable organizations, ARS and AGBU. All other organizations were active participants in the many sub-committees which were the driving force behind our centennial functions.
Although the planning of our centennial events across Canada started over a year ago, the kickoff of our commemorative functions in Ontario was in January 2015.
1. The first centennial event was the eighth annual commemoration of the assassination of Hrant Dink, which coincided with Charlie Hebdo Terrorist attacks in Paris. Both the Charlie Hebdo attacks and Hrant Dink’s assassination were attacks on the freedom of press and freedom of speech and were closely related in that respect. The memorial function, this year dedicated to the two terrible events, was well planned and effectively presented. Ms. Fethiye Çetin, Hrant Dink’s lawyer in Turkey was the key-note speaker. The standing room crowd at the function and the presence of CBC and CP24 were testament to the event’s success.
2. The second Armenian Genocide commemorative function was educational in nature. It was a teachers’ workshop planned and organized by the Sara Corning Centre for Genocide Education. It was a workshop for those teachers who are engaged in the teaching of Genocide within the Public and Catholic School systems in Ontario. The event was a full-day instructional workshop, which took place in February of 2015, and was well attended by 30 teachers from across the province.
3. On the evening of March 20, the colloquium entitled “Conference on Genocide: Prevention to Justice” took place at the University of Toronto, St. George campus, with over 400 in attendance.
The conference was organized by the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Canada, hosted by the Armenian Students’ Associations of the University of Toronto St. George and Scarborough campuses and sponsored by the Sara Corning Centre for Genocide Education, the Osgoode International Law Society, Hillel of Greater Toronto, STAND, the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union, the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, the Armen Karo Student Association and the Armenian Youth Federation of Canada.
The conference featured testimonies by descendants of genocide survivors as well as three guest lecturers: Dr. Fatma Göçek, Dr. Jermaine McCalpin and Dr. Henry Theriault. The lecturers utilized a comparative approach when discussing the topic of justice and reparation as it relates to the Armenian Genocide.
It was a great achievement not only for the Armenian Youth and Student organizations but also for the Toronto Armenian community at large. You can the video of the conference on our centennial committee website.
4. Armenian Genocide Memorial Faith Build was organized by the Social Services office of the Holy Trinity Armenian Church in cooperation with the Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and the support of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee. Under the title of “100 youth for 100 years” more than a 100 youth volunteered in two groups of 50 to build for Habitat for Humanity on March 28th and April 11th, 2015. They also raised more than $25,000 for this very important community cause. While our forefathers were driven out of their towns and homes from their Western Armenian native lands by the Ottoman Turkish authorities, the volunteers devoting their time and funds to build new homes for needy families thousands miles away, in Canada.
5. ” The Unity March for Human Rights Awareness and Genocide Prevention”, which took place on Sunday, April 19th, 2015, was the first in its kind in Toronto. The event was attended by 5000+ Torontonians including members of several other communities who were also subjected to Genocide during the 20th century. It took the centennial committee months of planning to organize this unprecedented event, including meetings with other community representatives, the police, and Legislative Assembly representatives for the successful execution of the political rally and peace march.
The event started at 12:30pm with a reception at Queen’s Park, which was attended by all the invited political representatives as well as representatives from the Armenian Organizations, the Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia, Mr. Armen Yeganian, Bishop Apkar Hovagimian and Bishop Meghrig Parikian. The reception was followed by a rally in front of the Legislative Building at 1:00 pm, with several community groups represented.
Speakers at the rally included, the Minister of National Defense the Hon. Jason Kenny, the Hon. Kathleen Wynn, Premier of Ontario, representatives from the three major political parties both federally and provincially, the Mayor of Toronto, His Worship John Tory, and number of City Councillors; The Mayor of City of Markham, His Worship Frank Scarpitti and a number of Markham Councillors. The speakers all confirmed the reality of the Armenian Genocide and stressed the importance of the remember the past and condemned the events currently taking place in the Middle East There were about 30 elected officials that took part in the rally along with Counsel Generals and representative of many human rights and non-profit organizations.
Following the rally, the 5000+ participating demonstrators walked south along University Ave. and east along Queen Street to the Metropolitan United Church for an unprecedented ecumenical church service, presided by His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church of Toronto, with participating clergy from several sister churches. Many of the guests including the mayors participated in the walk to the church for this special commemorative service.
6. ” Blood for Memory” blood donor clinic and health fair took place on Sunday, April 12th, 2015, at the Armenian Community Centre “The Hallcrown” hall. The event was organized by ACMAO, the Armenian Medical Association of Ontario, in participation with world-wide drive to collect 1.5 million units of blood in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide. The opening remarks were delivered by Dr. Ani Hasserjian, the chair of ACMAO, and Dr. Cyril Tahtajian. The Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia, Mr. Armen Yeganian and his two sons were the first donors of the blood drive. There were a total of 80 blood donors during this kick-off event. The blood drive, which is sponsored by the Canadian Blood Services, will continue until the end of 2015 to achieve its goal. The Canadian Blood services has issued a special reference number which could be used by the members of our community to help the blood drive achieve its target. The media’s presence was significant during this event as Global News and CBC were in attendance and reported on the event.
7. Book exhibits were organized as part of our cultural committee functions. The subcommittee was instrumental in getting the appropriate permissions to exhibit multi-language books written on the Armenian Genocide subject. There were exhibits organized in three public venues; the Toronto Reference Library, located at Yonge and Davenport, the Fairview Mall Public Library in North York, and the University of Toronto Robarts Library at the St. George campus. The book exhibits ran for the entire month of April.
The Robarts Library Exhibit titled “1915-2015, 100 Years of Life”, which was curated by Hasmik Torossian, sponsored by the University of Toronto Libraries, the Corning Centre and supported by the Armenian Students’ Association, was the most extensive with seven large exhibits covering the Armenian Genocide as well as Armenian history and culture.
8. Wednesday , April 22nd was a special day for all Toronto Armenians, it was a day of commemoration for the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide, as well as survival of a Nation from the ashes of Genocide. This was a good proof that the Armenian Nation not only has survived the first Genocide of the 20th century, but it has thrived in recreating its cultural heritage and music. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra dedicated this night’s performance to music of Ararat. The symphony Orchestra conductor Peter Ounjian did a superb job by conducting the orchestra to the Armenian music, and the music of Ararat, with guest participants of famous Armenian performers such as; Soprano Isabelle Bayrakdarian, and pianist Serouj Kradjian, the world renown violinist, Sergey Khachaderian, and other performers on Armenian instruments such as tar, duduk and kamancha. With the 2800 seat Roy Thompson Hall at capacity, the performance was a huge success. There was a participatory budget for the Armenian community which was raised from members of the concert committee.
9. On April 23rd, 2015 there was a special church service at the St. Mary Armenian Apostolic church in Toronto, with participation all the other churches. As the canonization service of the 1.5 million martyrs of the Armenian Genocide was being conducted at the Holy Etchmiadsin in Yerevan, Armenia, at the same time services were being carried out at all the Armenian churches all around the world marking the sainthood of the Genocide victims. This remarkable service attended by hundreds of Toronto Armenians was concluded by tolling the church bell 100 times, marking this Centennial.
10. Ottawa demonstration and bill M- 587 was an unprecedented function ever witnessed in the 45 years history of the Genocide demonstrations in Ottawa, both in terms of participants and achievement, on Friday April 24th. Toronto and the southern Ontario Armenian communities participated with 40 buses and many families drove in their cars to pay tribute to our martyrs of the Genocide.
The 10,000 strong community gathering at the parliament building started at 12:00 noon, with a thank you political rally, where all political party representatives asserted the reality of the Armenian genocide of 1915, and the importance of memory to prevent future genocides.
While the thank you rally was going on, there were discussions about the private Bill M-587 introduced by Brad Butt, MP for Mississauga, proposing to recognize April as Genocide Awareness, Prevention and Condemnation Month in Canada and April 24th as Armenian Genocide Memorial Day.
The gathering then turned into a demonstration denouncing Genocide and demanding justice from the Turkish Government. The procession ended at the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa, where a program was presented by the Armenian Youth Federation and Armen Karo Student Association.
11. On Saturday April 25th, starting at 11:00 am, there was a special function in Georgetown, Ontario. At the Cedarvale community centre, where the Georgetown Boys farmhouse was, where over 109 orphans of the Armenian Genocide were brought and housed by the efforts of the Ontario and Canadian governments, churches and Toronto organizations.
This event was organized by the Armenian Saturday schools of Toronto and GTA to honour memory of the Armenian genocide Victims, now Saints, and celebrate the life of the Genocide orphans who grew up on the farmlands of Georgetown. A special tree will be planted on the site this year with a dedication plaque. The Georgetown boys farmhouse has the historic designation of both Halton Hills and the Government of Ontario.
12. Flash Mob and R-Mean concert: the two Armenian dance groups of Toronto; the Hamazkayin Erepouni dance group and the Holy Trinity Church Sassoun dance group , have been training hard to do this special Flash Mob, in front of the Toronto City hall, at Nathan Phillips square, on Friday may 22nd, at 5:00 Pm, with R- mean performing as the guest singer. A good number of volunteer youth also participated during the performance, so did the hip- hop dance performers led by Ms. Movsessian. There were couple of hundred spectators at the performance.
The following night on Saturday, May 23 Rd, there was special concert performed by R- mean for the Toronto youth.
13. On Saturday, May 23rd, at 10:30 AM, a special flag raising ceremony was organized by the Armenian National Committee Of Toronto in cooperation with the Centennial Committee. There was a large group on hand for the blessing and raising the Armenian flag in front of the City of Markham Civic Centre. There were number of city councillors and provincial and federal elected officials present at the ceremony. After the flag raising there was a short programme at the City Hall rotunda, where the deputy Mayor Jack Heath and other elected officials took part and congratulated Armenia on the occasion of establishing its First Independent Republic on May 28th, 1918. The celebration was concluded with a small reception.
The above represents a short report on phase one of the Armenian Genocide Centennial events and projects. Our community members participated in these events with great numbers and enthusiasm, which made every project and event an unprecedented success for the GTA Armenian community. We have been relying on donations received from Toronto Armenian Community members to cover costs of these events. Although the response to our requests for donations has been respectable to date, the associated costs for some of these events/projects have been so overwhelming, that we require additional funding to meet our financial obligations. We will present to our community the detailed accounting of these activities and functions in due course. In the mean time we require your financial support for these and the upcoming planned events.
Please donate generously if you have not yet contributed, and if you have already donated, please consider making a second contribution.
You can donate for the centennial functions through one of the following methods:
A. By completing the pledge form at the Armenian Community Centres and Churches.
B. By donating online thru our website: //www.armeniangenocide.ca
C. By completing a credit card payment
Thank you for your involvement with the centennial events and functions.
Greg K Chitilian,
The Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee (Ontario)