Groundbreaking Ceremony to mark creation of the Armenian Genocide Memorial of St. Catharines

Groundbreaking Ceremony to mark creation of the Armenian Genocide Memorial of St. Catharines –

By Maryanne Firth

St. Catharines Standard

It was a sombre day of remembrance.

But as a shovel of full soil arose from the ground, members of the Armenian Community Centre found solace.

A large crowd gathered outside the Martindale Rd. facility Sunday for a ceremonial ground breaking to mark creation of the Armenian Genocide Memorial of St. Catharines.

The monument will recognize the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians 100 years ago by Ottoman Turkish soldiers. The 1915 event is considered by many to be the first genocide of the 20th century.

Gary Kavazanjian, centre manager and chairman of a local Genocide Centennial Committee, called it critical to commemorate the 100th anniversary of “a devastating crime planned and carried out in what is now known as Turkey.”

The memorial will act as a “permanent representation of the murder of a nation,” Kavazanjian said.

“It is a promise that the lives of these victims will be honoured forever,” he said, and a reminder that virtue will persevere in the presence of evil.

While many nations, including Canada, have recognized that the events from 1915 to 1923 amounted to a genocide, not all have followed suite.

Turkey accepts many Christian Armenians died in clashes — when Armenia was part of the empire ruled from Istanbul — but denies it was a genocide.

“As the Turkish government is trying to rewrite history, we are committed to remembering it as it is,” Rev. Keghart Kosbakian said prior to a blessing of the soil where the monument will stand.

It’s critical, he said, that members of the Armenian community recognize that those who were killed live on through them.

“Their identity is our identity,” he said.

“Their faith lives and their identity lives in us.”

Soil was brought for the ceremony from historical Armenia — what is now known as Erzurum, Turkey — where 200,000 Armenians were killed. It was mixed into the Canadian soil as a symbol of a “united commitment to human rights and justice,” Kosbakian said.

Centre secretary Sevag Belian said the Armenian community is “thankful we live in a country where our rights are respected and our history recognized.”

The memorial, while recognizing the genocide, also acts as a visible reminder of Canada’s “commitment to multiculturalism and justice,” he said.

Belian called the Armenian community’s perseverance “eternal.”

“We will keep fighting until justice is served.”

St. Catharines has one of the oldest Armenian communities in Canada, dating back to the late 1890s, Belian said. The city joins the ranks of several other Canadian cities that have erected monuments to recognize the genocide.

The memorial — designed to be seven-feet wide and 10-feet high at a cost of $35,000 — will be created by Jean Antikian, a Hamilton-based engineer. It will include the names of the six provinces of Armenia, where most of the victims originated from, a flame to symbolize the eternal memory of those lost, and will be topped by a phoenix, symbolizing the commitment of the Armenian people to rise from the ashes and live again.

The memorial will also include a cross stone to signify the connection of the Armenian people to the Christian faith.

To date, 60 per cent of the money needed for the monument have been raised.

Kavazanjian called on the local Armenian community to support the project and help fund its completion.

The memorial is expected to be unveiled in April.


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