Effort to abolish Armenian Genocide curriculum in Toronto failed

Effort to abolish Armenian Genocide curriculum in Toronto failed

PanARMENIAN.Net - An effort by Canadian Turks to abolish curriculum on the Armenian Genocide in Toronto schools has failed, with education officials saying that the genocide will continue to be taught for years to come, Rudaw reports.

Canadian Turks earlier this year submitted over 2,200 signatures from an online petition calling for the Armenian genocide module to be removed from the Toronto District School Board’s educational curriculum.

The petition demanded that Canada’s largest school board remove any references to the Armenian genocide on the basis that it “unremittingly discredits one community’s narrative over the other” and “adversely affects the students with Turkish and Turkic heritages.”

The Armenian Genocide has been taught since 2008 in a secondary school course called Genocide and Crimes again Humanity.

The district told Rudaw that the class “is offered in some of our high schools where there is enough interest’’ and is “in line with not only the Canadian government but scholars who have looked into this specific issue.”

The Toronto District School Board “has no intention to have it removed in the years ahead,” a district spokesperson said.

Toronto is the largest and one of the most diverse school districts in Canada, serving approximately 232,000 students, including international students, in almost 600 schools.

The online petition was the latest attempt by Turkish Canadians to counter recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.

The Federation of Turkish Canadian Associations, which championed the online petition and tried to stop the Armenian genocide curriculum from being introduced in 2008, also in April lobbied against a monument recognizing the Armenian genocide in Toronto.

The petition garnered 2,255 signatures from around the world. The Federation of Turkish Canadian Associations reports that there are 50,000 Canadians of Turkish origin.

Robert Kouyoumdjian, head of the political chapter at the Armenian National Committee of Canada, lobbied for the Toronto district’s Armenian genocide curriculum. Frank Chalk, director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, endorsed it, according to Rudaw.

The online petition was launched by Turkish parents of students attending Toronto schools who stated in the petition that they were “deeply concerned about the negative impact of the current curriculum module on ‘Armenian Genocide,’” claiming it “would often result in ridiculing, intimidating, and bullying of our innocent children while causing injury to them physically and psychologically.”

However, Jim Karygiannis, a former MP based in Toronto, told Rudaw there is no evidence of Turkish children having been intimidated at schools. He said teaching high school students about the Armenian and other genocides could help prevent future atrocities.

Karygiannis also warned that removing references to the Armenian genocide from textbooks could call into question curricula from other genocides, such as the Holocaust, the Ukrainian famine and genocide from 1932-1933, the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the 1980s Anfal genocidal campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan.

“You can’t change history, and history should not be altered. We should learn from history and move forward so we don’t make the mistakes again,” Karygiannis said.

A Kurdish attorney based in Toronto, Hadyat Nazami, wrote a letter to Change.org officials, expressing serious concerns about the petition, which he deemed hate speech. In his letter, Nazami described the Turks’ petition as “essentially demanding that books and school curriculum be censored, in line with the one century old official ideology of the Turkish state to deny Armenian genocide ever took place in that country.”

Nazami’s vocal opposition has led to discussions among scholars and NGOs about adequate measures to protect freedom of speech while paying respect to the sufferings of survivors.

The Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Genocide (1915-23) was the deliberate and systematic destruction of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I. It was characterized by massacres, and deportations involving forced marches under conditions designed to lead to the death of the deportees, with the total number of deaths reaching 1.5 million.

The majority of Armenian Diaspora communities were formed by the Genocide survivors.

Present-day Turkey denies the fact of the Armenian Genocide, justifying the atrocities as “deportation to secure Armenians”. Only a few Turkish intellectuals, including Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk and scholar Taner Akcam, speak openly about the necessity to recognize this crime against humanity.

The Armenian Genocide was recognized by Uruguay, Russia, France, Lithuania, the Italian Chamber of Deputies, majority of U.S. states, parliaments of Greece, Cyprus, Argentina, Belgium and Wales, National Council of Switzerland, Chamber of Commons of Canada, Polish Sejm, Vatican, European Parliament and the World Council of Churches.

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