The Honourable Stephane Dion Discusses His Recent Trip to Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic -
Montreal — On Sunday, December 8, 2013, the Honourable Stephane Dion, PC and member of Parliament for Saint-Laurent Cartierville was invited to give a presentation and discussion about his trip from September 21 to September 27 of this year to the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The Armenian National Committee of Canada was instrumental in arranging for Mr. Dion’s September trip. The evening event, which was held in the Armenian Community Centre of Montreal and was attended by over 100 Armenian-Canadian community leaders and members, was organized by the Armenian National Committee of Quebec.
Seven-Day fact-finding visit
Following a video presentation of his visit, Mr. Dion shared with the audience his experiences and impressions of his seven-day visit to Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR).
His fact-finding trip included visits with Syrian-Armenian refugees, discussions with Armenian ministers and opposition leaders, a meeting with the Speaker of the NKR Parliament, and a meeting with the president of NKR, Bako Sahakian.
Mr. Dion paid a visit to Dzidzernagapert to honour the memory of the 1.5 million Armenians that were systematically murdered by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 in what was the 20th Century’s first genocide. Following a wreath laying ceremony, Mr. Dion was given a thorough tour of the Armenian Genocide Museum.
During his presentation, Mr. Dion highlighted the economic, cultural, and social contributions of Armenian-Canadians, stating that, “it is only right, that after such valued contributions of Armenian-Canadians to the growth of Canada, Canada must play a larger role in the economic development of Armenia.”
Praise for Mr. Dion’s principles and courage
The president of the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC), Dr. Girair Basmadjian praised Mr. Dion for his seven-day trip, especially his principled and courageous visit to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. “Although he received pressure from the government of Azerbaijan during and after his trip, Mr. Dion remained steadfast to his objective of witnessing, firsthand, the situation in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Azerbaijani Ambassador’s Reaction
While travelling in the Nagorno-Karabkh Republic, Mr. Dion’s office in Canada received a phone call from the Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Canada, insisting that Mr. Dion leave the NKR immediately. Mr. Dion continued his visit as planned.
Commenting on the Azerbaijani ambassador’s unwarranted reaction, Dr. Basmadjian remarked, “a member of the Parliament of Canada, a country that has always been a champion of democracy and human rights, needs no political lessons from a representative of the government of Azerbaijan -- this is the same Azerbaijani government that announces in press releases the ‘official’ results of elections one day prior to the actual elections taking place.”
Aid for Syrian-Armenian Refugees
While in Armenia, Mr. Dion met with Armenia’s Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakopian to discuss the plight of the 10,000-plus Syrian-Armenians who have currently taken refuge in Armenia to escape Syria’s continuing bloody turmoil. The Minister informed Mr. Dion that the Armenian government has a plan in place to assist these refugees, but lacks the funding to implement the plan. The Minister also informed Mr. Dion that Armenia applied to Canada, through Canada’s Ambassador to Armenia, for funding assistance to implement the plan. Upon his return to Canada, Mr. Dion immediately sent formal letters Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird and International Development Minister Christian Paradis requesting that Canada allocate funding for Armenia to assist Syrian-Armenian refugees.
Stéphane Maurice Dion, PC, MP (born 28 September 1955) is a Canadian politician who has been the Member of Parliament for the riding of Saint-Laurent–Cartierville in Montreal since 1996. He was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and the Leader of the Opposition in the Canadian House of Commons from 2006 to 2008. Dion resigned as Liberal leader after the party's defeat in the 2008 general election, but remained in Parliament and was re-elected in his riding in the 2011 election. Dion is a former academic who served as a cabinet minister under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin and, as such, is a Member of the Privy Council. Mr. Dion has been a long-time friend of the Armenian-Canadian community, and has worked closely with the ANCC in the past.