Ottawa: Tensions flare during 99th anniversary of Armenian genocide -
By Denis Armstrong
The annual Armenian march to commemorate the 1915 genocide threatened to boil over into a violent confrontation when they were met by an estimated 500 Turkish nationals.
Ottawa police and RCMP officers were on high alert for the annual march when hundreds of vocal Turks crashed ceremonies on Parliament Hill to mark the 99th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
Armenia alleges Turkey's Ottoman government waged a covert campaign to ethnic cleanse an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915, a year into the First World War.
While it admits many Armenians were killed in the civil unrest that lead to WWI, the Turkish government denies it participated in ethnic cleansing of Armenians, claiming thousands of nationals from Bulgaria, Russia, Kurdistan, Syria and Palestine as well as Turkey and Armenia were killed at the outbreak of war.
Canada officially recognized the Armenian killings as genocide in 2004.
Separated by barricades and dozens of officers, both sides taunted the other as members of the Armenian community and federal MPs including Royal Galipeau and recently retired Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis who became emotional as he addressed the crowd.
"The presence of the Turks here shows their shame is all over them, otherwise they wouldn't be here," he added. "What brainless idiot let them assemble here? I'm deeply disturbed by the presence of antagonists like this on Parliament Hill."
The Turks were gone by the time Karygiannis finished speaking. The Armenian Archbishop and members of the Foundation placed flowers at the Eternal Flame before marching to MacDonald Gardens Park and the Turkish Embassy where they were met by about 2,000 equally vocal Turks staging a counter demonstration.
Separated by a cordon of police, both sides continued to yell and taunt each other until police closed the park.
Armenians have been staging their annual march every April 24 for the last 40 years but the last two years, the number of Turkish nationals accompanying the Armenian protesters has grown, and neither side is backing down.
Armenian nationalists say they will stage the annual march until the Turkish government officially accepts responsibility for the Armenian genocide.
"I'd like to see an apology from the Turkish government and hear them admit they committed genocide the same way the Germans apologized that the Nazis killed Jews," said Sebouh Kabajouzian, who drove from Toronto with his family to be a part of the march. "We'll keep coming until the criminals admit their mistake and are punished."