The Harper government has unveiled a controversial monument to slain diplomats on the spot where a Turkish diplomat was gunned down in Ottawa 30 years ago, allegedly by Armenian terrorists.
The cone-shaped metal-and-wood monument is dedicated to Col. Atilla Altikat, the slain military attache of the Turkish embassy, and is also meant to commemorate all fallen diplomats.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird referred to the recent killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya as he unveiled the monument with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, who travelled to Ottawa for the event.
The monument also represents an olive branch from Canada to Turkey because of rift caused by the Harper government’s decision in 2006 to recognize as genocide the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in the First World War.
The move angered Turkey, a NATO ally, and led to the temporary withdrawal of its ambassador to Ottawa.
An internal foreign policy review carried out last year for Mr. Baird identified Turkey has a key player in the world, and a country that Canada should be focused on.
The monument was designed and built in Turkey and shipped to Canada under tight security.
“Sadly, both Turkey and Canada have lost talented and distinguished diplomats through senseless acts of violence directed at our countries,” Mr. Baird said in a statement.
“Recent events prove, tragically, that the dangers facing diplomats and public servants in foreign postings are still an unfortunate reality.”
Armenian Canadians were happy with the government’s 2006 decision to recognize the genocide.
But Thursday’s visit by Mr. Davutoglu sparked the Armenian National Committee of Canada to call on Mr. Baird to take Turkey to task for its human-rights record, including what it called Turkey’s continued denial of the Armenian genocide.
The organization pointed to Amnesty International’s 2012 report that cited a lack of constitutional legal reforms and flawed anti-terrorism laws.
“Canada must not turn a blind eye to Turkey’s centuries-old and continued disregard for human rights,” the committee’s president, Girair Basmadjian, said in a statement.
“Canada must condemn Turkey’s attempts to deny the historical truth of the Armenian Genocide.”