Jason Magder, Montreal Gazette
They marched to remember. They marched for recognition.
Thousands of Montrealers wove their way through downtown Montreal on a hot Sunday afternoon in a sombre three-kilometre march from Westmount Park, along Ste-Catherine St. to Place des Arts to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
Held in honour of the estimated 1.5 million people who died, the commemorative walk followed similar marches held in Toronto and Ottawa.
Organizers estimated 10,000 people took part were accompanied by a drum band as they marched in relative silence.
The march commemorated Armenians, as well as Rwandans, Jews and other victims of genocide, and called for an end to genocide worldwide.
However, most of those taking part were from Montreal’s Armenian community, hundreds of them wearing black T-shirts with the message “I remember and demand.”
It has been 100 years, and this is the only genocide from the 20th century that has not been recognized by its perpetrators. It was a systemic massacre of a people. We will never forget. — St-Laurent resident Edward Agopian
The demand is for a recognition by the Turkish government that a genocide took place.
“It has been 100 years, and this is the only genocide from the 20th century that has not been recognized by its perpetrators,” said St-Laurent resident Edward Agopian. “It was a systemic massacre of a people. We will never forget.”
Agopian said although it has been a long time since the genocide occurred, nearly every Armenian in the world has a personal connection to the massacre.
“At the end of the day, there were 2 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey, and 1.5 million of them disappeared,” he said. “We have 8 million or 9 million worldwide, so every person has at least one story of a family or extended family member that they lost along the way. Both my grandparents were orphaned. Their stories touched me personally.”
Among those who attended were Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, and many other MNAs and city councillors. Among them was Harout Chitilian, vice-president of the city’s executive committee, and a descendant of Armenian genocide survivors.
“My ancestors were driven out from their historic homes. We have cherished this home,” Chitilian said. He added he’s confident the Turkish government will eventually recognize its role in carrying out the genocide.
“I think the process itself is a long one, but I firmly believe the day will come that the perpetrators will recognize it, because I think it’s the only way to turn the page on that part of history that was extremely dark,” Chitilian said.
When they arrived in Place des Festivals, many marchers laid flowers in front of a replica of Dzidzernagapert, a monument to the genocide in the city of Yerevan.
The marchers filled the Place des Festivals, listened to several speeches and watched a broadcast of a commemoration held in Place des Arts.