Protest for peace in Armenian-Azeri conflict

Montreal’s Armenian community wants Canadian government to help put an end to hostilities in the Caucasus

Hundreds of people gathered in Dorchester Square, Armenian flags in tow, to demand the Canadian government act on what’s happening overseas. Photo Esteban Cuevas

Thousands of people from Montreal’s Armenian community gathered in Dorchester Square on Sunday to protest Azerbaijani and Turkish aggression against the disputed territory of Artsakh, more commonly known as Nagorno-Karabakh.

Chants of “Onto victory!” regularly broke out as hordes of mask-clad Canadian-Armenians expressed their discontent over the federal government’s lack of reaction to the clashes in the Caucasus.

“No more diluted messages from Canada,” said teacher and community leader Mher Karakashian. “We are watching our politicians, because this is a matter of life and death for us!”

Many wore masks to match the Armenian flag, chanting “Onto victory!” Photo Esteban Cuevas

For over a week, Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have clashed along the eastern border of Nagorno-Karabakh, a landlocked region historically and currently inhabited by Armenians. Internationally recognized as Azeri land after being given to Azerbaijan by Joseph Stalin, it is now considered an independent state since Azerbaijan last exercised political authority over it in 1988.

After the end of the Soviet Union, both countries engaged in a war over the territory, spanning over three years and resulting in thousands of casualties on both sides, with Armenia consolidating its presence in the region. Sporadic clashes have sparked up occasionally since a ceasefire was signed in 1994.

The crowd gathered around a stage, listening to speeches by community leaders and local elected officials, cheering agreeingly as speakers encouraged Armenia’s resilience and denounced Azeri aggression. Short live musical performances followed before the crowd dispersed around 4 p.m.

Protesters called for an end to Canadian military aid to Turkey and its allies, as reports surfaced that Turkish forces have been using Canadian-made targeting systems in drone attacks. Photo Esteban Cuevas

Sunday’s protesters also called for an end to Canadian military aid to Turkey and its allies, as reports surfaced that Turkish forces have been using Canadian-made targeting systems in drone attacks against civilian populations in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“As a Canadian, I am ashamed, because Canadian technology is being used to bomb civilian populations,” said Alexandre Boulerice, federal deputy for Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie. “Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Champagne, the only thing to do is to stop exporting arms to Turkey.”

Some young Canadian-Armenians fear that this could be history repeating itself, as the wounds of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 have not healed. While Canada officially recognized the genocide in 2004, many countries, including Turkey, have not.

Community leaders and elected officials spoke to the crowd. Photo Esteban Cuevas

“As descendants of genocide survivors, it is important for us to take part in protests against similar injustices taking part in Artsakh right now,” said Hrag Koubelian, president of the Concordia Armenian Students’ Union.

“We hope that Canada officially condemns the aggression we’re seeing and recognizes the Armenian people’s right to peacefully live on their lands.”