House of Commons to Vote on Motion Calling 1944 Tatar Deportation an Act of Genocide

    The desecrated monument contained the names of Crimean Tatars who died during World War II

    Latvian Lawmakers passed similar resolution on May 9.

    Marco Levytsky, NP-UN National Editor with Files From RFE/RL.

    The Latvian parliament has recognized the deportation of Crimean Tatars in 1944 by the government of the Soviet Union as an act of genocide, and Canada’s government may soon follow suit.

    The resolution approved by Latvian lawmakers on May 9 says it was adopted to “commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Crimean Tatar deportations” and to support “the policy of nonrecognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea” by Russia in 2014.

    It stressed that “a set of historical sources refers to the purposeful pursuit of genocide by the Soviet authorities against … Crimean Tatars as an ethnic group to destroy their cultural and social heritage and their historical affiliation with the Crimean Peninsula.”

    A similar motion is expected to be voted upon in Canada’s House of Commons on May 18.

    The motion, presented by Etobicoke-Centre Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, calls upon the House to recognise that the Crimean Tatar “Sürgünlik” was launched by Soviet dictator Stalin “to ethnically cleanse Crimea of over 200,000 Tatars by dispossessing them of all of their belongings, cramming them onto railway cattle cars, and transporting them 4,000 kilometres across the steppes of Central Asia… recognize these actions as genocide as defined by Raphael Lemkin in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and mark the Crimean Tatar Deportation (‘Sürgünlik’) Memorial Day on the eighteenth day of May, in each and every year.”

    Wrzesnewskyj’s motion has been seconded by several Liberals as well as NDP members Linda Duncan (Edmonton- Strathcona) and Wayne Stetski (Kootenay—Columbia). As Duncan notes: “It is important for Canada to speak out in support of the Crimean Tatars who continue to face repression at the hands of the Russians who have illegally seized control of Crimea.”

    How the Conservatives will vote on this motion remains up in the air.

    Responding to an email from New Pathway – Ukrainian News, Kerry Diotte, Conservative member for Edmonton Griesbach, who authored a private members bill also calling for the recognition of the Tatar deportation as genocide and calling for the establishment of a memorial day, which was defeated 160-137 by the ruling Liberals on December 13, 2016, issued a statement slamming “the Liberals’ decision to undermine establishing a Memorial Day for the Crimean Tatars” just hours before this issue went to press.

    “In 2016, Conservatives proposed Bill C-306 to establish a Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day to recognize the 200,000 Crimean Tatars deported by the Soviet Union in 1944 as genocide,” he said.

    “While this legislation gained widespread support, the Liberals used their majority to defeat this bill at second reading in the House of Commons. With the introduction of a non-binding motion with similar content in an election year, the Liberals are once again putting their partisan interests ahead of what’s best for Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars.

    “The vast majority of Liberal MPs denied Crimean Tatars from memorializing a significant time in their history. Canadians will not forget the Liberals’ shameful voting record when they had the opportunity to do the right thing.

    “By defeating Bill C-306, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals once again confirm that they are more interested in appeasing Vladimir Putin than standing up for Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, and those oppressed by Putin’s regime.

    “Canada’s Conservatives will continue to stand with Ukrainians, Crimeans, and all those fighting to uphold freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law,” Diotte added without specifying how the Conservatives would vote.

    Wrzesnewskyj, who was one of the five Liberals to break party ranks and support Diotte’s bill, says the reason the Liberals voted against it was because then Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion opposed the use of the term “genocide”. Current Minister Chrystia Freeland, however, supports it.

    Freeland, who was International Trade Minister at the time of Diotte’s bill, was absent for the December 2016 vote.

    In May 1944, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered the mass deportation of the entire Crimean Tatar population from the region to Central Asia, collectively accusing the community of collaborating with Nazi Germany.

    Tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars died while being transported on cattle trains or during the first few months after they arrived in Central Asia.

    Survivors and their offspring began unauthorized returns to Crimea in the late 1980s.

    Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula was seized and illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. Since then, the Crimean Tatar community has been subjected to repression by the Russia-installed authorities for voicing opposition to the annexation.

    On May 9, unknown vandals in Crimea desecrated a memorial to Crimean Tatar soldiers who died in combat against Nazi Germany during World War II.

    The Crimean Tatar community on May 9 published photographs of the monument, which consisted of two black marble tablets inscribed with the names of 64 local people – including 57 Crimean Tatars – who died during the war.

    The memorial was erected just three days earlier in the village of Orlovka by the Crimean Tatar community.