Marco Levytsky, NP-UN National Affairs Editor.
Etobicoke-Centre Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj is once again trying to get Canada’s Parliament to recognize the 1944 deportations of the Crimean Tatars by Stalin as genocide.
He took a major step forward in this direction on June 13 when, after some initial efforts by Conservatives to filibuster a motion he presented at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs & International Development, he succeeded in getting it passed unanimously.
It reads: “That pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), and based upon the witness testimony of Mr. Mustafa Dzhemilev on May 16, 2019, and of Mr. Vladimir Kara-Murza on June 10, 2019, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development immediately report to the House the following: that in support of the historic truth and as requested by Mustafa Dzhemilev, the Crimean Tatar deportation of 1944 be recognized as a genocide perpetrated by Soviet dictator Stalin, and that May 18 be designated a day of remembrance for the Crimean Tatar deportation (Sürgünlik).”
The inclusion of the term “immediately report” means that the government has to respond as soon as possible to the committee’s recommendation. Wrzesnewskyj is hoping to get it passed before Parliament recesses for the summer on June 21.
“I’m working on a number of legislative avenues to get this done by June 21,” he told New Pathway – Ukrainian News. “(Foreign Affairs Minister) Chrystia (Freeland) has been absolutely supportive on this issue,” added Wrzesnewskyj.
Starting on May 18, 1944, 200,000 Crimean Tatars were dragged from their home by NKVD special forces in the dead of night, packed into cattle cars, and shipped thousands of miles away. They were left without food, water or shelter and close to 30,000 died of hunger, suffocation and thirst. Approximately, half subsequently died in the Central Asian steppes due to hunger and disease.
There have been two attempts – both unsuccessful – to get such recognition passed before. The first was in December, 2016, when Edmonton Griesbach Conservative MP Kerry Diotte tried to get a Private Member’s Bill through, but was voted down by the ruling Liberals under orders from then Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion who did not consider the deportation to be a genocide. Wrzesnewskyj and four other Liberals broke ranks and voted for it while Freeland, then Minister of International Trade chose to be absent for the vote.
The second was last month when Wrzesnewskyj tried to get unanimous support for a motion calling for the recognition of Sürgünlik as genocide, but was denied by the Conservatives. As Dion had been replaced by Freeland two years ago, the Liberal position on terming it a genocide changed as well.
But on June 10, Russian pro-democracy opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza testified before the Foreign Affairs Committee about the worsening human rights situation in Russia and increasing numbers of political prisoners incarcerated by the Putin regime.
Wrzesnewskyj used the opportunity to put a question to Murza about the plight of the Crimean Tatars and whether he would support a finding of genocide regarding the Sürgünlik.
“I think it would be very important to make such a recognition,” answered Kara-Murza.
This provided Mr. Wrzesnewskyj with the opportunity to give “Notice of Motion” on the matter. After the 48-hour wait period, this motion was moved, debated, and passed.
“In this 75th memorial year of the 1944 Crimean Tatar Genocide (Sürgünlik), I would like to thank all the members serving on the Foreign Affairs Committee for realizing the importance of recognizing the Crimean Tatar Genocide and passing my motion unanimously in Committee,” said Wrzesnewskyj. “I would also like to thank Chair Michael Levitt who expertly prevented the filibustering of this motion before the clock ran out,” said Wrzesnewskyj.