On April 24th, the Vancouver Armenian community, along with friends and supporters, gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery for the commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Starting at 4pm, the huge group of 500, representing a large portion of the local Armenian community, held signs and passed out flyers to the passersby at the busy downtown location.
Kurdish, Jewish and other community members also joined in.
Musicians Elvira Vosganian (violin) and Ashod Stephanian (guitar/vocals) provided memorial and inspirational musical support for the gathered crowd.
Prior to the commencement of the official program, the youth performed a “die-in”, creating the shape of the number “100” with their bodies.
At 5pm, Master of Ceremonies Ohan Gureghian initiated the commemoration, leading the singing of the Canadian and Armenian National anthems, followed by a minute of silence in memory of the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide.
After his introductory remarks, Mr. Gureghian invited long time member of parliament Hon. Dr. Hedy Fry (Liberal – Vancouver Centre) to the podium to say a few words on behalf of the Liberal party.
Friend of the Armenian community, and member of the Canada Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group MP Jasbir Sandhu (NDP – Surrey North), next took the stage and conveyed his and the NDP party’s message of remembrance of the past and protection of human rights now and in the future.
Former Mayor of Whistler Ken Melamed, representing Green party leader MP Elizabeth May, reflected on the suffering of the Armenian people.
Avetis Muradyan, representing the Armenian Students’ Association of UBC, and Jack Agopian of the Armenian Youth Federation gave messages of resilience and survival from the new generation.
94 year old Marie Ghazarian Nichols, born in the Armenian village of Kessab, travelled hundreds of miles from Penticton, BC, to give an inspiring story of her family’s losses, survival, and her hope for future generations.
And young Lara Terzian touchingly represented both the new generation, and her great-grandparents’ generation of survivors and orphans from the Genocide, concluding with a plea to all world leaders to listen to her little voice and recognize and remember the Armenian Genocide.
MLA Adrian Dix (NDP – Vancouver Kingsway) gave the final tribute to Genocide victims, survivors, and their descendants, who are now living and thriving around the world, especially in Canada and in British Columbia.
As the skies opened up with hail and rain, the determined crowd gathered around Very Rev. Father Hrant Tahanian and Archpriest Rev. Father Keghart Garabedian. The two shepherds led their flock, accompanied by traffic controlling police escort, on a two hour7 km march through the heart of Vancouver. Adults, children, even babies in strollers were side by side with great grandparents on the way to the Armenian Genocide Monument at Mountain View Cemetery, holding signs, chanting slogans and singing songs along the way, reminding the world that we are still here, and that:
“We Remember and Demand”.
At 9 pm, following a short candlelight ceremony at the Monument, the formal evening program began in Celebration Hall, headlined by the community youth.
MLA Adrian Dix, who joined with the community and walked the entire route, spoke once again of the need to always remember, and to work on educating through the school system, so that Genocide denial can be fought at every turn.
Youth speakers and performers included Shant Basmadjian, Mariam Garabedian (recital), Jack Agopian (recital), Krikor Bebedjian (guitar), Palig Kochkrian (violin), Lori Kullahian (recital), Lara Terzian, Adriana Kucukgozen, Lorig Koradjian, Seza Koradjian, Arek Beshdikian, Mariam Ghassoumyan, Pamela Boudjok, and Karni Kochkrian.
Short videos were also shown.
The evening ceremonies concluded with a joint prayer by the two clergymen.
The April 24th commemorative activities continued with a vigil (“hsgoom”) from 11pm – 8am.
Many community members joined with Father Hrant and the youth to stay overnight at the hall, in a gesture of devotion and respect to our fallen forefathers.
The commemoration activities culminated with a special outdoor mass at the Armenian Genocide Monument on the morning of April 25th, performed by Very Rev. Father Hrant Tahanian and Archpriest Rev. Father Keghart Garabedian.
Photo Credits: Vasgen Degirmentas.