Turkish Canadian Relations, 5.2.2016

The establishment of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Canada goes back to 1943. In June 1943, Turkey conveyed to Canada its desire to open an Embassy in Ottawa, Canada responded favorably, and the first Turkish Ambassador to Canada, Mr. Mehmet Ali Şevki Ilhan presented his credentials on March 6, 1944. His counterpart, Major General Victor W. Odlum, presented his credentials to the President of the Republic of Turkey on November 26, 1947, becoming the first Canadian Ambassador to Turkey. Following the opening of the Embassies, diplomatic relations between Turkey and Canada developed harmoniously.

Turkey has an Embassy in Ottawa. The Consulate General in Toronto, the province Ontario’s capital was opened on December 29, 2010, and The Consulate General in Vancouver was opened in September 2015. There are also Honorary Consulate Generals in Saskatoon,Saskatchewan, Halifax, Nova Scotia and Edmonton, Alberta. Canada has an Embassy in Ankara and a Consulate General in Istanbul.

During the Cold War years, political relations between Turkey and Canada evolved mainly around military and security cooperation within NATO. The two allies have also been working side by side in pursuit of a more peaceful and stable world, cooperating within the UN and the OSCE frameworks. In this vein, they have taken part in various international peacekeeping operations. Canada has also participated in the UNFICYP (UN Force in Cyprus) with sizeable troops until 1993.

Since the establishment of the G-20 on September 25, 1999, the two countries found a common forum where they could discuss issues of global economy and finance.

There are Turkish-Canadian Inter-parliamentary Friendship Groups in both countries. The Canadian side of the Friendship Group was initiated in June 1996. The Turkish side to the Turkish-Canadian Inter-parliamentary Friendship was established on January 5, 2012.

Air Transport Agreement between Canada and Turkey was initialed on March 13, 2009 and Turkish Air Lines started its direct flights between Toronto and Istanbul on July 11, 2009. As of 2015, Turkish Airlines has 6 direct flights between Toronto and Istanbul, 3 direct flights between Montreal and Istanbul in a week.

Canada remains the only country that recognizes the events of 1915 as “genocide’’ at the governmental level. This creates difficulties in Turkish-Canadian relations and hinders the process of normalization between Turkey and Armenia as well. Therefore, a neutral approach to be adopted by the Canadian government towards the events of 1915 would be crucial for the development of bilateral relations.

On the other hand, Canada is one of the countries where the terrorist attacks of the Armenian terrorist groups had heavy casualties. Colonel Atilla Altıkat, Turkish Military Attaché to Ottawa, was assassinated at an armed attack on August 27, 1982 in his car, when he stopped at a red-light while going to work from home. The Armenian terrorist group, Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) claimed responsibility for the attack. The perpetrators of the attack are still at large.

On April 8, 1982, Mr. Kani Güngör, Trade Attaché of the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa, was seriously injured as a result of an armed attack at the parking lot of his house. He was permanently paralyzed for the rest of his life.

Furthermore, the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa has been stormed by heavy-armed Armenian terrorists from the Armenian Revolutionary Army on March 12, 1985. Mr. Claude Brunelle, a 31-year-old student from the University of Ottawa, who worked for a private security firm hired to protect the Embassy, was assassinated by the terrorists during the attack. He called in the emergency code to his supervisor and left the bullet-proof enclosure to confront the terrorists. He fired four shots at the terrorists and took two shots in the chest, which killed him instantly.

Terrorists first blew up the Embassy gate, and then took 13 people including Ambassador Coşkun Kırca, his wife Bilge Kırca, their daughter Gülcan Kırca, the people working at the Embassy and their children, in total 13 people, for hostage for 4 hours. The Ambassador Coşkun Kırca was able to escape by jumping out of the second floor window of the building. However, his right arm, right leg and hip bone were fractured and he had to stay injured where he fell for 4 hours, without medical care.

The Turkish Community in Canada

It is estimated that the number of Turkish origin people in Canada has reached 60,000. A large number of these Turkish citizens are university graduates and have been integrated in the Canadian community. The first wave of migration to Canada from Turkey occurred between 1956-1975. Majority of the members of the Turkish Community in Canada are concentrated in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Edmonton. There are several associations and federations established by the Turkish Community in Canada.

Recent High Level Visits

- Foreign Minister H.E. Prof. Ahmet Davutoğlu, September 2012, Canada
(after 14 years as a Turkish Foreign Minister)

- Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Hon. Jason Kenney, January 2013, Turkey

- Members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Senate of Canada - March 2013, Turkey

- Minister of State for Finance Hon. Ted Menzies, May 2013,

- International Trade Minister Hon. Ed Fast, August 2013, Turkey

- Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. John Baird, September 2013, Turkey

- Turkish Parliamentary Delegation, Canada Friendship Group, December 2013, Canada

- Speaker of the House of Commons Hon. Andrew Scheer, March 2014, Turkey

- 11th President of the Republic of Turkey H.E. Abdullah Gül, November 2014, Canada

- Speaker of Turkey's Grand National Assembly, H.E. Cemil Çiçek, February 2015, Canada

- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, November 2015, Turkey (for G20 Antalya Leaders Summit)

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