Turkish Canadian Relations, 08.05.2012
Turkish Canadian Relations
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 as the federal capital of the country. The Consulate General in Ontario’s capital Toronto as the most important commercial and industrial center of Ontario, was opened on December 29, 2010, and there is also an Honorary Consulate in Montreal in the province of Quebec. Canada has an Embassy in Ankara and a Consulate in Istanbul that focuses more on commercial and economic issues.
In the course of the Cold War years, political relations between Turkey and Canada evolved mainly around military and security cooperation within the North Atlantic Alliance. 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 had 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.
The efforts towards establishing the Turkish-Canadian Inter-parliamentary Friendship Group began in 1993. 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, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Nabi Avcı. In Canada, following the Federal Elections on May 2, 2011, the Turkish-Canadian Inter-parliamentarian Friendship Group was re-established through the elections held on March 14, 2012. Mr. Dave Van Kesteren from the conservative Party is elected the new Chairman and Mrs. Cathy McLeod is elected the Vice-Chair of the Group.
Air Transport Agreement between Canada and Turkey was signed on March 13, 2009 and Turkish Air Lines started its direct flights between Toronto and Istanbul on July 11, 2009. The number of flights by Turkish Airlines started as three times a week in 2009, and then increased to four times starting on March 2012. The number of direct flights by Turkish Airlines between Istanbul and Toronto is expected to go up to five times a week starting in Fall 2012.
Canada remains the only country that recognizes the events of 1915 as ‘’Armenian genocide’’ at the governmental level. This creates difficulties in Turkish-Canadian relations 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 paralysed 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 50,000. 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 and Vancouver. Most of the Associations established by the Turkish Community in Canada under the umbrella of the Federation of Canadian Turkish Associations.
Recent High Level Visits
Due to the support of Canada to baseless Armenian allegations regarding the events of 1915, the number of high level visits between the two countries has been quite limited.
Turkish-Canadian Inter-parliamentary Friendship Group visited Turkey on February 12-18, 2010.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Minister of Finance Mehmet Şimşek attended the G-20 Leaders Summit in Toronto on June 26-27, 2010.
Former Speaker of the Turkish Grand National Assembly Mehmet Ali Şahin attended the Speakers of Parliaments meeting in Ottawa on September 2-5, 2010.
Canadian Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz visited Turkey on September 12-14, 2010.
Turkish-Canadian political consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs at the Assistant Deputy Ministers level were conducted in Ottawa on October 5-6, 2010.
Turkish Minister of Economy Zafer Çağlayan attended the Canadian Turkish Business Council (CTBC) Conference in Toronto on October 22, 2010.
Former Canadian International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan visited Turkey on December 6-8, 2010.
Speaker of the Canadian Senate Noel Kinsella accepted the invitation of the former Speaker of the Turkish Grand National Assembly Mehmet Ali Şahin and visited Turkey on January 19-25, 2011.
Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird visited Turkey to attend the Libyan Contact Group meeting in Istanbul on July 15, 2011.
Canadian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Deepak Obhrai attended the Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan on November 2, 2011.
Turkish-Canadian political consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs were conducted in Ankara on November 15, 2011.
Canadian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Deepak Obhrai visited Turkey on March 22-23 in 2012.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird represented Canada at the “The Friends of Syria” Meeting held in Istanbul on April 1, 2012.