Canadian Senator Leo Housakos has called on the Canadian government to impose sanctions against Azerbaijani government officials and enhance coordination with like-minded states.
During his October 19 speech in the Canadian Senate, Housakos said that the indigenous Armenian people of Nagorno-Karabakh “inherently possess the right to self-determination and remedial secession.”
The Senator said that Canada must participate in an international peacekeeping force in Nagorno-Karabakh to ensure the safety of Armenians as they return to their ancestral homes; provide substantial humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of innocent populations; and recognize the right to self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population.
On October 21, the Senator posted his speech on X and said: “Around the world today, we are seeing the consequences of forgetting our past. We are repeating the darkest parts of our history, not just in Israel, but also in places like #Artsakh. PLEASE WATCH as I plead for the Armenian people not to be forsaken.”
Below is the transcript of Senator Housakos’ speech.
“Honourable senators, today we find ourselves facing a grave and urgent situation that demands our immediate attention and action. The Indigenous Armenian population living in the Republic of Artsakh, known by some as Nagorno-Karabakh, is currently enduring a crisis of unimaginable proportions. It is our moral duty to respond to their plight — not just with words but with meaningful action. What we cannot do is continue to look away or bury our heads in the sand.
“Since the end of the 44-day war in September 2020, and particularly since December 12, 2022, when Azerbaijani government violated international agreements by blocking the Lachin corridor, a humanitarian catastrophe has been unfolding. This act severed Artsakh’s only connection to Armenia and the outside world, cutting off vital supplies of food, medicine, natural gas, electricity and the internet. The consequences have been dire, leading to cases of famine, malnutrition and death.
“On September 19, 2023, Azerbaijan escalated this crisis with brutal military force by shelling civilians and civilian infrastructure. This resulted in more than 200 casualties in just 24 hours, including children, women and elderly. Villages have been cut off, roads taken under Azerbaijani control, and the gruesome acts of violence have shocked those of us who are actually taking the time to watch.
“In just one week, more than 120,000 innocent civilians have been forced to flee their homes, creating a humanitarian catastrophe not only in Artsakh but also in Armenia, which has had to absorb these refugees almost overnight.
“Genocide Watch and the Lemkin Institute have classified this situation as genocide. Legal expert Luis Moreno Ocampo, former International Criminal Court chief prosecutor, asserts that what happened in Artsakh amounts to genocide.
“Our own ambassador to the United Nations, the Honourable Bob Rae, called it a total failure of global diplomacy, forcible deportation and a potential crime against humanity. The Honourable Bob Rae was absolutely right, and one of the few who had the courage to stand up and call this out.
“Canada, guided by its commitment to the United Nations’ Responsibility to Protect, or R2P, has a moral obligation to intervene and protect populations from ethnic cleansing and genocide. This is a defining moment for Canada and, for that matter, democracies around the world. It is a test of our dedication to upholding the UN R2P commitment and supporting democracies like Armenia, Artsakh and so many that are under siege right now around the world.
“Our response must extend beyond mere words and expressions of concern. It requires concrete and meaningful action. It also sometimes requires sacrifice, such as diplomatic and economic sanctions against the Azerbaijani government officials; legal action against President Aliyev at the International Criminal Court; humanitarian assistance for genocide survivors in Armenia; and the recognition of the self-determination of the Indigenous Artsakh population.
“We must not repeat the mistakes of history. The Indigenous Armenian community of Artsakh, with a heritage spanning over 4,000 years, inherently possesses the right to self-determination and remedial secession.
“Canada must impose sanctions against Azerbaijan government officials and enhance coordination with like-minded states. Canada must participate in an international peacekeeping force in Artsakh to ensure the safety of Artsakh Armenians as they return to their ancestral homes; provide substantial humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of innocent populations; and recognize the right to self-determination of Artsakh’s Armenian population.
“These actions require political courage and a commitment to establish procedures to get it done, and a real commitment if we believe in the international rule of law and human rights and democracy.
“Canada has an opportunity to lead on the global stage, to be a beacon of hope and justice, as we once were a few decades ago. We must regain our status as leaders — not followers — and leave a lasting legacy that reflects our commitment to democracy, freedom and human rights.
“Colleagues, democracy has never lived such difficult and precarious moments as we’re going through right now. I don’t need to remind anyone in this institution that there are more countries that are not democratic than countries which respect democracy, international rule of law and human rights.
“Today, we are seeing tragedy unfolding in so many parts of the world. We see tyrant regimes like China putting the boot to the throat of the people of Hong Kong, threatening a vibrant democracy — a beautiful democracy just over the Taiwan Strait — just because they want to for their own political and economic ambitions.
“We see the treachery going on against the Ukrainian people by a brutal dictator called Russia. The truth of the matter is we have waited too long to call out Mr. Putin and to hold him to account. That’s why we’re suffering the consequences that we are today, and the people of Ukraine are suffering those consequences. Sanctions should have been placed on that brutal regime years ago before they went to Ukraine.
“The Indigenous people in Artsakh are being exterminated and thrown out of their homes just because they are Armenian. This is the second tragedy in a century. We stood up and gave gallant speeches in the House of Commons and in this chamber when we recognized the Armenian genocide. We said we’ll stand steadfast so these tragedies never occur again. They are happening right now as we speak, but everyone has forgotten about them because there are so many crises to pick from; the media entertains us with them.
“There will be other crises that pile on because there never seems to be a resolve on the part of democracies to fight back against these tyrants with tangible actions, not just press releases of concern or “We’re monitoring the situation.” Perhaps, after this tragedy, we can send a few million dollars in humanitarian aid — it’s too late. These people are suffering those consequences, and a few million dollars announced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to help these displaced people — it is shameful to be honest with you; it’s embarrassing.
“What is happening in Israel today? We have a terrorist organization going against an Indigenous people and trying to brutally remove them from their homeland just because they are Jews.
“It amazes me how this movie replays itself over and over again. We never seem to learn from history that if you don’t push back on dictators and tyrants, punch them in the nose and tell them we’re not going to accept this, they will continue to be emboldened and move the yardsticks forward.
“I want to draw attention to just one more crisis going on in the world and call on our government and those of western democracies to show some resolve. Just because the people of Artsakh and the people of Armenia don’t have oil and gas, they shouldn’t be less important to us than other regimes.
“The action we can take is obviously going to be a sacrifice on our side because a lot of these rogue countries — if it’s China, Russia, Iran, Cuba or Turkey — we do business with them. We’re facing a crisis right now in Israel. Hamas didn’t occur last week. Hamas has been supported by nations like Qatar from where we are importing hundreds of millions of dollars of their oil and gas. We’re buying it in Quebec when I go to the gas pump. What do you think they are doing with the proceeds of that revenue? They are funnelling it to organizations like Hamas.
“Hamas has no food, water and medication for the Palestinian people in Gaza, but they have tons of rockets. They are not running out of rockets, are they? Why? We are contributing to that process.
“The people of Cuba are suffering, but we are still doing business in Cuba because it’s helping a few of our investors and a few of our companies are profiting from it.
“Right now, we’re still dealing with nations like Turkey, which has more journalists in prison than any other country on earth, but we close a blind eye to all this.
“Colleagues, if I’m a little bit passionate about it, it’s because I really believe that we need to be consistent. If we do genuinely care about democracy, freedom, human rights and the cause of humanity, we have to stand up and fight for these values. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Ukraine, in Hong Kong or in defending Taiwan or Israel, legitimately, we have to also defend the people of Artsakh who are being displaced.
“I remind every single person that when Adolf Hitler was sitting around the table with his final brutal solution, they asked him, “If we carry on with this extermination of innocent people just because they are Jews, what is going to happen?” Hitler said, “Who remembers the Armenians?” Right? That genocide happened only 25 years earlier.
“This is what is going on again. We are repeating history. We are forgetting these people again. I repeat: Why? Because they are surrounded by bullies and it’s a too much of an effort? I think we have to stand up as parliamentarians. We have to draw attention to this human tragedy. We have to take action and call on our governments.
“This cannot be resolved only by the Government of Canada. Every single western democracy that genuinely believes in democracy — not just navel-gazing — has to take action. It is called economic action, diplomatic action and even more if required to protect these innocent people in Artsakh. Today, they have been moved out of their homes, and no one around the world is talking about it. Thank you for listening to me on this Thursday afternoon. I thought these people needed to have a voice. Thank you so much.”