Armenian Genocide: A Just Resolution Corning Centre Conference

Students and teachers around the Armenian Genocide “Revival” Monument (by sculptor Arto Tchakmaktchian), after laying carnations.

Over 180 students and teachers from three school boards and four schools attended the Corning Centre’s 2017 Ontario Student Conference titled “Armenian Genocide: A Just Resolution”. The event was held in Genocide Remembrance, Condemnation and Prevention Month and on the official remembrance day of the Armenian Genocide, Monday, April 24, 2017.

The students had the opportunity to hear from our keynote speaker Professor Henry C. Theriault, Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Worcester Sate University.  Theriault’s expertise is focused on Genocide and Human Rights studies, and he is the chair of the Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group. The study group published their report in 2015 titled Resolution with Justice: Reparations for the Armenian Genocide.

Prof. Theriault focused on the five components of justice (recognition, responsibility, reparations, rehabilitation and reconstitution) and provided a wide range of examples from various cases of genocides and atrocities. This allowed the students to have a firm understanding of what justice entails and prepared them for the workshops.

The students then attended the workshops on the five components of justice, which was developed by Corning Centre teachers based on the Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group’s report “Resolution with Justice: Reparations for the Armenian Genocide”. During the workshops, the Grade 11 and 12 students had the opportunity to engage with a variety of documents under each component of justice (recognition, responsibility, reparations, rehabilitation and reconstitution) . In groups, students shared their understanding of these documents and together discussed their significance. The documents consisted of information on private, institutional and national reparations, legal and educational barriers to social transformation in Turkey, the 1919 Turkish Military Trials, primary documents from 1915-1923, etc.

Grade 10 students participated in a presentation on Canada and the Armenian Genocide and had an opportunity to view the Corning Centre’s exhibit on the Georgetown Armenian Boys and Canadian Upstanders in the Ottoman Empire on the occasion of Canada’s 150th anniversary. We were fortunate to also have on display sculptor Taline Iskedjian’s unique piece “Journey of Hope” which is dedicated to the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide and represents the past and the future of the Armenian nation.

After reconvening in the auditorium, several students had an opportunity to share their thoughts and reflections from the day with all the attendees in the auditorium.  Inspired by the conference, the students shared powerful messages of the need to defend human rights and prevent future genocides. Students had the opportunity to ask Prof. Theriault questions in light of the content they worked with in their respective workshops.

Inspired by the recent film The Promise and the role it not only plays to educate about the Armenian Genocide but also its wider humanitarian and philanthropic role, students posted their own promises under the hashtag #keepthepromise.

After the concluding remarks, the conference attendees visited the Armenian Genocide “Revival” Monument to lay carnations.

On this occasion, Corning Centre Founder and Chair, Raffi Sarkissian stated, “Through this conference, our centre’s goal was to highlight for students the role justice plays in securing a positive future for victim groups and preventing future atrocities internationally. Moreover, we wanted the students to reflect on their responsibilities as Canadian citizens in becoming moral agents and become empowered to defending collective rights.”