Earlier this week, the Toronto City Council adopted a motion put forward by Greek-Canadian politician Jim Karygiannis which recognized a 'Pontian genocide'. The motion was seconded by Mary Fragedakis. The adoption of such a motion raises a number of questions. Firstly, by adopting the recognition of a genocide which is named after only one region where it occurred, was Jim Karygiannis denying the genocide of Greeks in all other regions?
The 'Pontian Genocide' is a an out-dated title used to describe the genocide of Greeks in the region of Pontus in Turkey. Pontus is an historical term and was never an independent nation. During the same period, Greeks from all other regions of Turkey were also victims of genocide. The entire event is more commonly known as a Greek Genocide. Notably, there has never been a single book written in English with the term 'Pontian genocide' in its title. The term is still used primarily by Pontians who have lobbied extensively for sole recognition.
So why does a Greek politician seek recognition for a genocide named after only one region where it occurred, and in so doing, effectively ignore the suffering of all other Greeks who perished? That answer can only be answered by Karygiannis himself.
But if we take a look at the supporting information that accompanied the recognition, we can see how Karygiannis supplied confusing and wrong information to achieve his aim. Firstly, he claims that the 'Pontian genocide' was the first genocide of the 20th century. This is false. The Herero and Namacqua Genocide (1904-1907) preceded the genocides in the Ottoman Empire. Karygiannis also claims that the death toll was 450,000 - 750,000. This is wrong too. The death toll in the Pontus region was no more than 350,000. The supporting information also mentions that Pontian and Anatolian Greeks were victims, but then goes on to label it a 'Pontian genocide'. Quite clearly, Karygiannis had absolutely no idea what he was submitting. He had no clue as to what the genocide should be called, and quite clearly knew little about the geographical boundaries of Pontus and the former Ottoman Empire.
In a news release on his website, Karygiannis states that the Canadian Parliament and Government should have 'the moral and ethical responsibility to recognize this atrocity'. But shouldn't Karygiannis have the moral and ethical responsibility of knowing what he's actually trying to recognize? Shouldn't he be submitting information with factual and clear information? Shouldn't he at least give the genocide a title which recognizes all the Greek victims?
It's not exactly surprising that Karygiannis botched the recognition. Karygiannis has a record of clumsiness and a long list of controversies. In 2014 the National Post described Karygiannis as a 'controversial Liberal MP', and went on to state that he was banned by the Ontario wing of the party from attending meetings after he was accused of physically accosting a supporter. He was also accused of putting chewing gum in coin slots of pay phones. In 2002, Karygiannis was voted the laziest MP in a poll of parliamentary staffers by The Hill Times. His Wikipedia page points out that being divisive and controversial are nothing new to Jim Karygiannis and describes his record with some detail. Are these the qualities of someone trying to champion the cause for genocide recognition? I think not.
The motion put forward by Karygiannis and adopted by the Toronto City Council therefore needs to be questioned. Another reason why politicians who are ignorant of the history of a country they don't reside in, should not get involved without proper research and advice. Karygiannis, and Fragedakis, have stamped themselves as being ignorant of the full scale of the genocide, and in the process have insulted and offended those who they should have been representing; all the descendants of the Greek Genocide.
Note: In 2007 the International Association of Genocide Scholars, one of the world's foremost experts on genocide, passed a motion recognizing the genocide of all Greeks throughout the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and described it as a Greek Genocide.