2458) "We Have To Keep Telling The Real History And Promoting Our Valuable Heritage!" Council of Turkish Canadians

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Recently founded, the Council of Turkish Canadians gives the opportunity to the youth to organize different activities and to develop good relationships among themselves, and defends the rights of community as a whole in many forums. . .

We wanted more information about the Council of Turkish Canadians and interviewed her Executive Director Madame Lale Eskicioglu.

Here what she told us:

Seyma Sarikök: How did you come up with the idea of 'CTC'?
- The idea was given to us, indirectly, by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Under the new accountability act, lobbyists must register to the parliament and keep the government informed of who they are lobbying and what for. This made us realize that we did not have a lobby group. All other communities have them. As we all know, some communities' lobby efforts are huge. Turkish community was not represented at all in the parliament and there was a need for a voice of our community in the political arena. Turkish community had to form an organization, in Ottawa, for the sole purpose of doing advocacy on behalf of Canadians of Turkish descent, especially in these days when our history is being inaccurately and unfairly represented in the media.

S.S.: How long 'CTC' has been active for?
- CTC first started to work informally in March of 2007. That was when our efforts were most needed because there was an attempt in Ontario Parliament at the time, via a "private member's bill" to once again misrepresent our history. In July 2007, CTC was founded officially as an organization. We registered ourselves in the parliament for lobbying purposes.

S.S.: What are the purposes of CTC?
- Main purpose of CTC is to pro-mote better understanding of the Turkish heritage, history, culture and values in Canada. It is a lobby organization, so most of our time is spent on propagating the views and interests of the Turkish Canadian community on various issues so as to make a more effective contribution to Canada's multi-cultural mosaic. Our goal is to encourage, establish and promote closer relations with fellow Canadians of ethnic origins, and with members or Associations of other ethnic / cultural communities in Canada; and in this regard, to represent the Turkish community in the best possible manner.
Lale Eskicioglu

S.S.: Do you get enough support from Turkish media in Canada?
- Yes, we do. We are very happy with the support we see from Bizim Anadolu, Turkuaz TV and all other media organizations formed by and for Canadians of Turkish origin. We also get tremendous support, help and advice from other Turkish organizations in Canada as well as individual Turkish Canadian citizens. We have been very pleasantly surprised with the amount of welcome and support we received from our community. Today's Turkish community in Canada is ready for working together. In recent events, our people have demonstrated solidarity. In order words this is the time for "birlik and beraberlik" and we are all working towards that goal.

S.S.: As you know, I personally attended the conference and it was very well organized. How did you manage to organize this event and keep everyone in touch?
- Beginner's luck! It really was an extraordinary event and we are so happy that it was so successful. Apparently, our youth has been waiting for this. As soon as they heard it, emails started to pour in that said "Where have you been? This conference was long overdue." We'll have it every year and we'll have it in different cities each year. Next year, we expect the participation to be around 300. So, we cannot rely on luck any more. I will have to start with the organization efforts 6 months ahead of time.

S.S: Are you planning to expand the council to the GTA or Quebec?
- Absolutely! We have to have a Toronto chapter first. CTC's Toronto branch can achieve a lot by working hand in hand with our Federation which is located there. Also, we are looking forward to working together with Turkish Society of Canada, which I believe is headquartered in Mississauga. Then we will expand to Montreal. Right now, Montreal Turkish Community Center is very active and consists of many hard-working conscientious members, so hopefully we will be able to consolidate some of our efforts with theirs. It is very exciting really. With the help of all our existing organizations and individuals, CTC targets to have a small branch in all major cities in the upcoming years.

S.S.: Can you mention us about your recent activities other than 'Canadian Turkish Youth Conference?'
- We have been very busy making our voices heard to Toronto District School Board which, we believe inadvertently, kept our community in the dark with respect to their intentions to teach about Ottoman History in 11th grade. We would love to see Ottoman History taught in Canada but it has to be taught accurately, with the correct course title and with relevant background. This does not seem to be the case, so we are making our objections and concerns heard.

In the light of increasing anti-Turkish sentiments in Canada and discrimination we face due to our ethnicity, we have started recording incidents of hate, racism, bullying and other forms of discriminations. We ask our community members to report such incidents so that we can inform the respective authorities and protect ourselves and our children, as well as our Canada's peaceful and harmonious multi-cultural existence.

We have a fundraising activity that is coming up. We will inform the community as soon as we sort out some of the details.

We are planning a Women's Day in which Canadian women of Middle Eastern origins can share their positive experiences from their homelands and compare them with the positive experiences in Canada.

In addition to these, our day-to-day advocacy work continues. We follow Canadian and world politics closely. We have to keep telling the real history and promoting our valuable heritage.

S.S.: Can you give us some information about the Toronto District School Board's Grade 11 Course that upsets the Turkish population?
- TDSB's newly proposed course, CHG38M - Genocide: Historical and Contemporary Implications, based on the course description, had all the right intentions when it was first conceived. We do agree with TDSB that our schools much teach about the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide, both of which are undisputed events. It seems that these two events formed the main goal of the course. However, somehow during the development stage, the events of 1915 made their way into the course with only Armenian input. Course description says "The Steering Committee met over six months consulting with ... community organizations..." We don't know which community organizations the Steering Committee met with, certainly not one of Turkish Canadian organizations. By the reaction we see from other communities (such as the Azeris, Ukrainians, Bosnians, Irish, First Nations, any Muslim community etc.) they haven't been consulted either.

Further, the events of 1915 are inaccurately portrayed and classified as "genocide." Many historians do not agree with that claim and those historians are not in the course sources.

S.S.: What message can you give the youth who wants to make a commitment to our community?
- Our youth must know that we need them. Our youth must also know that when they need us - our experience, advice and support - we are ready to help them. We want our young people to follow Canadian and world events, take an active part in communities and be good citizens. We all have rights and duties as citizens; we must exercise our rights and do our duties. My advice to the young people is to take an interest in the world around you, start small (your school, your neighborhood) and think big. As Atatürk said, you are the future.