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A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto

Alek Minassian is of Armenian descent.  His murderous attack using a “white van” on the streets of Toronto took place on the same day that growing street protests in Yerevan, capital of Armenia, forced the long-reigning President and Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, to resign his post; and the day before commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, still not recognized by the Turkish Government.

This complicates the claim of Prime Minister Trudeau that there is “nothing to suggest that there is a national security element to the situation”. Toronto City Mayor John Tory responded by saying that “we don’t expect such things to happen in Toronto”.  Of course, Hemingway famously mocked the placid politics of Toronto, where he did a short stint as a Toronto Star reporter, dismissing it as a “city of churches”.  But is Toronto, and Canada, really so secluded and blameless in international affairs?

With regard to events in Armenia, in fact, the Canadian government has been a very active supporter of the political protest movement aimed at unseating its socialist government, as it has also been in Venezuela, Ukraine, and Syria. The claim of Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has been that these governments are authoritarian tools of Russian plots against Western democracy, and “free markets”.

The same day that Minassian attacked, Freeland’s office had issued the following statement of support for the “Velvet Revolution” in Armenia:

“Canada recognizes the bravery of Armenians who have exercised their ‎freedom of expression over the past several days, in the face of threats of harsh punishment,” Adam Austen, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said in a statement to Radio Canada International. “Their courage is to be applauded.”

It is to be noted here that Sargsyan was a senior member of the Communist Party during the Soviet era, and his government rules with the support of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), a democratic socialist party, and received over 55% of the popular vote in the 2017 elections.  His government is perceived as Pro-Russian.

Of course, Nikol Pashinyan, leader of the “Civil Contract” Party is a neo-liberal politician campaigning for greater integration of Armenia with the EU.  He claims that the success of the protests mean that the current government should surrender power and call new elections.

This brings us to the question of whether the events of April 23rdin Toronto may have had a political connection. The timing of events makes it seem implausible that they are a mere coincidence.  The Canadian government has suffered blowback for its international adventures before, not the least of which is the banning of its Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, from travel to Russia precisely in response to her meddling in political events along its borders.

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Paul Bentley holds an MSc. (Econ) in International Relations from the London School of Economics, and an Ed. D. in the History and Philosophy of Education from the University of Toronto. He has worked as a History Teacher and Head of Department in Ontario High Schools for over 25 years. He is the author of Strange Journey: John R. Friedeberg Seeley and the Quest for Mental Health — Academic Studies Press.

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