Ohanian’s presentation, called “Georgetown, Ontario: A Nexus of Interests and a Home for Armenian Genocide Orphans in Canada”, sought to account for why the Canadian government, which had restricted “Asiatic” immigration since the 1880s and routinely turned away refugees, opened its doors to orphaned genocide survivors in 1923; and why Canadian individuals supported this endeavour, considering that the Armenians were a group with whom they had had no direct experience and who lived some 10,000 km away. Ultimately, between 1923 and 1930, 160 boys, girls, and women were granted express permission to immigrate to Canada under the auspices of the Armenian Relief Association and United Church of Canada. In sum, he argued that humanitarian empathy, nation building, British imperial identity, church interests, and a sense of Christian duty stirred sufficient interest among disparate segments of Canadian society to allow for the bringing down of immigration barriers set up against individuals like these child survivors.
The paper was paired with one by Asya Darbinyan, Deputy Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum & Institute in Yerevan, Armenia, titled “Representation and Responsibility: American Publicity and Armenian Orphans”.
Ohanian’s participation at the conference demonstrates the Corning Centre’s commitment to supporting ongoing research into genocide and human rights, especially where they intersect with Canadian history and policy making. For the conference’s full program, its call for papers, and more information on the IAGS, visit http://www.genocidescholars.org/conference/siena-2013.