Armenians in Montreal are reeling after fighting broke out in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, also called Artsakh, a majority ethnically Armenian territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. Armenians in Montreal have mobilized to bring awareness to a conflict which they say threatens their homeland and risks a larger conflict and even a second genocide. 

Clashes began on September 27, 2020, and have escalated to the bombing of civilian areas, raising fear of another war like the one that devastated the region in the 1990s.

Further complicating the situation is Turkey's support for Azerbaijan. 

"This has the potential of exploding and to become a lot worse very quickly," said Apraham Niziblian, spokesperson for the Montreal office of the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC). 

"Life in this region was slowly starting to look like life in North America: a functioning democracy with a progressive government. [The people are] living in this situation where you have two countries that are openly aggressive and trying to eliminate you without having your own voice heard." 

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How is the Armenian community in Montreal affected?

Niziblian told MTL Blog that the conflict has reverberated throughout the community, which he portrayed as tightly-knit and dedicated to the homeland.

Others maintain personal connections to the region of Artsakh.

"It's far geographically, but it has really dire consequences for everyone," he explained.

Tatevik Baharyan, who helps organize community movements in Montreal, told MTL Blog that members of the community feel it's critical to raise support for a homeland and region they feel is under siege.

"It's important to know why this is happening and how people can help." 

What actions have members of the community taken in Montreal? 

Multiple demonstrations have taken place in the Montreal area.

On Sunday, October 4, hundreds of Armenian Montrealers organized downtown to protest against the conflict. 

Calling for peace in the region of Artsakh, protestors demanded that the Canadian government denounce Azerbaijan and Turkey for their role in the conflict. 

According to the Armenian National Committee of Québec, as many as 2,500 cars* participated in a protest that wound through Montreal and Laval on October 10.

A demonstration also took place in front of the Radio-Canada headquarters on Thursday, October 8 to demand wider coverage of the situation.

"We're doing everything we can," said Armenian Youth Federation Montreal chapter executive Rita Mouradian, who attended the October 8 protest.

"In Armenia, in Artsakh, our soldiers are doing whatever they can. And all over the globe, the diaspora is working hard to stand with these soldiers, to show that we are always with them, we are not leaving them alone."

"And we're going to do whatever we can in our measures to let our voices be heard because we want the world to know what is happening in Artsakh."

In a statement, CBC/Radio-Canada said that it considers its news coverage "relevant and appropriate."

What's next for the community?

The BBC reports that despite a ceasefire agreement on Saturday, fighting continued on Monday.

In Canada, Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne announced on October 5 that the country would stop sending a certain technology to Turkey after allegations surfaced that it had been used in the conflict.

The minister is also in Europe the week of October 12 to meet with leaders to discuss the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to a statement.

But Armenian Quebecers have said they'll continue to put pressure on the federal government.

"In Canada, it's our duty to keep the world watching," Movses Arzoumanian, AYF chapter head, told MTL Blog at the protest in front of the Radio-Canada building.

"We will continue it until Canada officially condemns what's going on, condemns Azerbaijan, condemns Turkey."

This article has been updated.

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