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MHRMI Letter Published in the Hill Times

March 2, 2009

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The Hill Times Source: The Hill Times - March 2, 2009

Prime Minister Harper appreciates Macedonia

Re: "In Harper's Ottawa, it's politics, politics, politics, politics all the time..." (The Hill Times, Feb. 16, p. 22).

I want to respond to Evan Sotiropoulos' criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Macedonian community.

It is ironic that Mr. Sotiropoulos criticizes the Conservative government for political "pandering" when it's the Liberals who have perfected it.

The Conservative government did something that the previous Liberal government refused to dorecognize the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name. In doing so, Canada finally joined over 120 other countries who had already taken this logical step.

To pander to its supporters among the Greek Canadian community, the Liberals denounced Macedonia's recognition, and allowed its long-serving MP, Jim Karygiannis, to publicly make inflammatory comments about Macedonians.

To show its appreciation to the Conservative government, the Macedonian community invited Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Macedonians Organization of Canada. They gratefully accepted and arrived after attending Chinese New Year celebrations earlier that evening.

But where is the controversy? Mr. Sotiropoulos does not agree with Canada's recognition of a country under its constitutional name. What right is more basic than that of self-identification?

Or did he want Mr. Harper to choose which ethnic community events he will attend while turning his back on others? The Macedonian community are proud Canadians and greatly appreciate the freedom afforded them in this country after living through severe oppression, mostly at the hands of the Greek government.

However, Mr. Sotiropoulos does not discuss the present human rights abuses that Macedonians face because of the xenophobic policies of the Greek government. Instead, he takes us back to ancient times and discusses Alexander the Great in the context of this modern "debate." Irrelevant. But to indulge Mr. Sotiropouls for a moment, it is Macedonia that has existed since antiquity, while Greece was created in the 1830s.

Greece is in no position to dictate anything based on history. More to the point, should we be governed today based on arbitrary interpretations of ancient history?

The nonsensical name dispute was initiated by Greece in order to continue its policy of non-recognition and persecution of its large Macedonian minority.

Mr. Sotiropoulos refers to the United "Macedonians" Organization, but he can't even get past his own admitted bias and refer to Macedonians without first placing the word in quotation marks. Mr. Sotiropoulos' contempt for Macedonians is deplorable and ironic. Two decades ago, one could not dare mention Macedonia to a Greek apologist without invoking a heated debate on the very existence of Macedonia. How curious that now they claim that "Macedonia is Greek."

Bill Nicholov

Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Toronto, Ont.

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