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MHRMI: MACEDONIAN-CANADIANS DEMAND RESIGNATION OF MP ROB OLIPHANT

The following is a statement by Macedonian Human Rights Movement International:

TORONTO, March 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Addressing the crowd at a Macedonian event in Toronto last month, Liberal Party of Canada MP Rob Oliphant referred to the Republic of Macedonia with the highly derogatory term “North Macedonia” - a term used to negate Macedonia's name, identity and history and which glorifies the recent US-led forced name change on the Republic of Macedonia.

Mr. Oliphant, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is clearly aware how offensive this term is towards Macedonians, yet still chose to use it. After the controversial speech, many Macedonians in the crowd explained how offensive the terms “North Macedonia” and “North Macedonian” are, yet Mr. Oliphant responded, “This is how the government of Canada recognizes you.”

Imagine being told what your name and ethnic identity are based on a government's foreign policy. Self-determination and self-identification are basic human rights that are supposedly enshrined by Canadian and international law.

In order to force through Macedonian NATO membership, NATO member-states - led by the United States and supported by the Trudeau government - had imposed a name change on Macedonia (through the ironically-named “Prespa Agreement”) in order to appease Greece, which had vowed to veto Macedonia's NATO membership unless it changed its name. The shocking tactics, outlined in an MHRMI op-ed published by the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, included imprisonment, beatings, violations of the Macedonian criminal code, constitution and parliamentary rules, bribes, physical detainment and threats against family members of politicians – with women especially targeted.

At the Toronto event (known as Gotse Delchev Night), Dragi Stojkovski, President of the United Macedonians Organization of Canada, explained to Mr. Oliphant that Macedonians originate from all regions of partitioned Macedonia (divided in 1913 among Serbia/Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece and later, Albania) and not just from the Republic of Macedonia (which declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991). The forced name change affects all Macedonians and that current and shifting political boundaries do not affect one's ethnicity, so Mr. Oliphant's choice of terminology is not only hateful, but also factually incorrect. Mr. Oliphant responded sarcastically, “Thank you Professor Dragi”. All Canadians deserve better, and deserve politicians who respect their constituents. Finally, Mr. Stojkovski asked for a follow-up meeting between Mr. Oliphant and Macedonian community leaders. The request was ignored by Mr. Oliphant and his office.

Bill Nicholov, President of Macedonian Human Rights Movement International, followed up with Mr. Oliphant, further describing the Macedonian community's disgust with his statements, the complete rejection by Macedonians (throughout Macedonia and worldwide) of any name, identity and history change, the brutal tactics employed against Macedonians in executing it, and the correspondence that Mr. Nicholov had with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and her foreign policy advisors during her tenure as Foreign Minister. Mr. Oliphant responded, “I am very aware of your opinion and have read your note to the former Minister of Foreign Affairs. I will continue to follow our government’s recognition of the Republic of North Macedonia and respect the decision made by its people with respect to the name they have chosen.”

Mr. Nicholov responded, “The Macedonian people were, and are, united against a name change, which was forced upon Macedonia. There can never be an 'agreement' that redefines an entire ethnic group to appease its oppressors. MHRMI defends all ethnic groups against hate, and we expect the same – but clearly this won't be coming from you. You have been instructed by your party to use this derogatory term, but would you use a derogatory term against another ethnic group because of politics? Imagine telling a First Nations group that the term 'Redskins' is 'okay' because it's in use by an NFL team. We do not need a government to dictate to us who we are.”

Making an outrageous claim that the Macedonian people voluntarily chose to abandon their identity is an admission by Mr. Oliphant and the Liberal Party of Canada that it perpetuates racism and hate speech. Sad, but not surprising, considering their support of former Liberal Party MP Jim Karygiannis' repeated hate-filled tirades – caught on video – against Macedonians. (See the Associated Press and CBC stories on MHRMI's exposé of Karygiannis.)

As many ethnic community groups came to Macedonians' defence at the time of the Karygiannis incidents, we are, once again, calling on all Canadians to unite against racism and hate-speech, and to defend Macedonians' right to exist as who we have always been – Macedonians. MHRMI and the United Macedonians are calling for a zero-tolerance policy for hatred that is directed against any ethnic group. We call on all political parties to join us – including Liberal Party members who defy their party and will stand up for basic human rights – values that Canada used to defend.

--- Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) has been active on human and national rights issues for Macedonians and other oppressed peoples since 1986. MHRMI demands respect for Macedonia's name, identity and human rights for oppressed Macedonians in the Balkans. For more information: 1-416-850-7125, info@mhrmi.org, www.mhrmi.org, twitter.com/mhrmi, facebook.com/mhrmi, instagram.com/MacedonianHumanRights #OurNameIsMacedonia

--- The United Macedonians Organization of Canada is the oldest and largest Macedonian national and cultural organization in the diaspora. Our mission is to promote national unity of Macedonians worldwide. For more information: 1-416-823-6520, info@unitedmacedonians.org, www.unitedmacedonians.org,  facebook.com/unitedmacedonianscanada

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/730b0ed8-09a2-40d3-8da3-3e5a3658ff4c