At the Memorial Ceremony for Fallen Diplomats and in Commemoration of the Late Colonel Atilla Altikat

August 27, 2014

On August 27, 2014, CIGI Distinguished Fellow Paul Heinbecker delivered remarks in Ottawa, Canada, in honour of fallen diplomats, including his former colleague Turkish diplomat Col. Atilla Altikat. Guests gathered at the Fallen Diplomats Memorial to remember and pay tribute to Col. Altikat’s life and death. 

Check Against Delivery

Ambassador Babali

Assistant Deputy Minister Costello


Ladies and Gentlemen

Mesdames et Messieurs


We have come here today to commemorate diplomats fallen in the service of their countries.

And to remind ourselves too that while remembrance is necessary,

even obligatory,

 --it is not sufficient—

and that we have responsibilities to acquit to the victims and to each other.

Many diplomats have faced great dangers in the service of their countries.

And many, too, have suffered great harm.

My friend and colleague Glynn Berry, who was my former deputy at the Canadian Mission to the United Nations in New York, was killed in January, 2006, on duty in Afghanistan.

Anne-Marie Desloges, a young Canadian diplomat, was killed last September  in a terrorist attack in Nairobi.

Down through the decades and across the continents there have been many casualties.

This monument,

a gift from the people of Turkey,

is dedicated to all diplomats and public servants around the world who lost their lives in the service of their countries.

and especially to Colonel Atilla Altikat.

It is especially dedicated to Atilla Altikat who was brutally murdered at this intersection by Armenian terrorists 32 years ago.

Atilla was a friend of mine,

a young,


promising Turkish military pilot and diplomat.

Ayla, Atilla’s wife, was a friend of Ayse, my wife.

Goker, Atilla’s son, played together Celine, my daughter, in our home and theirs.

The last time I saw Atilla alive our two families and others had gathered for a picnic in Gatineau Park.

A few days later he was dead at the hands of terrorists.

The perpetrators have not yet been brought to justice.

Sadly, Attila was not the first Turkish diplomat attacked in Ottawa.

Kani Gungor had been brutally assaulted earlier that same year, and was left paralyzed.

And, the Turkish Embassy itself was attacked by Armenian terrorists in 1985.

Claude Brunelle, a young Canadian security guard at the Embassy,

who was also a student at the University of Ottawa,

 was killed in that attack.

The Ambassador was seriously hurt and spent months in hospital.

His family and embassy staff,

especially the children,

were traumatized.

Nor were the Turks the only diplomats attacked in Ottawa—other members of the diplomatic corps have also been the objects of violence here.

Nor of course are diplomats the only targets of terrorists.

Also in 1985, Air India flight 182 was bombed by a Sikh separatist group.

329 people, including 280 Canadians were killed,

in the worst mass murder in Canadian history.

There is a common thread running through these tragedies in Canada:

It is that the unwritten contract of newcomers with Canada was broken in each case.

That contract holds that people from every corner of the world,

from every ethnic group,

people from all faiths -- and no faith--

are welcome to join in the building of Canada,

Provided they leave violence at the border.

Canada cannot survive as a multicultural, diversity-valuing society

if national,


or religious groups

import their conflicts into Canada.

That does not mean that anyone has a right to ask immigrants or their offspring to turn their backs on their pasts

Or to ignore what is happening now in their former homelands.

But we do have a right to expect that they will, also, respect Canada

and what it stands for.

At a time of growing concern about home-grown terrorism, there is a further point to make on this occasion.

Public peace is not guaranteed in Canada, any more than it is elsewhere.

Peace, order and good government are not gifts bestowed on us by a benign Providence,

Nor are they the pre-ordained consequence of an inspired Constitution.

Peace, order and good government is the creation of an enlightened polity,

in which people recognize society’s fragility

and consciously work at living with one another constructively and peacefully.

No one in this country,

no citizen,

no immigrant

no NGO or religious leader,

and  no elected politician,

is ever justified in playing diaspora politics,

or driving wedges:

  • between Jews and Arabs,
  • between Christians and Muslims
  • between Sunni and Shia,
  • between Turks and Armenians
  • or between any other diaspora communities

Diaspora politics is the tinder of a fire that could consume not just those who ignite it,

But us all.

We are here today to remember Atilla Altikat, Claude Brunelle, Glynn Berry, Anne-Marie Desloges and all the many diplomats who have died at the hand of terrorists.

And to remind ourselves that we have responsibilities as well rights, and that we need to do more than remember.

We need to resolve never to turn a blind eye to the extremists among us.

“Peace, order and good government” must never be seen as just an aspiration,

Nor must it ever become just a slogan.

It is the due of every citizen of this country,

Native born or newcomer,

And it is the obligation of us all to defend it.

Thank You


Tesekkur ederim.

About the Author

With a distinguished career in Canadian diplomacy — including posts as ambassador to Germany, permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) and adviser to various prime ministers, Paul Heinbecker is one of Canada’s most experienced commentators on foreign policy and international governance. Paul is also the director of the Centre for Global Relations at Wilfrid Laurier University.