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Elected officials commemorate anniversary of Armenian genocide

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By Signal Staff 

State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger were among the Santa Clarita Valley’s elected representatives who issued statements on Wednesday commemorating Armenian Genocide Day. 

On Monday, Wilk presented Senate Resolution 83 to honor the 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children who were massacred by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923, according to a statement released by the senator’s office. 

Wilk was joined on the Senate floor by his wife Vanessa Safoyan Wilk, who is Armenian-American, as well as Vanessa’s mother, his niece and nephew, and other members of the Armenian-American community. 

“As a founding member of the California Armenian Legislative Caucus, it pains me to be introducing SR 83 commemorating the 109th anniversary of the Armenian genocide of 1915,” Wilk said in the release. “Those who lived through that period are now dead and the Armenian people have yet to receive acknowledgment from those responsible. Even worse, it is still going on today.” 

The Armenian genocide is regarded by many as the first genocide of modern times. 

Wilk’s floor speech also included the harrowing story of his wife’s great-aunt, who survived the genocide by faking her own death, the release said. She managed to escape and was reunited with her brothers in Massachusetts, paving the way for the strong Armenian-American community Vanessa’s parents would bring together in Boston. 

Throughout his tenure in the Legislature, Wilk “has proudly stood alongside the Armenian-American community — condemning the Turkish government’s refusal to acknowledge their atrocities, raising awareness of ongoing threats to Armenia, and championing education to prevent future genocides,” the release said. 

Wilk co-founded the California Armenian Legislative Caucus in 2015, which strives to ensure that California Armenian-Americans’ voices are heard and given a platform. The caucus also holds an annual scholarship contest, in which students submit an essay or art piece, to raise awareness about the genocide and current threats facing the country. 

In 2022, Wilk’s legislation requiring California’s public employee retirement systems to divest from investments in the government of Turkey, should federal sanctions on the Turkish government be signed into law, was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

In his closing floor remarks, Wilk referenced a 2022 speech from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “Hatred and violence must never again be met with indifference. Each and every one of us has a role to play in making sure such brutality is never repeated, and it starts with taking a stand against discrimination and hate in all its forms – whenever and wherever it occurs. Together, on this somber anniversary, we remember the lives lost, recognize the strength and spirit of the Armenian people, and look forward with hope to a future of peace, mutual respect, and dignity among people and countries around the world.” 

Barger, whose supervisorial district includes the Santa Clarita Valley as well as other Los Angeles County communities, such as Glendale and Pasadena, that have large Armenian-American populations.  

Earlier this month, the county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion introduced by Barger and co-authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis to commemorate the 109th anniversary of the Armenian genocide by proclaiming April 24 as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day in Los Angeles County. 

“Today is about taking time to pause, reflect and learn from the past,” Barger said in a statement released Wednesday. “Remembering the Armenian genocide gives our diverse communities an opportunity to collectively acknowledge and mourn the loss of over 1.5 million innocent lives. The district I represent is home to the largest concentration of Armenians and Armenian-Americans in the county, so commemorating this important day of remembrance is also about honoring them. They are resilient people – determined, focused, and dedicated to persevering.”g 

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