Jim Karygiannis

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The Honourable
Jim Karygiannis
Toronto City Councillor for Ward 39 (Scarborough—Agincourt)
Assumed office
December 1, 2014
Preceded by Mike Del Grande
Member of Parliament
for Scarborough—Agincourt
In office
Preceded by Paul McCrossan
Succeeded by Arnold Chan
Personal details
Born James Karygiannis
( 1955-05-02) May 2, 1955 (age 59)
Athens, Greece
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Toula Karygiannis
Residence Toronto
Profession Businessman, Industrial Engineer
Portfolio · Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport with special emphasis on Transport and Environment (2003-2004)
· Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport (2004-2005)
· Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal (2005-2006)

James "Jim" Karygiannis, PC, (Greek: Δημήτρης Καρύγιαννης; born May 2, 1955) is a Canadian politician. He is presently a Toronto City Councillor for Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt. He served in the Canadian House of Commons as a Liberal MP from 1988 to 2014.

Karygiannis served concurrently as the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal (2005) and was previously parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Transport (2003-2005).

On April 1, 2014 he announced in the House of Commons that he is resigning his seat as a Member of Parliament in order to stand in the Toronto municipal election for Toronto City Councillor in Ward 39.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Karygiannis was born in Athens, Greece. Before entering politics, Karygiannis was a businessman and industrial engineer. He immigrated to Canada in 1966, and has a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Toronto. He also holds a degree of Fellowship of Business Administration from the Canadian School of Management.


Karygiannis has been involved with politics as a Liberal since the late 1980s, first in provincial politics and later as a federal MP. He ran as a candidate of the Ontario Liberal Party for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 1987 provincial election. He lost to David Reville of the Ontario New Democratic Party by about 1,500 votes. He was elected to the Canadian House of Commons the following year in the federal election, defeating Progressive Conservative incumbent W. Paul McCrossan by 858 votes in the newly created riding of Scarborough—Agincourt.

Karygiannis was one of the more socially conservative members of the Liberal caucus, and is opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage. In June 2005, however, he strongly criticized other socially-conservative Liberals who had threatened to bring down the government on the marriage issue.

In government[edit]

He won a landslide re-election in the 1993 federal election as the Liberals won a majority government, and has since been easily re-elected ever since. On October 14, 2008 he was re-elected for a seventh consecutive term with 57% of the popular vote in his riding.

Karygiannis was a prominent Toronto organizer for Jean Chrétien in the Liberal Party's 1990 leadership contest, and was credited with delivering considerable support to Chrétien from the city's Greek community.

In April 2004, Karygiannis brought forward a private member's motion which recognized the death of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as a genocide. The motion was approved by parliament 153 to 68, with support among Liberal backbench and opposition MPs, though Prime Minister Martin and his cabinet did not show up for the free vote and insisted that the motion is non-binding. Foreign Minister Bill Graham has defended the government's position that the event constituted a "tragedy" rather than the purposeful extermination of minority Armenians. In response to Martin's assertion that foreign policy rests with the cabinet, Karygiannis said that a clear majority of Parliament saw it differently and urged Martin to live up to his promise to give MPs real clout. The Turkish government was strongly critical of the motion and argued that Canadian MPs were rewriting history, while the Turkish Embassy suggested that relations between the two countries would be harmed as a result.[2] Local press has also described his genocide recognition cause as one that "splits cultural communities".[3]

Karygiannis played a prominent role in organizing Toronto-area support for victims of the December 2004 earthquake in Southeast Asia. He called for cooperation between the city's Tamil and Sinhalese communities for the relief effort in Sri Lanka, and personally travelled to Sri Lanka to witness the tsunami devastation firsthand. He was later criticized by fellow Member of Parliament David Kilgour for traveling to an area of Sri Lanka dominated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers), as the faction was proscribed as a terrorist organisation by many countries. Karygiannis defended his decision, saying that his intent was to confirm that disaster aid was reaching the region. Despite Kilgour's concerns, Karygiannis's travels did not provoke a diplomatic incident with Sri Lanka.[4]

In March 2005, Karygiannis travelled to Guyana to witness the damage that recent floods had done in the country. He helped to secure CIDA aid for Guyana of over $2.7 million Canadian.[5]

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in September 2005, Karygiannis was one of the first Canadian parliamentarians to organize a Canadian relief effort.[6]

Karygiannis continued his relief work through out his Federal Career and visited multiple natural and made disasters and his work made a considerable relief effort

In opposition[edit]

In September 2007, the Canadian government announced that it would recognize the country Macedonia as the "Republic of Macedonia" rather than by its previous designation as the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." This decision was criticized by the government of Greece, which claims the name Macedonia as its own. Karygiannis also opposed the government's decision and indicated that the Greek-Canadian community would mobilize against it.[7]

In February 2009, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced that he would review and possibly reduce or eliminate federal funding to the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) after its president criticized Kenney's pro-Israel position in the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza conflict. Karygiannis subsequently asked the parliamentary ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, to investigate whether Kenney was abusing his position.[8]

Liberal Party[edit]

Known as a Chrétien loyalist throughout the 1990s, Karygiannis announced in 2002 that he would support Paul Martin in the next Liberal leadership contest. In making his decision, he told an interviewer that it was time for Chrétien to retire "with dignity", rather than risk a potentially divisive leadership review.[9] When Martin became Liberal party leader on December 12, 2003, he appointed Karygiannis as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Transport.

Karygiannis was the National Chairman for MP Joe Volpe's campaign to lead the Liberal Party of Canada, but he resigned on July 21, 2006 over disagreements with Volpe's pro-Israeli stance on the conflict in Lebanon.[10]

On July 26, 2006, Karygiannis said that he was considering a run for the Liberal leadership himself because he felt the other candidates were "lacking" on the issue of foreign policy.[11] At the leadership convention, he supported Bob Rae, but then threw his support to Stéphane Dion when Rae was eliminated from the ballot.


In an interview for The Globe and Mail on September 21, 2007, Karygiannis referred to ethnic Macedonians by the word Skopjans, commonly used in Greece,[3] but is derogatory toward Macedonians. On March 5, 2011, at a lecture at the University of Toronto titled Insight to Hellenism, Karygiannis once again used the word Skopjans to refer to ethnic Macedonians. The Macedonian Human Rights Movement International criticized the speech and requested Karygiannis's resignation.[12]

On 22 February 2011, Jim Karygiannis joined a protest rally of the Armenian Youth Federation by the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Ottawa timed to the anniversary of the Nagorno-Karabakh separatist movement in Azerbaijan. During his four-minute speech, he called for the Azerbaijani ambassador Farid Shafiyev to be stripped of his diplomatic privileges and leave Canada. Shafiyev reacted by saying Karygiannis had "crossed the line of civility and decency and used the language of the level of street hooliganism". Later another Liberal multiculturalism critic Rob Oliphant in a telephone call to Shafiyev expressed his regret about his colleague's statement and added that Karygiannis's words did not represent the attitudes of the Liberal Party.[13]

In August 2011, Citizenship and Immigration Committee officers complained of Jim Karygiannis using abusive language and an aggressive tone while speaking to them. Karygiannis stated that the accusations were false and part of a "smear campaign against him."[3]

As a multiculturalism critic, Karygiannis attempted to unite 19 cultural groups in Ottawa on August 27, 2011 to discuss issues they faced. The event was boycotted by the Jewish, Chinese, Turkish, and Macedonian communities. Spokesperson for B'nai Brith Canada said the Liberal Party should consider putting forth a better representative of the party to deal with multiculralism matters, due to Karygiannis's being "divisive on some issues", instead of bringing communities together.[3] The Council of Turkish Canadians released a statement where it explained its unwillingness to participate in the event by Karygiannis's "past attempts to promote ethnic division and intolerance against Canadians of different national origin", particularly Turks, Azeris and Macedonians.[14]

In July 2012, Karygiannis caused a diplomatic scandal when he travelled to the South Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh on the invitation of the Armenian National Committee of Canada, which paid for the trip. Universally recognized as an integral part of Azerbaijan, including by Canada, Nagorno-Karabakh unilaterally declared independence in 1991 followed by a violent ethnic conflict claiming over 30,000 lives on both sides, causing more than 600,000 ethnic Azeris to be displaced as a result of an ethnic cleansing and resulting in the Armenian military occupation of 16% of Azerbaijan's territory. Karygiannis's mission in Nagorno-Karabakh was to observe a local presidential election, though described as unconstitutional, illegitimate and counter-productive to conflict resolution by the European Union,[15] NATO,[16] and specifically the OSCE, which mediates the conflict.[17] The Azerbaijani ambassador to Canada Farid Shafiyev criticized Karygiannis for taking sides in the conflict and "pandering to radical elements within his constituency" in chase of "ethnic votes and disregarding international law." Shafiyev also pointed to Karygiannis's illegal entry in Nagorno-Karabakh, as he had not obtained a visa or a special permission from the Azerbaijani government that are required to travel there, but had instead entered through Armenia. In addition, his stay on the disputed Azerbaijani territory was paid for by the government of Armenia.[18] In response, Karygiannis who had been aware of Azerbaijan's objections to his visit[19] affirmed his decision and offered to be invited to Azerbaijan as an observer for the next election, which Shafiyev turned down as unlikely, saying Karygiannis would be declared persona non grata and denied any future entry in Azerbaijan.[20] The Canadian embassy in Ankara, also accredited to Azerbaijan, issued a statement on July 19 saying Canada would not recognize the election and that it supports Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.[21] On August 1, members of Toronto's Azeri community held a protest in front of the office of the Liberal Party, defying Karygiannis's unsanctioned visit to Nagorno-Karabakh.[22]


In 1999, Greek president Costis Stephanopoulos awarded him the decoration of the Officer's Gold Cross of the Order of Phoenix in recognition of his many public service contributions.

In 2014 Karygiannis was awarded The Mkhitar Gosh Medal’ from the Government of The Republic of Armenia for his substantial input in international recognition of the Armenian Genocide;

in 2014 he received the ‘25 Year of Karabakh Movement’ Gold Medal by the Government of The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as the first Canadian to visit the Republic in 2012 to observe the Presidential Elections;


  1. ^ "Veteran Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis resigns, plans to run for Toronto city council". CTV News. April 1, 2014. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Turkey denounces Armenian genocide vote in Commons", CBC News, April 22, 2004. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
  3. ^ a b c d Laura Payton. MP Karygiannis Accused of Berating Civil Servants. 26 August 2011. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
  4. ^ Rana, F. Abbas (January 17, 2005). "Karygiannis defends trip into Tamil Tiger-controlled regions of Sri Lanka". The Hill Times. Retrieved 2006-07-24. 
  5. ^ "Canada helps Guyana rebuild". March 30, 2005. Retrieved 2006-07-24. 
  6. ^ "Karygiannis answers Community call to help Katrina Victims". Scarborough Mirror. September 1, 2005. Retrieved 2006-07-24. 
  7. ^ Alan Freeman, "Canada to recognize Balkan state as Macedonia despite disputed name", Globe and Mail, 21 September 2007, A18.
  8. ^ Editorial: Subsidizing hatred, National Post, March 5, 2009.
  9. ^ Harper, Tim (July 13, 2002). "Avoid convention bloodbath former loyalist tells PM". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2006-07-24. 
  10. ^ "Volpe's campaign manager quits over Lebanon kerfuffle". Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC). July 21, 2006. Retrieved 2014-08-01. 
  11. ^ "Karygiannis looks at Liberal leadership run". Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC). July 26, 2006. Retrieved 2014-08-01. 
  12. ^ Macedonians Demand Resignation of Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis. Macedonian Human Rights Movement International. 11 May 2011. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
  13. ^ Avinash Gavai. Rebel Politicians Fire up Ethnic Rage. 9 March 2011. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
  14. ^ Council of Turkish Canadians Boycotts Community Meeting: Karygiannis Unfit to Facilitate. Council of Turkish Canadians. 17 August 2011
  15. ^ (Russian) Election in Nagorno-Karabakh Must Not Affect Its Future Status. Regnum. 18 July 2012.
  16. ^ (Armenian) NATO does not recognize the so-called elections in Karabakh. Armenia.az. 18 July 2012.
  17. ^ (Russian) Rauf Orujov. Again Pottering About on Occupied Territories. Zerkalo. 19 July 2012.
  18. ^ Anca Gurzu. Aglukkaq’s seal of approval. Embassy Canada’s Foreign Policy Newsweekly. 1 May 2013. Quote: "In an interview with Chatter House, Mr. Karygiannis said his trip to Nagorno- Karabakh is not on the sponsored travel list because its costs fall outside these rules. He said he flew from Greece, where he was vacationing, to Armenia’s capital Yerevan on a $512 ticket, for which he said he paid himself. The Armenian National Committee paid for two hotel nights in Yerevan, while the Armenian government paid for the other two nights in Nagorno-Karabakh, the MP said. Each of these costs were around $200, so he did not have to declare them, he added."
  19. ^ Armenian NA vice-speaker receives Canadian MPs. Tert.am. 17 July 2012.
  20. ^ Gloria Galloway. Azerbaijan upset over Liberal MP’s trip to disputed territory’s election. The Globe and Mail. 19 July 2012.
  21. ^ (Russian) Australia, Canada, New Zealand Condemn Election in Nagorno-Karabakh. Regnum. 19 July 2012.
  22. ^ Megan Kinch. Azerbaijan protesters outside Bob Rae's office against Liberal Jim Karygiannis. Worldwide Breaking News. 1 August 2012.

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