Human rights adviser presses Trudeau to call out China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide

Right call:

Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal justice minister and a leading voice on human rights, is urging Justin Trudeau to take steps to recognize that China is conducting acts of genocide against its Muslim minority.

Mr. Cotler said the federal government could either ask the Supreme Court of Canada to rule on whether China is committing genocide or have Parliament adopt a resolution on the issue.

MPs are preparing to vote Monday on a Conservative motion to recognize China’s conduct as genocide. The NDP, Bloc Québécois and Green Party have indicated that they would support the motion, which says Beijing’s actions contravene the UN Genocide Convention.

The Prime Minister, who said this week that he was reluctant to describe China’s conduct as genocide and that the matter required more study, recently appointed Mr. Cotler as his special adviser for Holocaust remembrance and combatting anti-Semitism.

The Montreal lawyer said he’s confident that what is taking place in China meets the test of genocide.

“I have looked at all the evidence and I have no doubt that, in fact, there are mass atrocities that are constitutive to acts of genocide under the Genocide Convention,” Mr. Cotler said in an interview.

The Biden and Trump administrations have both said Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region meet a credible definition of “genocide.” Allegations include mass incarceration, destruction of religious sites, forced labour, forced sterilization and other forms of population control, as well as torture.

Mr. Cotler said forced sterilizations and abortions and holding more than one million Uyghurs in what he called “concentration camps” violate the Convention.

“This constitutes the largest detention of a minority since the Holocaust … and you have witnesses testifying about forced enslavement, torture, mass rape, disappearances, murder,” he said.

A growing body of evidence from human-rights monitors, Western media outlets and testimony from Uyghur survivors themselves has documented China’s actions.

Media reports have detailed how China has forced intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands in Xinjiang. Birth rates in Hotan and Kashgar, Uyghur-majority areas of Xinjiang, fell more than 60 per cent between 2015 and 2018, an Associated Press report says.

Beijing defends its conduct by saying that it’s trying to stamp out extremism and calls the camps re-education centres.

The Conservative motion would not be the first statement from Parliament on the issue. In October, a House of Commons subcommittee, dominated by Liberal MPs, also labelled Beijing’s conduct in Xinjiang as genocide.

Arif Virani, the parliamentary secretary to Justice Minister and Attorney-General David Lametti, later told the Commons that he believed “it is genocide that appears to be taking place today in China.”

The federal government has previously said it wants an independent investigation into China’s treatment of the Uyghurs. And Mr. Trudeau said earlier this week that Canada would like to be part of such an investigation. Human-rights advocates have pointed out that it’s extremely unlikely China would ever allow it.

When asked if he is reluctant to describe China’s conduct as genocide in case it leads to repercussions for jailed Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Mr. Trudeau said Monday that his primary concern is making sure the term genocide is not misused.

“There is no question there have been tremendous human-rights abuses reported coming out of Xinjiang, and we are extremely concerned about that.”

But he said that when it comes to calling it genocide, “we need to ensure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed in the process before a determination like that is made.”

Mr. Cotler said he knows the Prime Minister is worried about the fate of the two Michaels but added that a parliamentary determination of genocide would allow “the government to say they are responding to the will of Parliament, which is reflective and representative of the will of the people … or they can go the Supreme Court route.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul have said they believe Beijing is committing genocide against the Uyghurs. Ms. Paul has urged Ottawa to consider diplomatic and economic sanctions against China.

The Conservatives have said that other consequences should follow a recognition of genocide, and they have already urged the government to press Olympic organizers to move the 2022 Winter Games out of Beijing. The Conservative motion to be voted on Monday was amended during debate Thursday to also urge the relocation of the Games from Beijing.

Paul Evans, the HSBC Chair in Asian Research at the University of British Columbia, said Canada is “not on strong moral and political ground” to lead on the issue of genocide, given this country’s painful history of residential schools for Indigenous children.

“There do appear to be parallels between our residential-school history and what Beijing is attempting to do with some of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang,” he said.

“We would be on a firmer ground, and more likely to attract others to the cause, if we labelled Chinese actions in Xinjiang as ‘cultural genocide,’ a horror we are very familiar with in our own story.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-trudeaus-holocaust-adviser-says-canada-must-recognize-chinas-actions/

Canada better fits the definition of a state committing genocide than Xinjiang region, China says

Cultural genocide with respect to Indigenous peoples, but acknowledge, recognition and efforts to address past and present injustice. None of which is happening in China. And legitimate to call for boycott of 2020 Winter Olympics in China:

The Chinese government says Canada better fits the definition of a state committing genocide than the Xinjiang region, pointing to population growth rates – some inaccurate – that it says demonstrate it has not mistreated its Uyghur population.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also scoffed at the “ignorance” of Bob Rae, the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, who on Sunday said “there’s no question that there’s aspects of what the Chinese are doing” in Xinjiang that “fits into the definition of genocide in the Genocide Convention.”

Mr. Rae’s comments mark the latest escalation from the Canadian government in its condemnation of Chinese policies in Xinjiang, where women have been sterilized, large numbers of people have been forced into political indoctrination camps and mosques have been demolished. Mr. Rae made the comments to the CBC, saying he has called for the United Nations Human Rights Council to mount a genocide investigation in Xinjiang.

On Monday, Mr. Zhao mocked Mr. Rae for his “ridiculous” remarks, pointing to demographic statistics as evidence. In Xinjiang the Uyghur population has increased by 25 per cent between 2010 and 2018, he said, a rate he called “18 times the rate of Canada.” That would suggest that “it is the Canadian people, rather than the Uyghurs, who are being persecuted,” he said, adding: “The ambassador should have done his homework beforehand to avoid making a fool of himself.”

Mr. Zhao, however, cited inaccurate figures. Canada’s population grew by more than 10 per cent between 2010 and 2018, according to Statistics Canada.

And Mr. Zhao did nothing to refute the dramatic changes in Hotan and Kashgar, Uyghur-dominated areas of Xinjiang where birth rates fell more than 60 per cent between 2015 and 2018, the Associated Press has reported. The Xinjiang Health Commission has in public documents called for population growth rates in some areas with large Uyghur communities to be brought considerably below 2016 levels, according to research by Adrian Zenz, a U.S.-based scholar and senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

“In Guma [Pishan] County, the 2019 family planning budget plan specifically called for 8,064 female sterilizations,” Mr. Zenz wrote in a report this summer.

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as acts that include “imposing measures intended to prevent births within [a] group,” as well as “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of [a] group.”

Some ethnic Muslims in Xinjiang who went through centres for political indoctrination and skills training have described conditions so oppressive they attempted to kill themselves.

But few have been willing to accuse China of genocide. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said China’s actions in Xinjiang “remind us of what happened in the 1930s in Germany,” while a resolution in the U.S. Senate has said China’s campaign “against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and members of other Muslim minority groups … constitutes genocide.”

Chinese authorities have said they have protected human rights in Xinjiang by creating stability and helping to grow the economy. The Chinese government has defended its use of forcible political indoctrination as a necessary redress for radical thought. More recently, it has said that “students” in indoctrination centres have all “graduated.”

The Chinese government has said publicly that it has invited a European Union delegation to see the “real situation” in Xinjiang. That visit has not taken place because the two sides have yet to agree on terms.

Other governments, including in Australia, have declined to use the term “genocide,” saying such a determination is for courts to make.

Scholars, however, argue that the key question is not evidence but national will.

“There is a plethora of evidence in this case, but I think the larger problem will be the political capacity of international institutions to challenge a state as powerful” as China, said Sean Roberts, an international affairs specialist at George Washington University who is the author of The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign against a Muslim Minority.

For Ottawa to lend its voice is important, he said. But it “will take a broad coalition of different states to change Beijing’s behaviour. If this is followed by others, it will indeed be significant, especially if those other states extend beyond the US, EU, and the British commonwealth.”

National leaders should also consider steps outside a genocide case, said Timothy Grose, a scholar who specializes in Xinjiang and Chinese ethnic policy at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

That could include “a broad boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics,” he said.

“”It is now up to world leaders and global corporations to persuade China to halt its state-violence against Uyghurs,” he said.

“A boycott would devastate revenue for the host city Beijing and the negative journalistic attention a boycott would attract – that would occur on a global scale – would almost certainly force leaders’ hands.”

Source: Canada better fits the definition of a state committing genocide than Xinjiang region, China says

Parliament should label Uyghur persecution as genocide to foster global support against China’s human rights abuses, says former Liberal justice minister

Needed debate and action:

Parliamentarians heard from activists during hours-long committee meetings last week who were calling for the Chinese government’s oppression of Uyghur Muslims to be acknowledged as genocide, and a former justice minister says Parliament is uniquely positioned to have a “distinguishable role” in condemning Beijing’s alleged behaviour to build an international partnership to counter China’s bullying.

The House Subcommittee on International Human Rights heard from more than 20 witnesses over 14 hours on July 20 and July 21 about the persecution of the Uyghurs. Many said the mistreatment and abuse of Uyghurs was tantamount to genocide and called for Canada to take a stand.

“Genocide obliges us all—internationally, domestically, governments, Parliaments, civil societies—and here the Canadian Parliament has a distinguishable role to call out genocide,” said Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal justice minister and now founding chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. He told The Hill Times that Parliament has set a precedent of playing a leading role in calling out human rights abuses and acts of genocide.

“I think it’s very important that governments act in concert, that Parliaments act in concert, as well as civil society acting in concert in calling out China,” said Mr. Cotler, who was a Liberal MP from 1999 to 2015. “If we want to protect the rules-based international order—and justice for the victims in China and accountability for the violators—we’re going to have to do so in concert governmentally and in Parliament.”

“Canada can play a leading role in this,” he said, citing the work that Parliamentarians have previously done raising the issue of genocide prevention, and raising awareness of the Rohingya genocide, among other targeted mass killings.

“China has been assaulting the rules-based international order and committing these international crimes with impunity thus far,” Mr. Cotler said. “They’ve been able to do so with impunity because they have been leveraging their economic and political power, and targeting countries one by one if those countries dare stand up to them.”

“What is needed now is an inter-governmental alliance, an alliance of democracies, so China doesn’t leverage its power and bully countries one by one.”

Some witnesses told the subcommittee that it is necessary for Canada to place sanctions on top Chinese Communist Party officials in Xinjiang where there are reports of mass detentions and forced sterilization of the Uyghur population.

The Associated Press reported on a systematic program to reduce the Muslim population in China, with the government enacting population control measures, which included IUDs and sterilization.

Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, told the subcommittee that in 2018, 80 per cent of new IUDs in China were placed in Xinjiang, which only makes up 1.8 per cent of China’s population.

The Chinese government has long held that human rights abuses aren’t taking place in Xinjiang and have called the alleged detention facilities “vocational education and training centres” that are being used to combat terrorism.

University of Ottawa international law professor Errol Mendes, who appeared virtually before the subcommittee, said Canada should apply Magnitsky sanctions on the “chief planners of the detention.” He said that should be Xinjiang regional government chairman Shohrat Zakir and Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, a member of the politburo.

Prof. Mendes told The Hill Times that imposing sanctions would prove that Canada is not staying silent and is upholding its commitment as a party to the United Nations Genocide Convention.

He added that the sanctions will “probably not” have tangible results in the short run. In spite of that, Prof. Mendes said when countries have “sufficient proof” that a genocide is taking place, “they must act.”

Magnitsky sanctions have already been applied on Chinese Communist Party officials in Xinjiang by the U.S., including on Mr. Chen.

Prof. Mendes said other levers can also be used, such as stopping companies from purchasing products in their supply lines from Xinjiang, which have reportedly been through forced labour.

He said that a motion of Parliament labelling the actions of the Chinese government as acts of genocide might not have impact for Beijing.

“Sending a direct signal to one of the main politburo members sends a message to President Xi [Jinping],” Prof. Mendes said.

Mr. Cotler said a parliamentary condemnation of the Chinese government’s mistreatment should include sanctions as well.

“Under the Genocide Convention, there is an obligation to act pursuant to that determination and an obligation to hold a country—that is engaged in acts that constitute genocide—accountable,” he said.

It is the responsibility of Canada and the international community to bring justice to the victims and hold criminals accountable, Mr. Cotler said.

University of Ottawa professor John Packer, director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre, said that it is clear that China has been committing genocide based on the Genocide Convention.

According to the convention, an act of genocide is taking place if any of the five conditions are met: killing members of a group; causing “serious bodily harm or mental harm” to member of a group; intentionally “inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”; “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”; and “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Prof. Packer said it looks “quite clear” that there have been breaches of the convention, adding that “it is very difficult not to draw the negative inference that this is purposeful state policy.”

“That would mean that it is genocide,” he said. “This is not by accident.”

“If China really believes this is all mistaken, they should be entirely open to exposing to international scrutiny what is going on,” he said, adding that if there is a dispute, the convention states it should be referred to the International Court of Justice.

Prof. Packer also noted a party to the Genocide Convention has a duty to prevent acts of genocide.

“If we see something happening and we are silent then there are fundamental issues about how seriously we consider this fundamental norm of international relations,” he said.

“Where such cases [of genocide] are quite clear in terms of international exposure, such as the Rohingya, such as the Uyghurs, it strikes me as extraordinary that we would demure—that we would shuffle our feet and look the other way,” Prof. Packer said.

He added that a motion of Parliament acknowledging a genocide is taking place would set a “very big international symbol.”

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.), his party’s critic of Canada-China relations, said the subcommittee heard “clear-cut” evidence of genocide.

“We should recognize that the Chinese state is guilty of genocide in Xinjiang,” he said, adding that Canada should respond with Magnitsky sanctions and by addressing the possible complicity of investment in Chinese companies that are involved in the oppression in Xinjiang, as well as imported products that are produced through forced labour.

“All of that flows from recognition” that a genocide has taken place, Mr. Genuis said, adding that both the Canadian government and the House of Commons should make that acknowledgement.

Echoing Mr. Cotler, he said there is a need for principled multilateralism of likeminded countries that follow their own obligations in concert with each other.

“What we’ve seen from the government is occasional words but no actions,” Mr. Genuis said. “The government has acknowledged the issue of abuses of human rights involving Uyghurs. They have not used the word ‘genocide,’ they have not used the words ‘crimes against humanity.’ In other words, they haven’t used words that carry international legal significance.”

In a brief to the International Human Rights Subcommittee, Global Affairs noted that Canada is “deeply concerned” about human rights abuses against Uyghurs by Chinese officials.

Canada is urging that Beijing release “Uyghurs and other Muslims who have been detained arbitrarily—based on their ethnicity and religion.”

“Publicly and privately, in multilateral fora as well as in bilateral dialogues, Canada has consistently called the Chinese government to address repression in Xinjiang,” the brief notes.

Mr. Genuis said the government hasn’t addressed the issue in areas that have “legal weight.”

NDP MP Heather McPherson (Edmonton Strathcona, Alta.), her party’s representative on the International Human Rights Subcommittee, said the committee will release a statement on the meetings in early August.

“I think what we pretty universally agreed upon is that there needs to be more done,” she said. “We need to take a stronger stance to ensure that we are protecting human rights around the world. It doesn’t matter where it happens, the rule of law and the protection of human rights is vital.”

Ms. McPherson wouldn’t say whether the subcommittee meetings will lead to a recognition by Parliament that acts of genocide have taken place.

“I will say that the testimony that we heard—the very credible witnesses that we heard from, the survivors that we heard from—there’s pretty strong proof and testimony that there have been acts of genocide perpetrated against the Uyghur people,” she said.

She added that it is vital to figure out a strategy to re-engage on the world stage to jointly address China’s human rights record.

“We’re not ever going to want to do this alone. … We’re never going to want to take giant steps by ourselves. I think we want to work with our multilateral partners and we want to work with our likeminded allies and use those tools at our disposal to put some pressure on China to come back to the side of international law, to come back to the side of protection of human rights.”

Source: Parliament should label Uyghur persecution as genocide to foster global support against China’s human rights abuses, says former Liberal justice minister

Indian politics front and centre in Ontario as legislature debates law declaring Sikh genocide

Diaspora politics at its worst (the Ford government also changed the requirement for Canadian Sikhs to wear helmets given similar pressures).

Concordia Professor Frank Chalk’s comments at the end position the issue correctly:

The emotionally fraught politics of India are poised to again engulf the Ontario legislature, as opposing Indo-Canadian factions pressure lawmakers over a contentious private member’s bill commemorating a 36-year-old massacre.

The legislation to create a “Sikh genocide week,” introduced by the MPP brother of federal New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh, marks riots in 1984 that saw thousands of Sikhs killed in New Delhi and elsewhere in India.

The killings, encouraged by leaders of the then-ruling Congress Party, remain a festering wound for many Sikh-Canadians. But the terminology in the bill is a red flag for Delhi, and a previous Ontario motion that called the attacks genocide helped raise tensions between Canada and India.

Allies of the current Indian administration — itself under fire for persecution of another minority group, India’s Muslims — were expected to show up in force at Queen’s Park Thursday to voice their opposition to the bill.

Sikh organizations have been working behind the scenes to rally Ontario’s governing Conservative party to back the legislation, adding to expected votes from the NDP and Liberals. One source said more than 40 Tory members pledged their backing this week, anxious not to alienate the powerful Sikh voting bloc in the suburbs west of Toronto.

With that amount of Conservative support, the bill would easily pass second reading in the 124-seat house, a rarity among private-member’s initiatives.

Ivana Yelich, Premier Doug Ford’s press secretary, said Wednesday only that the government is “reviewing” the legislation, and could not reveal what was said about it at a Tory caucus meeting Monday.

Meanwhile, a leading academic expert on genocide said Wednesday the 1984 attacks, as horrific as they were, simply did not meet the internationally accepted definition of the term.

New Democrat Gurratan Singh, who introduced the bill last month, could not be reached for comment. But as he unveiled the legislation, he said the Sikh community’s cries for justice over the event have gone unheeded.

“The trauma of this genocide is real and still impacts Sikhs that call Ontario home,” said Singh. This bill will create a time to allow for reflection and help begin the process of healing for thousands of Sikhs (who) continue to suffer.”

But Anil Shah of the pro-New Delhi Canada India Foundation said the killings were reprehensible acts of revenge, not government-perpetrated genocide. Suggesting otherwise will further anger the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who already believes the federal Liberal government favours the Sikh independence movement. He pointed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ill-fated trip to India, where Modi largely gave him the cold shoulder.

“There are going to be repercussions” if the bill passes, Shah predicted. “At this point, we should talk about building relations with this country, we should talk about the trade. Something that happened 35, 36 years ago … that has no relevance.”

After two Sikh bodyguards murdered prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, a wave of pogroms saw at least 3,000 Sikhs slaughtered by rampaging Hindus, encouraged at times by prominent Congress officials.

The Ontario legislature passed a motion in 2017 at the instigation of a Liberal member describing the events as a genocide. The Indian government at the time called the motion “misguided,” and a misunderstanding of India’s history and legal system. It added to a perception in New Delhi that Liberals federally and in Ontario favoured the Khalistani or Sikh separatist movement and helped put a chill on relations.

But is there, in fact, merit to declaring the vicious pogroms of 1984 as something akin to the Holocaust or the Rwandan massacre?

As it turns out, there is United Nations genocide convention that defines the term, and what happened to the Sikhs, while likely a crime against humanity, does not meet that definition, says Frank Chalk, a Concordia University history professor and past president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars.

While the  victims were clearly targeted because of their religion, the killings were not part of a “long-term, sustained and systematic” effort, perpetrated by government, to wipe out the Sikhs, which is how genocide is described in the UN convention, he said.

“I have enormous sympathy for the Sikh community and the crimes inflicted on the Sikh people in India after Gandhi was assassinated,” Chalk said. “But I fail to sympathize with the priority that some leaders of the community in Canada — not all — give to labeling their suffering and victimization as genocide. I know that gets more media attention … so it’s understandable from the point of view of communications and public relations.”

Source: Indian politics front and centre in Ontario as legislature debates law declaring Sikh genocide

More education on genocide needed in Canada

Hard to argue against this but one wonders, with all the demands on curriculum, how educators will find time for meaningful treatment and the extent this complements or replaces existing Holocaust-based material which also had a broader perspective:

The tragic massacre of 50 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, is one more horrific incident that confirms mass murder has spread to even the most peaceful of nations. Like a fire, massacres are fuelled by hate and ignorance, and are now broadcast through social media, with dozens of hate crimes reported daily around the world.

There is a chilling similarity to the underlying motives behind these global violent acts. Ignorance of “the other,” be it a racial or religious minority group, is often cited, leading to an unfounded fear of being “invaded” and overtaken by foreign cultures and values. Fear then devolves into a conviction that the foreign invader must be eliminated. This is justified by dehumanizing the community, labelling it as criminal and evil, or plotting a “white genocide.”

While we must denounce this senseless violence, we must do more than react. Ignorance and fear must be prevented through education of the next generation, before racist beliefs take root and destroy lives. As the founder of the Foundation for Genocide Education—made up of representatives from the Jewish, Rwandan, Armenian, and First Nations communities—I’m convinced that by teaching high school students about the consequences of hate, fear, and discrimination, future atrocities can be avoided. Our mission is to ensure that the study of all recognized genocides, and the steps leading to genocide, are made a permanent part of the high school curriculum across Canada.

My organization is not alone in recognizing the value of learning about genocide. In 2018, UNESCO published a policy guide on the importance of teaching genocide, specifically the Holocaust, as a means to prevent future atrocities, while helping the next generation to become responsible citizens who value human dignity. This is a step in the right direction, but the challenge remains translating theory into practice.

Shockingly, our foundation’s experience demonstrates that many Canadian students graduate high schools with little to no knowledge about past or present genocides.  Some don’t even know the definition of the word.

Teachers across the country have told us that they lack the resources, time, and confidence to effectively educate their classes about this sensitive subject. Eight countries to date have made the study of genocide compulsory as part of their high school curriculums, but no Canadian province has yet done so.

How can we expect our children to recognize the dangers of intolerance and racism without proper education? How can they identify and react to online racist propaganda if they are unaware of how the media has been used historically by extremist groups to spread hate and violence?

The foundation is now partnering with Quebec’s education ministry to create a comprehensive, universal guide on teaching genocide. Once test-piloted by teachers this September, the guide will be available in every high school in Quebec by 2020. Introduced with accompanying training workshops and educational videos, it will serve to significantly build on the basic concepts of genocide already in place in the curriculum. Teachers need to be supported with the knowledge, resources, and skills required to teach about genocide and human rights, and this guide accomplishes that.

With this and next month’s commemoration days of the Armenian, Jewish, and Rwandan genocides, it’s an opportune time to reinforce the message of the devastating impact of unchecked hate. To hear the stories of survivors of the Armenian genocide, the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, and the Holocaust, is to truly understand the chilling effects of racist propaganda that leads to dehumanization and, ultimately, genocide.

As a daughter of Holocaust survivors, I know all too well that we cannot afford to be complacent. My parents survived the Holocaust by hiding in attics and barns in Poland. My mother saw her own mother killed by machine gun in the squalid ghetto where Jews were forced to live before being deported to concentration camps such as Auschwitz. My family’s story is tragically not unique, and today’s students will undoubtedly benefit more from learning about these accounts than from the messages that are communicated by crazed white nationalist manifestos and live-streamed shooting of innocent victims.

By studying the consequences of unchecked hate, students will be equipped with the critical thinking skills to better understand racism and intolerance. We must not let another year go by without passing on this essential knowledge to our youth, the leaders of tomorrow.

Source: More education on genocide needed in Canada

The Devouring: It’s time to recognize Roma genocide

Gina Csanyi-Robah, Robert Eisenberg and Vahan Kololian on the Roma:

A slaughter that in many ways paralleled both the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire in 1915-16 as well as the Jewish Holocaust. August 2 is the official date designated by the worldwide Roma community to commemorate the Devouring. So why have so few people heard of it?

Unlike Jewish history and what has become the best recorded genocide of the modern era, the Devouring is still little known. While the history of the Roma genocide has been passed on orally through the generations, only recently has there been a movement to record this tragic history. Following the war the Roma community was so devastated it took 60 years to rebuild.

As a result, estimates of the number of Roma killed by the Nazis vary significantly, ranging between 250,000 and 1.5 million. Dr. Ian Hancock of the University of Texas, a world renowned expert on the Roma genocide suggests “… of the estimated 20,000 Romanies in Germany in 1939, fully three quarters had been murdered by 1945. Of the 11,200 in Austria, a half were murdered. Of the 50,000 in Poland, 35,000. In Croatia, Estonia, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Luxembourg, almost the entire Romani populations were eradicated.”

And there are many more in the field of genocide studies who have supported Dr. Hancock’s theory. Indeed, it is telling that the only country at this point that has recognized the Devouring as a legitimate genocide is Germany.

Like Eastern European Jews, they were designated as Untermenschen, unworthy of life. Along with the Jews, they were rounded up from their nomadic villages and thrown onto cattle cars destined for death camps. Indeed, it is said that Roma and Jews walked hand in hand into the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

The designation of genocide has always been emotionally charged. Motivated by both the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust, international legalist Raphael Lemkin coined the term to give specific meaning to the systemic and systematic murder of an entire people. Today, the United Nations genocide convention, which has universal acceptance, defines it as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

If denoting genocide is emotionally charged, its political ramifications can be even greater. The Armenian community struggled long and hard to have Canada finally recognize their tragedy. Threatened economic and diplomatic repercussions from Turkey – which has steadfastly refused to accept the slaughter – were lodged with Canadian authorities when it discussed recognition in Parliament. Nonetheless in 2004, the Parliament of Canada began the process that was completed two years later by the Harper government with full recognition.

The Roma community in Canada, indeed worldwide, has neither the clout in government nor the institutional presence necessary to convince governments to recognize the Devouring. Sadly, global systemic discrimination was also a key factor for ignoring their history. Indeed, to this day the Roma, especially in Eastern Europe, remain persecuted targets of neo-Nazi and other extreme right-wing groups. However, time has certainly come for this recognition.

We lost Elie Wiesel last month, a Nobel laureate and a chronicler of the Holocaust. Mr. Wiesel once wisely noted: “Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.”

Source: The Devouring: It’s time to recognize Roma genocide – The Globe and Mail

To have meaning, ‘genocide’ must be protected from political exploitation: Erna Paris

Edna Paris on some of the cynicism involved with the use of ‘genocide’ in describing the war crimes of the Islamic State:

In his formal remarks, Mr. Kerry seemed notably vague on the subject. He spoke about threats to Christians, about crimes against humanity and war crimes – all indisputable facts, but unlikely to meet the threshold of genocide. He spoke of his belief that if IS were ever to create its hoped-for caliphate, “it would seek to destroy what remains of the ethnic and religious mosaic once thriving in the territory.” Tellingly, he distanced himself by saying he was “neither judge nor prosecutor nor jury,” and that potential charges against the extremists must result from an independent international investigation.

That, as Mr. Kerry certainly knew, was the crux of the matter. Genocide is the worst crime ever to be codified into law; as human beings we had to invent the category to contain the terrifying contents of the Nazi assault on the Jews of Europe during the Second World War. Mr. Kerry’s charge of genocide against Christians, made under heavy political pressure, with sparse evidence, degraded the crucial concept we must rely upon to punish the most vicious crimes.

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron bluntly labelled attempts to classify IS crimes as genocide, “politicization.” “These decisions must be based on credible judicial processes,” he said, lending credence to Mr. Kerry’s own words about the need for independent investigation. The government of Canada (typically more polite) also declined to join the United States, stating that it would stick with the designation of war crimes.

It’s hard to predict where the Kerry declaration will lead. What the Secretary of State did offer was refuge for Christian and other minority victims of IS brutality; however, many of those other victims are Muslims – and in the harsh world of Donald Trump, Muslims are less than welcome in America.

What matters most is the cynicism with which the singular term “genocide,” with its real and symbolic import, has been abused. If it is to continue to have purpose and meaning, the charge of genocide must be protected from political exploitation.