Call to Combat Genocide as a Historical Disease 

La Presse, Montréal 

While Berlin grapples with the issue of whether or not to erect a memorial 
to the Shoah, the City of Montréal has innovated by raising a monument to 
the victims of all the genocides of the 20th century. 

"There are many monuments dedicated to various particular human tragedies in 
the world. In 1998 however, the City of Montréal was innovative in this 
field by erecting a monument called La Réparation - Monument á la mémoire 
des victimes de génocides, created by artist Francine Larivée. This monument 
was dedicated to all victims of genocides in the 20th century", says the 
Ukrainian Canadian Congress. 

Many other cultural communities share this assessment. 

The Armenian National Committees of Canada and Montréal, which led the 
campaign for this memorial unveiled on the 83rd anniversary of the Armenian 
genocide in Turkey, speaks of a "political victory" and of "the spiritual 
satisfaction that those who died rest in peace". 

The Council for Peace in the African Great Lakes Region has welcomed the 
City’s initiative, which names Tutsis and Hutus alongside Armenians, 
Ukrainians, Jews, Crimean Tatars, Gypsies, Timorese, Bosnians, Cambodians 
and Kurds as victims of 20th century genocides, before adding : "and those 

The debate about whether to commemorate the Shoah exclusively engulfed the 
Canadian War Museum in its expansion and renovation phase last year. It now 
swirls around the Canadian Museum of Civilization which has announced plans 
for a Holocaust Museum. 

While they readily admit the need to entrench recognition of the Shoah, a 
growing number of organizations representing Canadians of diverse origins 
are asking that this recognition be made truly and genuinely universal. 

>From its base in Toronto, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress coordinates the 
campaign of a multi-ethnic coalition aimed at persuading the Canadian Museum 
of Civilization to replace its Holocaust Project by a "Canadian Museum of 

The UCC "is convinced that Canadians would support a museum along the same 
lines (as the Montréal Monument) in that, as an educational tool, it would 
have no equal", writes its President, Eugene Czolij. It "would also be an 
original and uniquely Canadian endeavour", he adds. 

"A Canadian Museum of Genocide would be inclusive of all immigrant 
communities who have the experience of genocide in their past" says the 
Canadian Islamic Congress. 

Based in Waterloo, Ontario, the CIC involved itself in the debate last 
October after learning the Ontario Legislature was studying a Bill to 
establish a Holocaust Memorial Day in Ontario - Yom Ha Shoah. "Bill 66 had 
already passed 1st and 2nd readings without any public debate and when we 
got involved it was too late. It was adopted a few weeks later", says CIC 
President Mohammad Elmasry. 

"Bill 66 is a good idea but it must be made inclusive of victims of all 
genocides, regardless of race, religion and ethnic origin", Elmasry wrote to 
the Ontario MLA behind the project. 

Since then, the CIC has met wth the Canadian Jewish Congress "and they said 
they were ready to cooperate with us so that Bill 66 can be complemented by 
another legislative measure", he says. 

"Canada is peopled by survivors of many tragedies. If each community demands 
that its victims be honoured separately, it will not contribute to Canadian 
unity, and it will be very costly", Elmasry adds, saying "this should be 
beyond politics". 

Reporting on a symposium held at ICAO headquarters in Montréal for the 50th 
anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last December, 
Roman Serbyn, History professor at UQAM, says members of the Jewish 
community showed openness to the idea of commemorating all genocides 

The horror stirred by Nazi crimes has held the world traumatized for 50 
years. But new thinking at the dawn of the 21st century, and the phenomenon 
of globalization, are leading more and more people, beginning with 
historians and political scientists, to consider genocide as a disease which 
is as ancient as Humanity itself. 

For the survivors, this human propensity to collective crime and massacre 
must be combatted globally and inclusively, in the framework of the fight 
for a new culture of peace which is truly human and universal. 

In that sense, the enumeration on the Montréal monument limits the universal 
reach of the commemoration, because it identifies some and therefore leaves 
out others. The reference to the 20th century only is a further limitation. 
And since Montreal stands where the Amerindian settlement of Hochelaga once 
stood, a mention of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, the First Nations 
decimated by colonialism, would have been most relevant. 

The word "genocide" was coined by Raphael Lemkin in his book Axis Rule in 
Occupied Europe published in 1944 and examining the extermination of 
European Jewry, notes Serbyn. 

In 1946, the UN declared that "genocide is a denial of the right of 
existence of entire human groups, as homicide is the denial of the right of 
individual human beings". The resolution added that in the past "many 
instances of such crimes of genocide have occurred when racial, religious, 
political and other groups have been destroyed, entirely or in part". 

The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Repression of Genocide, which also 
just turned 50, defines genocide as any one of the following acts committed 
with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or 
religious group : the murder of members of the group; grievous assault 
against the physical or mental integrity of members of the group; subjecting 
the group intentionally to conditions of existence leading to its physical 
destruction; measures aimed at preventing births within the group; the 
forced transfer of infants from one group to another group. 

The Armenians say 1.5 million of their people were massacred by the Turks in 
1915. France recently angered Turkey by recognizing this genocide, aften 
called the 1st of the 20th century. 

South African Boers, descendants of Dutch settlers, say the first 
"concentration camps" were built by the British during the Boer War, where 
thousands of their women, children and elderly died in sordid conditions. 

As victims of Apartheid ask reparations from them, so the Boers demand 
recognition from Britain for its crimes in the Boer War. Which only shows 
that the victim of ancient times could be the persecutor of yesterday, and 
the victim of yesterday the perpetrator of today. In the long history of 
genocides, peoples have often changed roles from victim to executioner, and 
vice versa. 

Ukrainians remember the death of 7 million of their folk as a result of the 
famine provoked in 1932-33 by the former Soviet Union to punish them for 
resisting the collectivization of agriculture and Greater Russian 

"We call this genocide the Holodomor, extermination by famine", says Serbyn. 

Both Houses of the US Congress commemorated this genocide last year, on the 
65th anniversary of the tragedy. 

Canadians originating from the African Great Lakes region talk of the 
genocide of 500.000 Tutsis by Hutus in Rwanda in 1994, but they also talk of 
more recurrent genocides of Hutus by Tutsis, as in 1972 when 200.000 Hutus, 
including school-children, were exterminated in Burundi, and again in 1993 
after Tutsi army officers "executed" the first Hutu elected President of 
Burundi, and also in 1996-97 when close to 200.000 Hutu refugees from Rwanda 
were massacred by Tutsi RPF troops in the east of the Democratic Republic of 
Congo (former Zaire). 

The Canadian Islamic Congress remembers the victims of various genocides of 
Muslims in History : 2 million during the Christian reconquest of Spain, 2 
million during the European crusades, 2 million at the hands of the Mongols, 
and 2 million during the transatlantic slave trade, not forgetting the 
massacres of Palestinians (after the Naqbah or Catastrophe that was the 
partition of Palestine) and Lebanese, nor Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir and 

The CIC observes a special Day of mourning in memory of these victims, 
called Yom Zekrah, on the first Friday of November. 

The First Pan-African Conference on Reparations for the Maafa or colonial 
slave trade and slavery, held in Nigeria in 1993, adopted a Proclamation 
calling on "the international community to recognize the unique and 
unprecedented moral debt to Africans as the most humiliated and exploited 
peple of the last four centuries of modern History". 

To the vocabulary of "genocide" and "ethnocide", the American political 
scientist Rudolph J. Rummel has added the concept of "democide", from the 
Greek word demos (people). This has allowed him to classify massive American 
war crimes against civilians as "democide" instead of "genocide" - and to 
forget about the Aboriginal peoples and First Nations of America, a heavy 
debt that Washington has yet to recognize and justly compensate for. 

Rummel’s theory is that "democracies rarely fight one another" and 
that it is "dictatorships which massacre people massively". China, the USSR, 
Vietnam, the Khmer rouge are singled out for special condemnation. But he 
also says that "power kills", adding that governments have killed up to 170 
million people in the 20th century alone (his survey stops in 1987, taking 
in a good part of the Iran-Iraq, Afghan and Sri Lanka wars). Victims of the 
partition of India and Pakistan, as well as those of the Bangladesh War of 
independence are also taken into account.

Thus the millions of civilians massacred by indiscriminate US gunning and 
bombing in the Philippines (1899), in Germany (Dresden particularly), in 
Hiroshima and Nagasaki (the only use of nuclear bombs in History), and in 
Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos were cases of "democide". As were the million 
victims of the anti-communist coup in Indonesia, the hundreds of thousands 
killed in counter-insurgency wars in Central America, and the millions 
killed in Iraq as a result of war, bombings and UN sanctions. 

But China has its own charges of genocide against the Japanese, as for 
example after the massacre of 20.000 civilians in Nanking in December 1937, 
an issue which has poisoned bilateral relations since Tokyo refuses to 
recognize this in its History text-books. 

Holocaust Museum or a Museum of Genocide? The Canadian Museum of 
Civilization is on the horns of a real dilemma. 

In answer to a question, a spokesman replied last week : "The Board of 
Directors of the Museum has undertaken to plan, produce and present a 
temporary, travelling exhibition on the Nazi Holocaust and its victims. This 
exhibition will start at the Museum in Hull. The research on its content is 
for the time being at an embryonic stage". 

(This is an article, slightly lengthened, and translated by the author 
himself, which appeared in the Sunday January 31st issue of LA PRESSE, the 
Montréal French-language daily) 

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