“What Does Never Again Really Mean?”

Genocide Awareness Month reception, Parliament Hill, OttawaApril is Genocide Awareness, Condemnation and Prevention Month in Canada. A panel discussion was held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on the topic: What Does “Never Again” Really Mean? The Importance of Genocide Education in Fighting Hate. The event was endorsed and sponsored by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and other Crimes against Humanity and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The weather on the evening of April 16 was miserable, with freezing rain, and that kept attendance low. But the panel discussion in the Confederation Room of the Centre Block was lively and engaging, and at times heart-wrenching. Toronto-area MP Ali Ehsassi, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and other Crimes against Humanity, introduced the panel. Dr. John Young, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, moderated the discussion. Speakers were Marta Baziuk, executive director of the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (a member organization of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress), as well as representatives from the Humura Association, the Armenian National Committee of Canada, and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. Canada officially recognizes as genocides the Holodomor of 1932-33 (the forced-famine genocide committed by the Stalin regime of state terror against the Ukrainian people), the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994, the genocide of 1915-23 of the Armenian people by the Ottoman Empire/Turkey, and the Holocaust of 1933-45 (the genocide committed by the Nazi regime of state terror against the Jewish people).

A conclusion of the panel was that education about genocide is essential, especially given pervasive ignorance about these overwhelming crimes against humanity. With education comes the possibility of prediction. We can say, for example, that a nation with a history of committing genocide – and of never acknowledging guilt or shame in it – is most likely to commit crimes against humanity again. Russia condemns Canada for recognizing the Holodomor as a genocide and Turkey condemns Canada for recognizing the Armenian Genocide as a genocide. When it comes to genocide and crimes against humanity, the Russian nation and the Turkish nation cannot be a part of “never again” until they acknowledge the past, across the generations, as the German nation has done with respect to the Holocaust.

Each genocide is an almost-unimaginable horror in its own particular way. We know what the Russian occupation regime did to the Ukrainian people in the Holodomor of 1932-33, and what it did to the Crimean Tatar people in the Deportations of 1944. But this does not help us prevent the crimes against humanity unfolding today in Russian-occupied Crimea and Donbas against Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars. Education, in itself, does not stop genocide and crimes against humanity. Genocide Awareness, Condemnation and Prevention Month got the first two elements right. The third – prevention – demands urgent action, for the sake of humanity.

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