Recognized Genocides by STAND Canada
Version 1.0 | February 22, 2016
Prepared by Priya Ramesh & Katarina Todic, Policy Co-Directors
Recognized-Genocides by the Government of Canada
The following atrocities have been recognized by the Government of Canada as genocide, including genocides that took place before Canada ratified the United Nations Genocide Convention in September 1952.
The Armenian Genocide (Medz Yekhern)
Through a large majority vote on Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral’s Private Members’ Bill (Bill M-380) Canada recognized the Armenian Genocide. Although it took some time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to recognize the Armenian Genocide, he did so in 2006.
How Canada Recognized the Armenian Genocide (Toronto Star)
Canadian Parliament Recognizes Armenian Genocide (CBC)
Canada and the Armenian Genocide (Genocide Centennial)
The Armenian Genocide Resource Collection
The Armenian Genocide (United to End Genocide)
Armenian Genocide Resources (History News Network)
The Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor)
Although there is no scholarly consensus on whether or not the Ukrainian Famine was a genocide, the Canadian Government established a Memorial Day for the victims of the Holodomor to occur on the fourth Saturday of November. This act was a response to the call of the Canadian Senate to the House of Commons to officially recognize the Holodomor.
Ukrainian Famine and Genocide Memorial Day Act (Government of Canada)
Holodomor Resources (Ukrainian Canadian Congress)
Genocide or a “Vast Tragedy”? (Literary Review of Canada)
The Soviet Famines: A Stalinist Genocide? (History News Network)
The Holocaust (Shoah)
Canada has for a long time recognized the Holocaust as a genocide. Countries all over the world came together in 2005 to designate a day as the annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the Holocaust. Canada is one of the many countries that recognizes this day and uses it to reflect on the dangers of anti-Semitism, and the horrors that come from genocidal acts.
The Holocaust (United to End Genocide)
Canada and the Holocaust (Government of Canada)
Canadian Holocaust Resources (Government of Canada)
Recognizing International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Government of Canada)
The Rwandan Genocide
While the events that unfolded in Rwanda killed at least 500,000 people and displaced millions more, Canada took a leading role in the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). Since then Canada has recognized the events that unfolded in Rwanda between 1993 and 1994 as genocide.
The Rwandan Genocide (United to End Genocide)
The Canadian Armed Forces in Rwanda (Government of Canada)
Our Rwandan Betrayal (The Globe and Mail)
Why Did Ottawa Ignore Warnings of Rwandan Genocide? (The Toronto Star)
The Role of the West in the Rwandan Genocide (Rwanda Stories)
Roméo Dallaire (The Canadian Encyclopedia)
Rwandan Genocide (Roméo Dallaire)
The World Still Failing to Act Despite Rwanda Genocide Shame (Amnesty International)
The Bosnian Genocide
In 2010, Canada adopted resolution M-416 that recognized the ethnic cleansing that took place in Bosnia as a genocide.
The Bosnian War and Srebrenica Genocide (United to End Genocide)
Bosnia Chides Canada Over Exclusion of Srebrenica in Genocide Recognition (CBC)
The Canadian Armed Forces in the Balkans (Government of Canada)
Canadian Forces Operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Government of Canada)
Other Genocides Recognized by STAND Canada
The following atrocities are not recognized as genocides by the Government of Canada but (a) took place after Canada’s ratification of the UN Genocide Convention in 1952, and (b) are recognized as genocide by many NGOs (Amnesty International, the Crisis Group, the Enough Project, Human Rights Watch, the Montreal Institute for Genocide Prevention, and United to End Genocide).
This list is not exhaustive with regard to atrocities that are on-going and may be revised at any time in accordance with STAND’s focus regions.
Atrocities committed Against the First Nations In the United States
During the colonization of the United States by settlers, many Indigenous peoples lost their lives and were brutally murdered with monetary rewards offered for their heads. The Indigenous population of the United States declined from 12 million in 1500 to 237,000 in the 21st century.
Indian Residential Schools In Canada
First Nations children who were placed in residential schools became victims of physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault, and loss of culture. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission ruled in 2015 that the residential school system amounted to cultural genocide of Canada’s First Nations.
Canada: Amnesty International Urges All Levels of Government to Implement Truth and Reconciliation Recommendations (Amnesty International)
Canada’s Conversation on Cultural Genocide (Active History)
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
How Canada Committed Genocide Against the First Nations People (Huffington Post)
The Cambodian Genocide was inspired by the agrarian socialism of the Khmer Rouge, which led to purges of the intelligentsia. It is estimated that 25% of the population in Cambodia was killed or died from malnutrition, and other diseases caused by the conditions the Khmer Rouge had placed them in.
The Cambodian Genocide (United to End Genocide)
Cambodia: Khmer Rouge Trial Verdict a Crucial Step Towards Justice (Amnesty International)
Cambodia: Stop Blocking Justice for Khmer Rouge Crimes (Human Rights Watch)
Cambodian Genocide (World Without Genocide)
Cambodia Tribunal Monitor
The genocide perpetrated by the Guatemalan government between 1981 and 1983 is also known as the silent Holocaust. The Guatemalan government targeted Mayan Indians, alleging that they were planning a communist coup. Six hundred and twenty-six villages were attacked and it is estimated that 200,000 people were murdered.
Scarce resources and animosity between ethnic and religious groups are some of the causes of the Darfur Genocide that started in 2003, and has continued today. In 2014 the United Nations released a statement, that estimated 300,000 have died.
Since becoming an independent state in 2011, South Sudan has faced great hardships, and is plagued with governmental corruption, inter-communal violence, fighting between rebel militia and the government and border conflicts with Sudan. Since ethnic conflict broke out in 2013, 10,000 people have been killed and more than 1.6 million have been internally displaced.
South Sudan Backgrounder (United to End Genocide)
What’s Happening in South Sudan? (United to End Genocide)
South Sudan (Genocide Watch)
UN Security Council Must Act Now to Check Impunity in South Sudan (Enough Project)
Central African Republic
Many organizations recognize the conflict between government forces and the Seleka rebel coalition as a genocide. The rebel forces have captured various towns, while former President François Bozizé was indicted for crimes against humanity and genocide. Muslims have been the primary targets, with almost 300,000 people internally displaced.
The World Still Failing to Act Despite Rwanda Genocide Shame (Amnesty International)
Central African Republic (Genocide Watch)
Central African Republic (Human Rights Watch)
Central African Republic (Enough Project)
UN Report Disputes Genocide Claims in CAR (Al Jazeera)
Genocide Watch has released a paper titled The Ten Stages of Genocide (2013) which is a useful classification tool and has been used by STAND in choosing their regions of focus.
Genocide is a process that develops in ten stages that are predictable but not inexorable. At each stage, preventive measures can stop it. The process is not linear and stages may occur simultaneously. Logically, later stages must be preceded by earlier stages, but all stages continue to operate throughout the process.
- CLASSIFICATION: All cultures have categories to distinguish people into “us” and “them” by ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality: German and Jew, Hutu and Tutsi. Bipolar societies that lack mixed categories, such as Rwanda and Burundi, are the most likely to experience genocide. The main preventive measure at this early stage is to develop universalistic institutions that transcend ethnic or racial divisions, that actively promote tolerance and understanding, and that promote classifications that transcend the divisions. The Catholic Church could have played this role in Rwanda, had it not been riven by the same ethnic cleavages as Rwandan society. Promotion of a common language in countries like Tanzania has also promoted a shared national identity. This search for common ground is vital to early prevention of genocide.
- SYMBOLIZATION: We give names or other symbols to the classifications. We name people “Jews” or “Gypsies,” or distinguish them by colors or dress and apply symbols to members of groups. Classification and symbolization are universally human and do not necessarily result in genocide unless they lead to dehumanization. When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups: the yellow star for Jews under Nazi rule, the blue scarf for people from the Eastern Zone in Khmer Rouge Cambodia. To combat symbolization, hate symbols (such as swastikas in Germany and Austria) and hate speech can be legally forbidden. Group marking like clothing or tribal scarring can be outlawed, as well. The problem is that legal limitations will fail if unsupported by popular cultural enforcement. Though Hutu and Tutsi were forbidden words in Burundi until the 1980s, code words replaced them. If widely supported, however, denial of symbolization can be powerful, as was the case in Bulgaria during the Second World War, where the government refused to supply enough yellow badges and most Jews did not wear them, depriving the yellow star of its significance as a Nazi symbol for Jews.
- DISCRIMINATION: A dominant group uses law, custom, and political power to deny the rights of other groups. The powerless group may not be accorded full civil rights or even citizenship. Examples include the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 in Nazi Germany, which stripped Jews of their citizenship and prohibited their employment by the government and by universities. Denial of citizenship to the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma is another example. Prevention against discrimination means full political empowerment and citizenship rights for all groups in a society, and discrimination on the basis of nationality, ethnicity, race or religion must be outlawed. Individuals should have the right to sue the state, corporations, and other individuals if their rights are violated.
- DEHUMANIZATION: One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases. Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder. At this stage, hate propaganda in media is used to vilify the victim group. In combating this dehumanization, incitement to genocide should not be confused with protected speech. Genocidal societies lack constitutional protection for countervailing speech, and should be treated differently than democracies. Local and international leaders should condemn the use of hate speech and make it culturally unacceptable. Leaders who incite genocide should be banned from international travel and have their foreign finances frozen. Hate propaganda should be banned and hate crimes and atrocities swiftly punished.
- ORGANIZATION: Genocide is always organized, usually by the state, often using militias to provide deniability of state responsibility (such as the Janjaweed in Darfur.) Sometimes organization is informal (mobs led by local militants), or decentralized (terrorist groups.) Special army units or militias are often trained and armed. Plans are made for genocidal killings. To combat this stage, membership in these militias should be outlawed. Their leaders should be denied visas for foreign travel. The U.N. should impose arms embargoes on governments and citizens of countries involved in genocidal massacres, and create commissions to investigate violations, as was done in post-genocide Rwanda.
- POLARIZATION: Extremists polarize groups. Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda. Laws may forbid intermarriage or social interaction. Extremist terrorism targets moderates, intimidating and silencing the center. Moderates from the perpetrators’ own group are most able to stop genocide, so are the first to be arrested and killed. Prevention may mean security protection for moderate leaders or assistance to human rights groups. Assets of extremists may be seized, and visas for international travel denied to them. Coups d’état by extremists should be opposed by international sanctions.
- PREPARATION: National or perpetrator group leaders plan the “Final Solution” to the Jewish, Armenian, Tutsi or other targeted group “question.” They often use euphemisms to cloak their intentions, such as referring to their goals as “ethnic cleansing,” “purification,” or “counter-terrorism.” They build armies, buy weapons and train their troops and militias. They indoctrinate the populace with fear of the victim group. Leaders often claim that “if we don’t kill them, they will kill us.” Prevention of preparation may include arms embargoes and commissions to enforce them. It should include prosecution of incitement and conspiracy to commit genocide, both crimes under Article 3 of the Genocide Convention.
- PERSECUTION: Victims are identified and singled out because of their ethnic or religious identity. Death lists are drawn up. In state-sponsored genocide, members of victim groups may be forced to wear identifying symbols. Their property is often expropriated. Sometimes they are segregated into ghettos, deported to concentration camps, or confined to a famine-struck region and starved. Genocidal massacres begin. They are acts of genocide because they intentionally destroy part of a group. At this stage, a Genocide Emergency must be declared. If the political will of the great powers, regional alliances, or the U.N. Security Council can be mobilized, armed international intervention should be prepared, or heavy assistance provided to the victim group to prepare for its self-defense. Humanitarian assistance should be organized by the U.N. and private relief groups for the inevitable tide of refugees to come.
- EXTERMINATION: Extermination begins and quickly becomes the mass killing legally called “genocide.” It is “extermination” to the killers because they do not perceive their victims as fully human. When it is sponsored by the state, the armed forces often work with militias to carry out the killing. Sometimes genocide results in revenge killings by groups against each other, creating the downward spiral of bilateral genocide (as in Burundi). At this stage, only rapid and overwhelming armed intervention can stop genocide. Real safe areas or refugee escape corridors should be established with heavily armed international protection. (An unsafe “safe” area is worse than none at all.) The U.N. Standing High Readiness Brigade, EU Rapid Response Force, or regional forces should be authorized to act by the U.N. Security Council if the genocide is small. For larger interventions, a multilateral force authorized by the U.N. should intervene. If the U.N. is paralyzed, regional alliances must act. It is time to recognize that the international responsibility to protect transcends the narrow interests of individual nation states. If strong nations will not provide troops to intervene directly, they should provide the airlift, equipment, and financial means necessary for regional states to intervene.
- DENIAL: Denial is the final stage that lasts throughout and always follows a genocide. It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses. They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims. They block investigations of the crimes, and continue to govern until driven from power by force, when they flee into exile. There they remain with impunity, like Pol Pot or Idi Amin, unless they are captured and a tribunal is established to try them. The response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts. There the evidence can be heard, and the perpetrators punished. Tribunals like the Yugoslav or Rwanda Tribunals, the international tribunal to try the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, or the International Criminal Court may not deter the worst genocidal killers. But with the political will to arrest and prosecute them, some may be brought to justice.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
STAND Mandate: No
While the DRC has been a long-time focus of STAND Canada, the threat of genocide is not growing in the Congo. Humanitarian aid and international assistance in the political and economic climate of the country should still be a high priority of the Canadian Government – but the nature of the conflict in this region suggests that there is internal discord over ownership of natural resources, increases in crimes against humanity and general conflict between the Government and rebel groups, but not the targeted extermination of a specific group. And while this environment is disconcerting, it does not at present require use of STAND’s resources. Our focus has been to research and raise awareness on regions at risk of genocide or undergoing genocide – and neither, according to our understanding of the word ‘genocide,’ applies to the DRC.
STAND Mandate: Yes
A combination of the amount of power ISIS has gained in Iraq and its targeting of the Yazidi population in the country (and other minority groups) indicates that genocidal acts have been committed in Iraq, and that such acts are at risk of increasing. Since 2014, ISIS has persecuted the Yazidi population through forced conversion and expulsion, abduction of women for the purpose of sexual slavery, and massacring at least 5,000 Yazidi civilians and displacing 200,000.
STAND Mandate: Yes
The presence of ISIS complicates an already turbulent Syrian civil war, but the threat of genocide is also present. The recent attack on the Druze population and prior attacks on the Syrian Christian community suggest targeted attempts at extermination of these groups. The rise of ISIS is indicative of an increase in targeted executions and human rights abuses by the group towards all minorities who not follow their brand of Islam and refuse to convert.
STAND Mandate: Yes
The civil war in the region between Government forces and rebel groups is split along ethnic lines. The position of one ethnic group holding the power in a country creates a space through which state actors are targeting groups not only because of their anti-government stance but also partly because of their ethnicity. Further, an ethnically fueled civil war can be exacerbated by a climate of famine, human rights abuse, displacement and poverty – all of which are at a high in South Sudan. These core factors warrant placing South Sudan on STAND’s genocide watch list.
[1-10 Previously] [Currently between 1-4]
STAND Mandate: Yes
President Omar Al-Bashir, who previously committed and administered acts of genocide by the state in Darfur, continues to be the illegally elected president of Sudan. His presence alone places Sudan on a genocide watch list, as the war under which the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of 2004 took place has still not come to an end. Further, due to Al-Bashir’s orders to massively scale back UN peacekeeping forces, the Canadian government’s drastically reduced presence in the region and a political climate that only grows more chaotic, it is believed that Sudan should remain on STAND’s ‘genocide watch list.’
STAND Mandate: Yes
The Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, though not violently persecuted, are unsettlingly cast aside. With state actors in the nation denying them citizenship and claiming that the “Rohingya problem” is virtually non-existent it is evident that the treatment of this minority population can easily worsen. Ignorance and denial of a population’s rights or existence are the starting stages of genocide, and thus far the nation’s government has not suggested that they intend to improve relations with this group. It is both timely and relevant for STAND to focus on Myanmar for the next year. It remains to be seen whether the the landslide victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in November 2015 will lead to an improvement in Myanmar’s human rights track record.
STAND Mandate: Yes
Violence escalated in Burundi in April 2015 following the contested election of President Pierre Nkrunziza. Hundreds of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled to neighbouring countries. The ethnic composition of Burundi – majority Hutu and minority Tutsi, as in Rwanda – quickly prompted media comparisons to start of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, although the international response has been mixed. Burundi was put before STAND’s town hall in November 2015, where it was decided that the country would be placed on STAND Canada’s watch list.