Why are we here?
Genocide is a recent term. In 1944, when news on what would become known as ‘the holocaust’ was reaching general audiences, it was, like today, inconceivable. In response, Jewish scholar Raphael Lemkin created the term –his notebooks are filled with failed attempts– from the Greek “genoc” to mean tribe and Latin “cide” to mean murder. But no Nazis at the time were tried for genocide, and Hitler never even heard the term. Its meaning is deeper, its allegations older, and its permutations newer. Its questions today remain unanswered.
Canada is no stranger to genocide, although Canadians sometimes can be. We are a nation founded on genocide, in an era when genocide has fallen out of vogue. We continue to exist on stolen land from murdered indigenous peoples, and we continue the theft along with the murder. Canada went on to suppress other minorities (any list would oversimplify) much of which continues today. It makes us uniquely able to study the topic, to review our history, to understand today, and to prepare for tomorrow. As Heschel said “We are not all guilty, but we are all responsible.”
In this contemporary review, we hope to better comprehend the past and the present from our current standpoint. The topics are broad and can only be understood with serious analysis of its different embodiments. It’s possible that, given the constantly changing abuses, a study of genocides and political violence will never be complete. As such, we nonetheless hope to make a small contribution to a global exchange.