In 1948 the United Nations formally codified genocide as a great crime against humanity. The concept was new, even the word was new, it was “first coined by Polish lawyer Raphäel Lemkin in 1944 in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. It consists of the Greek prefix genos, meaning race or tribe, and the Latin suffix cide, meaning killing. Lemkin developed the term partly in response to the Nazi policies of systematic murder of Jewish people during the Holocaust.” Mr Lemkin did not want the term genocide to represent only the Holocaust ~ which, because of its association with the ritual sacrifice of a “burnt (cooked) offering” is how I prefer to refer to the organized murder, by the Nazi Germans, with the complicity of many other Europeans, of six million Jews in the 1930s and ’40s ~ but the definition of the crime is that it requires the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” That leaves a hole through which lawyers can drive trucks.
That the Holocaust of the Jews in the 1930s and ’40s was a genocide is beyond question. We know the intent was there because Martin Luther, an interior decorator who became an undersecretary at the Nazi Foreign Ministry, was a participant at the infamous 1942 Wannsee Conference and he neglected to destroy his copy of the proceedings after the fact, so we know that the intention was to destroy the Jews ~ no matter if you define Jew as a religion, a nation, an ethnicity or even as a race.
But ever since 1948 there have been persistent arguments that other events are also genocides. Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is, for example, regularly cited, particularly by those who want the “final solution of the Jewish question” to be completed, in the 21st century as Hitler and Heydrich and the others planned 80 years ago.
The question of whether undeniable attempts at “ethnic cleaning” by e.g. Turkey in Armenia circa 1915 and by Bosnian Serbs in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s rises to the standard of a genocide is still being debated. Lawyers ask: was “intent to destroy” present or were they something less, attempts to drive people out of their homes and just “away,” to somewhere, anywhere else? Presumably, if the latter was the case, then “ethnic cleansing” is less than “genocide.”
Which brings me to Canada’s genocide.
In 2019, as Erna Paris, an author and Vice President of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, explained in an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail, the “report [on] the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has conflated the recent murders of women and girls with the entirety of the Indigenous experience in Canada, past and present, then framed its conclusions under the powerful rubric of genocide, for which both past and present federal governments are held directly responsible.” That the abduction and murder of far too many indigenous women and girls or even the entire residential schools episode should be equated to a genocide is ludicrous and, sadly, one stupid comment ruined an otherwise useful report. But it was enough, because Canada has a stupid prime minister and Justin Trudeau, being a short-sighted fool, couldn’t resist agreeing with that stupid assertion. By so doing he pur himself and his cabinet and his country into an uncomfortable position.
And that brings me, of course, to China and the House of Commons vote which declared that China is guilty of a genocide. Some lawyers will say that, like Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank, and like the actions of the Bosnian Serbs 25 years ago, what China is doing does not rise to the standard required to say “genocide.” Others, including former justice minister Irwin Cotler say it does. By stepping into the Canadian genocide debate when he should not have, Prime Minister Trudeau has made his current position (trying, somehow, to play both ends against the middle) untenable.
So, here we are: Canada’s Parliament has made the right choice. It has spoken out, loudly and clearly. But the Government of Canada is offside, again … it is on the wrong side of history, again. All because 39.47% of those who bothered to vote in 2015 and 33.12% of us in 2019 decided to vote for a Party led by a dimwit. Let us, please, stop making that mistake. Justin Trudeau is a fool. Keeping him in office will not change that.