Manitobans of many origins know well the tragedies and damage that has resulted from genocide mass atrocities in past and in contemporary history. Many of us or our fore families came to Canada and Manitoba seeking refuge from war, persecution, and various forms of mass atrocities. Many Manitobans or their fore families are or were survivors of specific attempts at genocide or other form of mass atrocities and witnessed the violence, rape, starvation, or deaths in prison camps that resulted. They are survivors of the Holocaust and the Holodomor and more recent mass atrocities in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sudan, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, just to name a few.
National day of Remembrance and Action on Mass Atrocities, April 23
On April 23, 2010, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity, led by the Honourable Roméo Dallaire and the Honourable Paul Dewar, was successful in passing an historic motion in the House of Commons that declared April 23 of each year as Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Mass Atrocities. This date was chosen in Honour of Lester B. Pearson’s birth date and in recognition of his commitment to peace and international cooperation to end crimes against humanity.
Social justice and human rights are an integral and fundamental aspect of Manitoba’s curricula and are fundamental concepts that bind Manitobans of all origins. Therefore, it is important that educators, students, and parents in our schools and communities observe of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Mass Atrocities on April 23. By doing so all Manitobans will have an annual opportunity to:
- remember victims of mass atrocities
- remember the lessons learned from each of these terrible events
- push forward efforts to prevent mass atrocities in the future
- renew our commitment to support those who have already suffered and survived such atrocities throughout the world
Genocide Prevention Education
There are many ways in which schools can participate either in commemorating this important day of remembrance, or by integrating genocide prevention education throughout the year. By doing so, schools provide opportunities for all to consider the cause of mass atrocities and genocide and ways to prevent such atrocities in the future.
These can include
- school announcements and moments of silence
- formal units of study that allow students to learn about the concept of genocide or about specific mass atrocities throughout the curriculum or in specific subjects
- designing and building school or classroom exhibits that tell the story of specific cases of genocide through multimedia, artefacts, letters, and stories
- school and divisional conferences, symposia, and workshops that focus on social justice issues and on peace education and genocide prevention
- outreach and support for survivors of mass atrocities in Manitoba and throughout the world
- participation in networks and organizations working to prevent genocide or support survivors
Examples of Genocide Prevention Strategies
Integration of units or learning activities related to genocide in general or specific historical or current instances of mass atrocities and genocide supports the implementation and directly relates to the Language Arts, Social Studies, and Arts curricula as human rights, social justice, and exploration of diverse perspectives are fundamental aspect of Manitoba’s curricula.
For example, teacher Marc Kuly after taking a Summer Institute on Storytelling for Peace and Human Rightsat the University of Manitoba decided to use the study of Ishmael Beah's book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier in his language arts classroom at Gordon Bell High School. Gordon Bell is a very diverse school population representing a cross-section of cultures, languages, socio-economic situations, and many from war-affected backgrounds. Marc created a collaborative, multi-grade teaching unit that explores human resiliency as evidenced by the personal stories of child soldiers and children affected by war. A number of his students were refugees from war affected backgrounds.
Marc’s project provided students with the opportunity to learn about and from one another and experience finding and telling important stories from their own lives to their peers. The Storytelling Class is a powerful film that was made about the experiences he and his students had and what they learned in the process. Although not without some challenges, Marc and his students learned to listen, respect each other’s differences and build bonds of friendship that cross the barriers that may be found in many contemporary schools. Marc’s efforts point to possibilities for storytelling to help heal and build peace and community.
During the 2008-2009 school-year, he has served as a consultant with the Manitoba School Improvement Program to expand the intercultural storytelling program he developed, "Many Voices, One World." This breakthrough program for young people unites groups of Canadian-born students with new Canadians. Marc Kuly is currently on leave and is a Senior Research Assistant in phase 2 of the Bridges Research Project with Dr. Jan Stewart from The University of Winnipeg. Marc Kuly authors two blogs that describe his work and his pedagogy. Kuly's Ugandan Odyssey & Kuly's Theory and Practice.
Whole school themes or initiatives can also be powerful tools. Some schools integrate school-wide exploration of human rights and social justice issues in their annual school plan.
For example, at General Wolfe School the English as an additional language teachers have used human rights as a year-long theme to unify and coordinated their EAL programming and the school has a strong focus on human rights and have participated in trips to the Holocaust Education Centre in the United States. A PowerPoint presentation that summarizes Isle Slotin’s (one of the EAL teachers) experience with the yearlong unit is available at: Teaching Values in Education.
In other schools, special student and teacher groups have been formed to show solidarity with the victims of war and mass atrocities or of devastating natural disasters or to support the survivors locally or internationally.
For example, Ubuntu Collège Louis-Riel grew out of an initiative that brought teachers and students together to demonstrate solidarity and support for survivors of genocide and war. It is a non-profit humanitarian organization comprised of Winnipeg university and high school students. The organization, in partnership with Ubuntu Edmonton raises funds to improve the lives of widows living in Kimironko (Kigali) and their families who suffered through the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Ubuntu Collège Louis-Riel also provides a welcoming environment for the many francophone African immigrants are and have been part of Louis-Riel's student body every year. Ubuntu provides an opportunity for students of all backgrounds to share their culture, while working with new friends to make a difference in the world.
Resources for Genocide Prevention Education
Educators and learners have the opportunity to draw on a wealth of web-based and other national and international resources to support the study of the causes and prevention of genocide and other forms of mass atrocities.
- Toronto District School Board (TDSB) as part of its equitable schools policy believes the tragedies and horrors of genocidal acts in the past and present must be studied and addressed. They have developed a course for Grade 11 History; College/University Preparation Course entitled Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity (CHG38).
- LEARN is an educational foundation supported in part by funding from the Quebec-Canada Entente for Minority Language Education. It offers several resources related to Teaching Genocide Promoting a culture of peace... by ensuring knowledge of genocides.
- STAND Canada was founded in 2005 and has become the leading organization in Canada for youth led anti-genocide advocacy and activism. Through tools like 1-800-Genocide and our monthly Darfur Digest, they seek to help Canadians to stay updated on the current situation in Darfur and provide them with actions they can do on a daily basis to make a difference. STAND has school and post-secondary chapters throughout Canada.
- Genocide Education Canada seeks to encourage teachers to teach the lessons of genocide - the importance of tolerance, of upholding human rights and democracy, and of helping others in need - and to help prepare them to effectively communicate those lessons in the classroom so that students will be challenged to think critically about the world that they live in and their role in it and be empowered to affect positive change as global citizens in the 21st Century. To that end, the Centre offers the Genocide Education Institute, a five-day institute that is held in Toronto each summer for teachers from across Canada and full-day workshops with secondary school students.
- The United Nations Association in Canada (UNA-Canada) works to make that vision a reality. UNA-Canada is a national non-profit organization promoting UN programmes and activities within Canada. It offers a variety of resources for educators in the Link and Learn section of the website.
- Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education is a non-profit organization that advances equality, social justice and respect for human dignity through innovative education programs in Canada and around the world. The organization offers several educators resources
- Remembering Rwanda is a Canadian website dedicated to commemorating the 10 anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda in 2004 and education to prevent genocide in the future. The website is an initiative of Vision TV.
- Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world. The website provides information and stories on human rights issues throughout the world.
- Journalists for Human Rights (jhr's) is a Canadian organization dedicated to improving information on human rights. They believe that creating rights awareness is the first and most necessary step to ending rights abuses. The organization has chapters in University’s and high schools (OUR CHAPTERS)
- Facing History is a website dedicated to empowering teachers and students to think critically about history and to understand the impact of their choices. Educator resource collections offered are organized by category and include publications, lesson plans, videos, current events, library resources, and more. Users may browse the resources offered by theme, scope and sequence, and time and place, or browse our library resources.
- Lessons from Rwanda: The United Nations and the Prevention of Genocide is an information and educational outreach programme run by the United Nations Department of Public Information. A variety of resources are available that will be of interest to educators including documents and audio-visual resources.
- The Holocaust Memorial Museum has some excellent resources on Preventing Genocide: Learn More and Take Action and Preventing Genocide.
- Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies offers a number of resources. Through its Occasional Paper Series and its web site, it collects and disseminates knowledge created by researchers about the historical origins of the mass killings that have become such a prominent part of our time. MIGS also focuses on teaching, workshops, conferences, and publications. Additional information and web links are made available on the website.
- Prevent Genocide International, established in 1998, is a global education and action network for the prevention of genocide and crimes against humanity. It offers education and other resources.
- The Genocide Education Project is a non-profit organization that assists educators in teaching about human rights and genocide, particularly the Armenian Genocide, by developing and distributing instructional materials, providing access to teaching resources and organizing educational workshops.
- Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) is an international non-governmental organisation that supports human rights learning; the training of activists and professionals; the development of educational materials and programming; and community-building through on-line technologies. HREA is dedicated to quality education and training to promote understanding, attitudes and actions to protect human rights, and to foster the development of peaceable, free and just communities. The organization offers Education and Training Resources which may be downloaded. The Crimes of War website and the related Crimes of War Educator’s Guide useful resources. The Guide is intended for use in senior level high school and post-secondary classes.
- Search for Common Ground (SFCG) is an organization dedicated “to transform the way the world deals with conflict - away from adversarial approaches and towards collaborative problem solving.” They work with local partners to find culturally appropriate means to strengthen societies' capacity to deal with conflicts constructively: to understand the differences and act on the commonalities. SFCG offers a number of resources, and most importantly, a very useful Resource Guide for Children and Youth that covers issues related to the impact of war on children and youth.
- The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Teachers site offers a variety of lesson plans related to teaching about genocide and the Holodomor. PBS Teachers. Thematic Teaching. Studying Genocide. Activity Ideas
- The University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies offers a variety of resources related to teaching about the Holocaust and genocide, including guidelines and curriculum models. Curriculum Models : Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies: University of Minnesota
- Genocide Watch is an organization dedicated “to predict, prevent, stop, and punish genocide and other forms of mass murder. We seek to raise awareness and influence public policy concerning potential and actual genocide. Our purpose is to build an international movement to prevent and stop genocide.” The center provides a variety of information and resources for learning about genocide.
- Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is the leading international human rights organisation working to secure rights for ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous people around the world
- The International Coalition For The Responsibility To Protect (ICRtoP) brings together NGOs from all regions of the world to strengthen the prevention and protection of peoples throughout the world from mass atrocities. The site provides current and useful information on crises in specific countries and regions
Supporting Survivors of Genocide and Mass Atrocities
Teaching about past or current examples of mass atrocities and genocide can be a very demanding, challenging, and emotional experience for teachers, students, and their families. It is more common than one may expect, that teachers and students and their respective families to be survivors or related to survivors of genocide or of war and social upheaval. In many classrooms today we can expect that some children have themselves and/or their families been refugees from war and oppression. Therefore, the study of the Holocaust, the Holodomor, or the recent atrocities such as Darfur and Rwanda can ‘awaken’ memories of past experiences for both for those who have a direct connection to survivors of long ago atrocities and or those more recent survivors of war and contemporary examples of genocide, ‘ethnic cleansing,’ and other mass atrocities.
Therefore, it may be useful for teacher to draw on resources and guides related to working with war affected children and survivors, as well as resources related to teaching about genocide that may assist them in preparing for and teaching the Holodomor. The list that follows provides some useful websites for these purposes
.Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture (CCVT) is a non-profit, registered charitable organization, founded by several Toronto doctors, lawyers and social service professionals, many of whom were associated with Amnesty International. The Centre offers a variety of online, print and media resources related to supporting victims of war and torture.
Save the Children, United Kingdom has some excellent resources related to issues faced by children, including war, refugee experiences, and rights.
The HealTorture.org website is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, and is a project of The Center for Victims of Torture. It offers a number of resources specifically for those working with youth.
For comments, suggestions, or corrections to the above material, please contact:
Multicultural Education Consultant