Belonging, Learning and Growing: Diversity Education banner

Diversity Education

Education and the Prevention of Genocide


HolocaustManitobans 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

Top of page

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

Top of page

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 Rights at 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.

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.

Top of page

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. 

Canadian Resources
  • Canadian Museum for Human Rights provides reference and resources related to special exhibitions that are being featured at the museum
  • Toronto District School Board (TDSB) as part of its equitable schools pol icy 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).
  • The Foundation for Genocide Education seeks to work with governments to ensure that genocide education is taught in high schools in Canada and in the United States. As well, it offers presentations on genocide prevention and education.
  • The International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies is a post-secondary research institute focusing on genocide and its prevention. It also publishes a journal, Genocide Studies International.
  • Sara Corning Centre for Genocide Education in Ontario offers online learning modules on The Armenian Genocide, Genocde Denial, Historical thinking concepts, andCanada and the Armenian Genocide.
  • The Zoryan Institute promotes scholarship and public awareness relating to issues of universal human rights, genocide, and diaspora-homeland relations. The website provides information on the activities of the organization and resources.
  • 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
  • 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.

International Resources

  • World without Genocide provides a number of resources related to genocide education including information on specific examples of genocide. Of interest to educators are the Toolkits for Action.
  • United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect the site offers information about the UN`s work in Genocide prevention.
  • The Genocide Education Project is dedicated to assisting educators in teaching about human rights and genocide, particularly the Armenian Genocide. It does so by offering instructional materials, teaching resources and organizing educational workshops.
  • 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. Holocaust
  • 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 Educator’s Guide  is a useful resource. 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, including Understanding Genocides Our Age of Sufffering.
  • 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 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.

Top of page