BRAMA, February 2, 2008, 9:00 am ET|
Canadian MP raises concerns over omission of Ukraine famine-genocide from school course
In his letter to John Campbell, head of the Toronto District School Board, M.P. Borys Wrzesnewskyj
expressed his concerns that information about the 1932-1933 Holodomor (famine genocide) in Ukraine was excluded from
TDSB’s grade 11 course entitled Genocide: Historical and Contemporary Implications.
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January 30, 2008
Toronto District School Board
5050 Yonge St.
Toronto, ON M2N 5N8
Let me begin by congratulating you on your recent election as Chair of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), the most diverse school board in a province and country that are recognized across the world for their commitment to multiculturalism. I am confident that your previous experience as Chair of the Administration, Finance and Accountability Committee has prepared you for the challenges that lie ahead.
It is my understanding that the Ontario Ministry of Education has approved the TDSB’s grade 11 course entitled Genocide: Historical and Contemporary Implications. As someone who has devoted a considerable amount of time to addressing human rights issues in the former Soviet Union and who has organized, financed and led fact-finding missions to devastated Somalia and the Darfur region of Sudan, I applaud the introduction of a full-credit course which will allow students to study, explore and confront genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It will provide young students with a historical context of the horrific consequences of traveling down the path of intolerance or a belief in racial or religious superiority.
John, you are probably unaware that I am a founding member and serve on the executive of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, whose first chair was Senator Rome'o Dallaire. We often engage in discussions about the importance of education in the prevention of future crimes against humanity.
I have also had the opportunity to lecture and engage on the issue of genocide with University of Ottawa students who take Professor Dominique Arel’s course “Political Violence: The Comparative Study of Mass Killing.” During this particular lecture I illustrated three categories of genocide and variants thereof. The first category of genocide is the most primitive and common form of genocide; this form of genocide, which predates written history, I call the “hurricane of hatred” when one tribe descends upon another with the intent to massacre the other tribe’s members. In the 20th century, the world was frozen by a lack of political resolve when a “hurricane of hatred” descended upon Rwanda.
The second form of genocide, “genocide by attrition,” appeared as a contemporary of human civilization and written history. Typically, this form of genocide entailed a city state’s population being surrounded militarily, allowing hunger and disease, that is, “genocide by attrition.” In the 20th century the world stood by as Stalin encamped “Europe’s breadbasket” in Ukraine, millions of peasants were starved through a “genocide by attrition” all the while grain produced on these fertile fields was being exported to the West. This particular “genocide by attrition” not only deserves special note as it had the largest number of victims by this form of genocide, but also because there continues to be “holodomor/genocide denial” by the Russian Federation and fellow travelers. Shockingly, Russian politicians such as President Putin pride themselves as the inheritors of Stalin’s political legacy, and have even applied pressure in international forums (including in meetings with Canadian government officials) to deny this genocide.
Finally, there is the third category of genocide of which there is only one horrific example, “the Holocaust.” A genocide by which politicians engaged not just soldiers, but highly educated engineers and scientists in its meticulously planned “Final Solution.”
While I applaud the introduction of a course by the TDSB that “investigates examples of genocide in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries,” I am perplexed and disturbed that one of the greatest mass murders in European history and the most horrific example of “genocide by attrition,” the 1932-1933 Holodomor (famine genocide) in Ukraine, a famine master-minded and carried out by the Soviet regime under Joseph Stalin, is not explicitly mentioned along with the “Holocaust, Armenia, and Rwanda” (see PDF file). This is especially worrisome as there is no lack of “holodomor/genocide” deniers in Canada.
John, a number of constituents, who are also your constituents, have raised concerns with me about the omission of the mention of the Holodomor in this course description. I have also been contacted by Mr. Marco Levytsky, editor of Ukrainian News, a national Ukrainian Canadian newspaper, seeking answers to the following questions:
- Why was the Holodomor omitted from the list of genocides to be explicitly studied?
- Are there any plans to rectify this omission?
- If so, is the TDSB willing to work with the Ukrainian Canadian community to rectify this omission?
I would ask you to review the issues and concerns that I and many others in Toronto are raising and would appreciate meeting with you on this issue.
Borys Wrzesnewskyj, M.P.
Bruce Davis, Trustee (Ward 3 Etobicoke-Lakeshore)
Marco Levytsky, Editor & Publisher Ukrainian News
Hon. Yoine Goldstein, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
Hon. Raynell Andreychuk
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