Genocide: The politics of Denial, Forgetting and the Work of Memory

October 07, 2016

Conference with Keynote by Doudou Diène

October 7–9 (Conference), Rooms 1900, 1700, & 2200, SFU Harbour Centre
October 15–16 (Film Screenings), Room 4955, SFU Woodward's, 149 W. Hastings St.

Organized by South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), in partnership with the Institute for the Humanities, Simon Fraser University, and with the support of Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences SFU, and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS) SFU (Maggie Benston Lecture Series).

Co-sponsored by Radical Desi Collective, Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians (CPPC), Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR), Canada Palestine Association (CPA), International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS) Canada, Seriously Free Speech Committee, Canada Palestine Network, South Asian Film Education Society (SAFES), Amnesty Richmond Group 92, Independent Jewish Voices, Department of Sociology Langara College, School for International Studies SFU, Department of History SFU, Asian Studies UBC, and VanCity. 

“to remember is the secret of redemption” –Jewish traditional commandment quoted, Alex Boraine in Hushed Voices, ed. Heribert Adam, 2011

Genocide, the most serious crime recognized by humanity today, was established in international law with the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide by the United Nations on December 9, 1948. It was the culmination of the life-long campaign of Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who created the term in 1944, that began when as a law student Lemkin became aware of the mass killings, expropriations, expulsions, rapes, and death marches of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire (present dayTurkey) in 1915 for which there was yet no name. With the end of WW II, the memory of the Nazi policy of extermination of Jews, which later named “the Holocaust” became a reference for genocide, made it possible for the nations of the world to accept what Lemkin had been proposing.

But the adoption of the Convention has not prevented genocides. Rather, genocides have continued and continue to be denied both by the perpetrators and nations anxious about their own vulnerability to the charge and defensive about any infringement of national sovereignty. The only result so far has been the establishment the International Criminal Court, which has not been able to achieve much, offering only selective justice that makes it vulnerable to criticism.

Yet the victims of genocide live with the effects of the trauma they have experienced in a world that continues to manifest the symptoms of these unresolved traumas. And the absence of recognition, memory, penalty, and resolution perpetuates injustice and enables further genocides.

This conference will focus on a few genocides that have an immediate bearing on Canada and the diasporas in Canada, particularly the South Asian diaspora. Its goal is to inform, revive memory, compel recognition, and mobilize support for organizations that are engaged in the struggle against genocide. Its ultimate goal is to seek justice for the past, advocate action against the current, and prevent future genocide. It is presented as a part of the emancipatory effort of those who have been denied justice and claim it on the ground of human rights within the critical awareness that the discourse of human rights and genocide has been appropriated by imperialism and deployed in the service of domination. 

Conference Program

  • October 7, 7:00 pm, Room 1900 | Keynote Address: “The Challenge of the Memory of Genocide,” Doudou Diene; moderator: Samir Gandesha
  • October 8, 10:00 am–5:00 pm, Room 1700 | Conference
    • Plenary #1: 10:15 am–11:00 am: Settler Colonial Genocide in Canada: moderator: Sunera Thobani, “Cultural Genocide and the Difficult Realities of Indigenous Languages in Canada,” Marianne Ignace; moderator: Zahid Makhdoom, “Genocide Studies and First Nations in Canada," Eldon Yellowhorn
    • Plenary #2: 11:00 am–11:45 am: Armenian Genocide: moderator: Zahid Makhdoom, "The Armenian Deportations and Massacres and the Emergence of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide," Alan Whitehorn in dialogue with David Barsamian
    • Plenary #3: 12:00 pm–1:00 pm: “Palestinian Genocide and Canadian State Complicity,” Hanna Kawas in dialogue with Sid Shniad
    • Lunch: 1:00 pm–1:30 pm
    • Panel #1: 1:30 pm–2:30 pm: The Nation State and Genocide: moderator: Sanzida Habib, "The1971 Genocide in Bangladesh,” Habiba Zaman; "The1984 Sikh Genocide in India,” Indira Prahst; "The 2009 Genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka,” Premrajah Chelliah
    • Panel # 2: 2:30 pm–3:30 pm: Colonialism, Capitalism and Genocide: moderator: Aiyans Ormond, "32 CSM: Unbroken Resistance to British Genocidal Policies in Ireland,” Julian Ichim; “Genocide in Mexico,” Daniel Mendoza; “Ethnocide of the Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines,” Chandu Claver
    • Concluding plenary: 3:30 pm–4:30 pm: moderator: Harinder Mahil, “Human Rights, Genocide and the West,” Adam Jones
  • October 9, 10:00 am–1:00 pm, Room 2200: Roundtable: Remembering for Action: the Unfinished Work of Memory: moderator: Jerry Zaslove, "Remembering the 1994 Genocide Perpetrated Against the Tutsi Minorities in Rwanda: The Worst Catastrophe of the Twentieth Century,” Lama Mugabo; The Colonial Legacy of Post-Colonial Genocides: “Adivasis and the People of the Margins in India,” Ajay Bhardwaj; “Religious Minorities and Hindu Nationalism in India,” Gurpreet Singh; “The Rohingyas, a People under Erasure in Myanmar,” Chin Banerjee; “Economics of Extinction: Earth/Mother, Land, Sacred Beings,” Annie Ross (This event is not open to the public)
  • October 15, 10:00 am–5:00 pm: Rm 4955, 149 W Hasting St, Vancouver: Film Screening
    • The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer; on Indonesia)
    • Enemies of the People (Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath; on Cambodia)
  • October 16, 10:00 am–5:00 pm: Rm 4955, 149 W Hastings St. Vancouver
    • Dialogue on Gujarat: Dionne Bunsha and Sunera Thobani (10.00 am–
    • Film screening: Final Solution (Rakesh Sharma, on Gujarat)


Doudou Diène
Marianne Ignace
Eldon Yellowhorn
Alan Whitehorn
David Barsamian
Hanna Kawas
Habiba Zaman


Joshua Oppenheimer
Rob Lemkin
Thet Sambath
Rakesh Sharma

Indira Prahst
Premrajah Chelliah
Julian Ichim
Daniel Mendoza
Chandu Claver
Adam Jones
Lama Mugabo

Ajay Bhardwaj
Gurpreet Singh
Chin Banerjee
Brian Campbell
Dionne Bunsha
Sunera Thobani


Dr. Chinmoy Banerjee, President, SANSAD

Anis Rahman, Secretary, SANSAD