Genocide: The politics of denial, forgetting and the work of memory

October 07, 2016

South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD)

Genocide: The politics of denial, forgetting and the work of memory

Conferenence:  October 7-9 SFU Harbour Centre 515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver

Films: October 15-16: SFU Goldcorp Centre For the Arts, 149 West Hastings Street,

RSVP to:

“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

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

The program of the conference

• 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; “Genocide
    Studies and First Nations in Canada moderator: Zahid Makhdoom,”
    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

    • 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

• 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

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). Cosponsored 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.


Dr. Chinmoy Banerjee, President, SANSAD
Telephone: (604) 421-6752, Email:
Office: 906-608 Belmont Street, New Westminster, B C. V3M 0G8

Anis Rahman, Secretary, SANSAD
Cell phone: 778-389-2491, Email:

Presenters and Moderators

Chinmoy Banerjee is a retired Associate Professor from the Department of
English, Simon Fraser University, where he taught from 1970 to 2005. He has been
active in struggles for democratic rights, human rights, and social justice since the
1970’s. He has participated in the formation of B C Organization to Fight Racism
and the Canadian Farmworkers’s Union in 1980. He is the president of South Asian
Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD) and Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation
and the founding past-president of South Asian Film Education Society.

David Barsamian is an investigative journalist, broadcaster and author. He is the
founder and director of Alternative Radio, which is in its 30th year.He has
interviewed and written books with Noam Chomsky, Eqbal Ahmad, Howard Zinn,
Tariq Ali, Richard Wolff, Arundhati Roy and Edward Said. His latest book of
interviews with Noam Chomsky is Power Systems. He is a winner of the Media
Education Award, the ACLU's Upton Sinclair Award for independent journalism,
and the Cultural Freedom Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. The Institute
for Alternative Journalism named him one of its Top Ten Media Heroes. He is the
recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rocky Mountain Peace
and Justice Center. He has collaborated with the world-renowned Kronos
Quartet in events in New York, London, and Vienna. He was deported from
India in 2013 because of his work on human rights abuses in Kashmir and
reports on people’s struggles elsewhere.
David grew up in New York in the shadow of genocide. His parents and other family
and friends were survivors of the Turkish genocide of the Armenians in 1915. His
paternal grandfather was disappeared in the 1895
massacres of Armenians. Twenty years later his maternal grandparents, three
uncles and other relatives were killed.

Ajay Bhardwaj
is a documentary filmmaker and PhD candidate in Asian Studies at
the University of British Columbia. He holds a Master’s degree in Political Studies
(from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi) and another MA in Mass Communications
from the AJK Mass Communications Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.
Bhardwaj has been making documentaries since 1997, starting with Ek Minute Ka
Maun ( A Minute of Silence), on the martyrdom of former President of the Jawaharlal
Nehru University’s student union Chandrashekhar Prasad. He has explored and
interrogated narratives of culture, politics, history, and identity in Punjab in a
documentary trilogy: Milange Babey Ratan De Mele Te (Let’s Meet at Baba Ratan’s
Fair); Rabba Hun Kee Kariye (Thus Departed our neighbours) and Kitte Mil Ve Mahi
(Where the Twain Shall Meet). His documentaries have been reviewed in academic
journals and screened at international film festivals, academic conferences,
community and activist events.

Dionne Bunsha is an award-winning author and journalist. She is the author of the
acclaimed non-fiction book, Scarred: Experiments with Violence in Gujarat (Penguin
India, 2006) about the aftermath of the communal violence in Gujarat. As a Senior
Assistant Editor for Frontline magazine ( in Mumbai, India, she
travelled extensively to report on human rights, social justice and environmental
issues. Dionne writes for The Guardian, The Hindu newspaper, the New
Internationalist, Guernica, Toronto Star and The Tyee. Dionne was a Knight
International Journalism Fellow at Stanford University in 2008-09. Currently, Dionne
coordinates a project mapping indigenous knowledge for Lower Fraser First Nations
and teaches communications at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Chandu Claver is the Chariperson of BAYAN Canada. He is an indigenous person
of the Igorot tribes of the Cordillera region in northern Philippines. He served as a
rural physician-surgeon in the remote Kalinga provice for 22 years. He has been an
advocate for the rights of native peoples, particularly their right to free, prior, and
informed consent and for the preservation and sustainable use of natural resources
in ancestral lands. He us an international spokesperson for the Cordillera People’s
Alliance for the Defense of the Ancestral Land and Natural Resources and for Self-

Doudou Diene was born in Senegal and served as the UN Rapporteur on the
contemporary forms of racism, racist discrimination, xenophobia and related
intolerance from 2002 to 2008. A prizewinner in philosophy from Senegal’s
Concours General, Doudou Diene has a degree in law from the University of Caen
(France), a doctorate in public law from the University of Paris, a Diploma in
political science from the Institut d’Etudes Politique, Paris and an Honorary Doctor
of Laws from the University of West Indies (Barbados).
Doudou Diene was the Deputy Representative of Senegal to UNESCO, 1972-1977
and served as Vice-President and Secretary of the African Group and the Group of
77. He joined the Secretariat of the UNESCO in 1977 and was Director of Division
of Inter-Cultural Projects. He is the author of numerous publications on intercultural
and inter-religious dialogue. He has served as the Vice-President of
International Council of Social Sciences and Philosophy and is the Chair of
International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.

Samir Gandesha is an Associate Professor in the Department of the Humanities
and the Director of the Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University. He
specializes in modern European thought and culture, with a particular emphasis on
the 19th and 20th centuries. His work has appeared in Political Theory, New German
Critique, Kant Studien, Philosophy and Social Criticism, Topia, the European Legacy,
the European Journal of Social Theory, Art Papers, the Cambridge Companion to
Adorno and Herbert Marcuse: A Critical Reader as well as in several other edited
books. He is co-editor with Lars Rensmann of "Arendt and Adorno: Political and
Philosophical Investigations" (Stanford, 2012). His book (coedited with Johan Hartle)
"Reification and Spectacle: On the Timeliness of Western Marxism" (University of
Amsterdam Press) is forthcoming later this year and "Aesthetic Marx" (Bloomsbury
Press) also co-edited with Johan Hartle will appear in 2017.

Sanzida Habib is a Research Associate at the Center for India and South Asia
Research in UBC. She also works with immigrants and newcomer caregivers in a
non-profit organization named Multicultural Helping House Society; and she’s a
volunteer board member at the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective.

Julian Ichim is the International Secretary and head of the International Department of the 32CSM. His task is to build unity with others who are also fighting the Anglo
American imperialist alliance, including people in Latin America and Indigenous and
progressive people in the Philippines. Ichim is also involved in anti poverty work
and welfare struggles. He is a member of the coordinating committee of the
International League of Peoples Struggle (ILPS) in Canada.
Marianne Ignace is the director of the First Nations Language Centre at Simon
Fraser University, and is professor in the departments of Linguistics and First
Nations Studies, also affiliated with the university’s Department of Sociology and
Anthropology. She currently directs a seven-year SSHRC Partnership Grant on First
Nations language revitalization in BC and Yukon, working with 12 diverse language
groups. Her own research has focused on Indigenous language revitalization and
language policies in Canada, She continues to work with elders and language
learners in her home community, Skeetchestn, in her adopted community, Old
Massett in Haida Gwaii and with Sm’algyax speakers and learners in Prince Rupert.
Her other interests are ethnobotany and Indigenous language story-wor

Adam Jones is Professor of Political Science at the University of British
Columbia in Kelowna, BC. He is the author of the widely-used textbook,
Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction (3rd edition forthcoming, Routledge,
November 2016), and author or editor of over a dozen other books, mostly on
genocide and crimes against humanity. He was selected as one of "Fifty Key
Thinkers on the Holocaust and Genocide" for the book of that title.
Hanna Kawas is a Palestinian born in Bethlehem, Palestine. He is a writer and
activist and has spent all of his adult life working for Palestinian national and
human rights, as well as supporting liberation movements all over the world. Hanna
is the chairperson of Canada Palestine Association, which was established in 1980,
and is also the co-host of Voice of Palestine. He is currently active with BDS
Vancouver-Coast Salish that has launched several campaigns.

Harinder Mahil
has been a labour, anti-racist and human rights activist since
1970’s. He has worked for the New Westminster local of the IWA, Province of
British Columbia and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada
(PIPSC). He was one of the founders of the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union (CFU)
and the BC Organization to Fight Racism (BCOFR). He was Chair of the British
Columbia Council of Human Rights from 1992-1997 and a human rights
commissioner for the British Columbia Human Rights Commission from 1997 to
2002. He has been a vociferous critic of the British Columbia government’s
dismantling the human rights commission. He was a member of the Canadian
delegation to the 1993 World Conference on Rights in Vienna.
Zahid Makhdoom is a lifelong champion of human rights. He has experienced
incarceration and torture in Pakistan for his activism and writings against the
genocide in East Pakistan (current Bangladesh) in 1971. He lives and works in
Vancouver as a member of the British Columbia Provincial Court judiciary.

Lama Mugabo is a Community Planner with twenty years of progressive leadership
experience. In 2005, Mugabo co-founded Building Bridges with Rwanda (BBR), an
organization that offers Canadians, the opportunity to travel to Rwanda, learn the
history, the culture and have the opportunity to work side by side with their Rwandan
counterparts to rebuild Rwanda. In 2008, Mugabo relocated to Rwanda where he led
a community development projects involving learning exchanges between North
American volunteers and researchers, to work on transformative project activities.
From 2008-2015, BBR built the Covaga Innovation Center, a weavers’ cooperative
that turns the problem of water hyacinth into a social economic opportunity. Covaga
weavers use the water hyacinth stems to weave baskets for local and international
markets. In addition, BBR facilitated a joint agriculture internship between
Washington State University and the National University of Rwanda. They built
infrastructure that helped residents of Gashora develop coping mechanism to
mitigate the impact of food insecurity, malnutrition and poor health. In collaboration
with local stakeholders, BBR organized education trips to visit development projects,
homes, ecological tours and interactions with local populations to learn about
Rwandan culture and history.

Aiyanas Ormond is the current Chairperson of the International League of Peoples
Struggle country chapter in Canada. He has worked as an organizer in East
Vancouver for two decades in class struggle, anti-imperialist and social justice
struggles. He currently works as a community organizer for the Vancouver Area
Network of Drug Users and is a member of the anti-imperialist organization Red
Sparks Union.

Indira Prahst teaches at Langara College, where she is past Chair of Department
of Sociology and Anthropology. She has written and presented internationally on
media discourses and violence, narratives and responses to the Sikh genocide and
modes of resistance through commemoration, language and art. She specializes in
Racism and Ethnic relations with a focus on state structures and postcolonial
violence, media discourses and its impacts on subjectivity. She is also concerned
with Neo-Nazi movements and the shadow of the German identity in contemporary
society. She is a special Columnist of the Indo-Canadian Voice Newspaper.
Premrajah Chelliah was born in Sri Lanka and worked with Tamil Refugee Action
Group in UK in late 70’s. He is a member of the Social justice committee of Gilmore
Park United Church, Richmond. BC. and has been active on refugee sponsorship
from Afghanistan and Syria. He is a Life member of the Tamil cultural Society of BC
since 1994 and spearheaded the fund raising for the tsunami victims in Sri Lanka. He
has represented the Tamil community in BC during the civil war and continues to
bring awareness of the human rights violations in Sri Lanka. He is a past member of
the British Columbia Nurses Union, and was a delegate at the BC Federation of
labour conventions. Currently he is the Treasurer of Amnesty International Richmond
Group 92 and Secretary of BC Seniors Shanthi Nilayam.
Annie Ross is an Indigenous artist and teacher. She is an Associate Professor in
First Nations Studies at Simon Fraser University.

Sid Shniad
is a lifelong social justice activist who spent most of his working life as
a trade union researcher at the Telecommunications Workers Union. He has been
active in the anti-war movement and is a founding member of Independent Jewish
Voices Canada (, where he is currently a member of the national
steering committee.

Gurpreet Singh is a broadcaster with Spice Radio and a publisher of monthly
magazine Radical Desi that covers alternative politics. He is also a contributor for
Georgia Straight and is a published author, who has written four books; Terrorism-
Punjab's Recurring Nightmare, Fighting Hatred With Love-Voices of the Air India
victims' families, Defenders of Secularism and Why Mewa Singh killed Hopkinson.

Sunera Thobani
is a feminist sociologist, academic, and activist. She is an
Associate Professor at the Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice
at the University of British Columbia. She is a founding member of Researchers
and Academics of Colour for Equality/Equity (R. A. C. E.) and former President of
National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) and the Director of the
Centre for Race, Autobiography, Gender, and Age (RAGA) at UBC.

Alan Whitehorn is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Political Science at
the Royal Military College of Canada and was a visiting professor in the JS
Woodsworth Chair in Humanities at Simon Fraser University (1994-1996). He has
published a number of academic and poetry books on genocide and was editor of
The Armenian Genocide: The Essential Reference Guide.

Eldon Yellowhorn
(Otahkotskina) is from the Piikani First Nation. Growing up on a
farm in a rural community brought many opportunities to explore the Oldman River
valley and the Porcupine Hills. His early adventures there had a big influence on his
decision to pursue a career in palaeontology and archaeology. He received degrees
in geography (BSc ‘83) and archaeology (BA ‘86) at the University of Calgary. He
was awarded a Community Scholar Fellowship by the Smithsonian Institution in
1988 and worked with the curator for North American archaeology in Colorado. He
began graduate school at Simon Fraser University, where he studied archaeology
(MA ‘93). He completed his student career at McGill University (PhD ‘02). He was a
member of the design committee that produced the exhibit for the Hall of the First
Peoples at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of
History) between 1992 and 2002 when the exhibit opened. He was appointed to
faculty at Simon Fraser University in 2002 where he teaches archaeology and first
nations studies. He was instrumental in establishing the Department of First
Nations Studies in 2012 and was its first chair. He is a long-time member of the
Canadian Archaeological Association and served on its executive committee as
President (2010–12). His research program brings him back to the Piikani First
Nation each summer where he continues to chronicle the historical and
contemporary manifestations of Piikani culture.

Habiba Zaman
is a Professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s
Studies at Simon Fraser University. Dr. Zaman is also an associate member of SFU
Labour Studies Program. She authored several books and reports including Breaking
the Iron Wall: Decommodification and Immigrant Women’s Labor in Canada (2006)
and Asian Immigrants in “Two Canadas”: Racialization, Marginalization, and
Deregulated Work (2012). She is a Board member of South Asian Network for
Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD) and South Asian Film Education Society

Jerry Zaslove has taught at Simon Fraser University from l965, mandatorily retired
in 2001. Essays and monographs began in coming of age in the Cold War;
influenced but not limited to radical ideas on utopian and anarchist-oriented ideas
in literature, art and culture in European literature and culture, especially authors
like Kafka, Brecht, and the Russians and Frankfurt School writers who still
preoccupy my thinking, teaching and engagements in society. I have written on
exile and memory, psychoanalysis and aesthetics, resilience and survival under
catastrophic circumstances of Exile and the critique of violence in order to ask how
do we survive or don’t in the Institutions we are housed in, including academic