In 2015, the House of Commons designated April as Genocide Remembrance, Condemnation, and Prevention Month and commited to “[honouring] the memory of the victims of genocide and reflect on the root causes of these tragedies, so that they never happen again.”
In order to create a world that is more just, it is important to understand and analyze events throughout history. At Facing History, we want students to understand that people make choices and choices make history. Through studying genocide, students can see that history is not inevitable and they too can have profound impacts on shaping the present and future.
Why is it important that we confront such difficult histories of genocide?
- Our hope is that we when we understand patterns of behaviours, the roots of mass violence, that choices matter and recognize the signs of situations that may not be named 'genocide' yet, we are better equipped to prevent future atrocities.
- We have a responsibility to honour, remember and bear witness to the courage, resilience and experiences of victims.
We hope this non-exhaustive resource list helps support you in your work throughout Genocide Awareness Month and beyond.
1. Creating a Reflective, Courageous Classroom Community
- As Genocide Awareness Month begins and you consider the awareness you want to raise, have you done classroom contracting, community building, created opportunities for identity affirmation and are you prepared with examples of courage and resilience?
- When we teach about genocide students may despair and think it is inevitable. That's why it is important to know the progress that has been made, recognizing that we now have more tools and institutions to protect individual and collective rights with each decade. Consider exploring the impacts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with students.
2. Understanding Genocide
- Learn about lawyer and activist Raphael Lemkin’s efforts to make the world recognize mass murder and the origin and meaning of the term genocide as defined in the UN Genocide Convention.
- Consider facilitating a close reading on the following quote:
- “Equally important, Lemkin moved beyond showing the historical precedents for international laws and defined a new kind of international crime as:
[Acts] carried out against an individual as a member of a collectivity. The goal of the [crime] is not only to harm an individual, but also to cause damage to the collectivity to which the [individual] belongs. Offenses of this type bring harm not only to human rights, but also and most especially they undermine the fundamental basis of the social order.” (p 27-28, Totally Unofficial)
- By understanding the meaning of the term genocide and the human suffering to which it refers, students will be able to use it with care and be prepared to evaluate other people’s use of this important term.
- The Genocide Convention and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls protects people and groups. Every people group offers something critical to our humanity and we can’t lose sight that attempts at cultural destruction are not just about individual lives but also people groups.
- We have to recognize the different stages of genocide and part of the reason we specialize in genocide education is so that we don't get to the point of extermination. We stand up when we have more tools to prevent these genocides.
- What distinguishes genocide from mass murder and loss of human lives is the intentional destruction of groups and so these particular quotes outline why we value both individual lives and the groups affected. Wade Davis argues we need to come to this work by recognizing that all groups have a right to culture, language, life and each of these ways of living are part of our human repertoire. We value and remember not just the individual lives affected by genocide but also the groups affected.
- “Every culture has a unique answer to a fundamental question: what does it mean to be human and alive? And when the people of the world answer that question they do so in those 7,000 different voices of humanity. And those voices and those answers collectively become our human repertoire for dealing with the challenges we’ll confront in the coming centuries.” - Wade Davis
- “It’s not just part of who we are as survivors - it’s a part of who we are as a nation” - the Honourable Murray Sinclair. We share these scholar voices to help students understand- and respond -to the truth of our nation.
3. Case Studies
- See our resource database on genocide and mass violence. How do nations struggle with mass violence and the rule of law? How do communities work to achieve reconciliation, repair dispossession, and remember those lost?
- In the 90s, scholars, activists and Indigenous leaders began to demand that Canada recognize the treatment of Indigenous Peoples as genocide. What moral and ethical obligations might come with the recognition of the residential schools as genocide?
- Learn from Dr. Karine Duhamel about the gendered nature of colonization and genocide in Canada, with particular reference to testimonies shared during the National Inquiry and the histories of Indigenous women, girls, 2-Spirited and Transgender people.
- Learn from Ontario educator, Michael Anthony, on his journey teaching the genocide elective course and resources to teach about the Holodomor.
- While focusing on the Armenian Genocide during World War I, this e-book and unit plan considers the many legacies of the Armenian Genocide including Turkish denial and the struggle for the recognition of genocide as a "crime against humanity".
- This teaching idea can help you discuss genocide with your class, explore past and present instances of mass atrocities such as the Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar, and consider ways that individuals, communities, and governments can respond.
- In the following New York Times op-ed, Nicholas Kristof provides insight into the lives of Rohingya men, women, and children who have remained in Myanmar since the outbreak of violence in August 2017.
- Explore tools for resistance and truth in the face of terror and violence. In this lesson students interpret Arpilleras, tapestries woven by Chilean women, in order to learn about women’s protest against forced disappearances during Pinochet’s military dictatorship.
- During WWII, war and colonization in Asia saw gendered violence, unspeakable human cruelty and crimes against humanity. We examine this history alongside the genocidal atrocities in Europe to bring attention to their connections, the universals of human suffering under war and conquest, and the particulars of each history.
- Genocide Still Happens: This teaching idea offers suggestions for how you can discuss the current problem of genocide with your students. You can use the additional resources at the end of the lesson to provide students with historical context or a deeper exploration of contemporary case studies.
- Since the Genocide Convention was adopted in 1948, genocides have continued around the world. In this lesson focusing on the crisis in Darfur, students examine what it means to pursue Lemkin’s mission to stop genocides.
- Why, in recent years, has the Chinese government targeted a religious, ethnic minority, and what is the responsibility of the international community to respond? This teaching idea provided students with context for understanding China’s ongoing persecution of the Uighur Muslims.
4. Memory, Legacy, Judgement and Choosing to Participate
- Samantha Power coined the idea of being an Upstander and talks about a policy toolbox that societies need in order to create positive changes. Let’s ask students in class: What are our tools in our toolbox for social change?
- See how students across Ontario created meaningful responses to memoir and survivor testimony through art.
- Learn from Lorrie Gallant, a writer, illustrator, storyteller, visual artist, educator, Expressive Arts Practitioner, born and raised on Six Nations of the Grand River Territory Ontario, who shares an impactful, reciprocal and meaningful postcard activity that honours survivors.
- See how this Toronto classroom honoured and remembered Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirited People on October 4th.
- How do we remember and honour the past? This lesson plan on memorials engages students in the processes of both responding to and creating memorials.
- Yom Hashoa, Holocaust Rememberance Day, also falls in April this year. Use this classroom activity to help students think critically about memory, legacy, family and how we can respond to the call to never forget.
Please share the resources you use in your classroom in the comments below! We would love to hear from you.