FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 25, 2015
CONFERENCE ON GENOCIDE: PREVENTION TO JUSTICE HELD AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
TORONTO, CANADA – On the evening of March 20, the colloquium entitled “Conference on Genocide: Prevention to Justice” took place at the University of Toronto, St. George campus, with over 400 in attendance.
The conference was organized by the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Canada, hosted by the Armenian Students’ Associations of the University of Toronto St. George and Scarborough campuses and sponsored by the Sara Corning Centre for Genocide Education, the Osgoode International Law Society, Hillel of Greater Toronto, STAND, the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union, the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, the Armen Karo Student Association and the Armenian Youth Federation of Canada.
Rosalie Minassian, Chair of the Armenian Students’ Association Scarborough campus, welcomed guests and introduced conference moderator, Rupen Janbazian. “Tonight’s conference is entitled Prevention to Justice, for the sole reason that one is not possible without the other,” explained Janbazian, adding that “in order for future genocides not to occur, it is vital for real justice to prevail.” After his welcoming remarks, Janbazian introduced representatives of three organizations, Tanya Mordkovich from Hillel of Greater Toronto, Sheikh Mirza Ismail from Yezidi Human Rights Organization-International and Raffi Sarkissian from the Sara Corning Centre for Genocide Education, to provide their perspective on how genocide has impacted their respective lives. The three testimonies carried a common theme of loss and survival, and underscored the necessity of justice for crimes of the past to prevent their re-occurrence in the future.
Following the testimonies, Janbazian introduced the three guest lecturers, Dr. Fatma Gocek, Dr. Herny Theriault and Dr. Jermaine McCalpin respectively, to present their lectures on justice and prevention of genocides.
The lecturers utilized a comparative approach when discussing the Armenian Genocide by regularly referring to other genocides, such as that of the Jews, Tutsis, Native Canadians and Americans, Bosnians and Darfuris, when discussing the topic of justice and reparation. It was clear from their examples that there are many common themes among all genocides.
Dr. Fatma Muge Gocek of the University of Michigan presented her lecture entitled “Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present and the Collective Violence against the Armenians, 1789-2009.” Dr. Gocek provided historical background of the Armenian Genocide from the late 18th century onwards. The extensive research on perpetrator testimonies conducted by Gocek allowed her to provide insightful analysis on the moral and psychological conditioning of the Turkish population.
Gocek dedicated a portion of her lecture to focus on the effects that genocide denial has on the perpetrators. “When a perpetrators gets away with a violent crime, the violence becomes normalized; they lose their moral compass and cannot trust humanity,” said Gocek, adding that “the consequences are with us through the generations.”
Dr. Henry Theriault of Worcester University presented “The Armenian Genocide 2016-2025”, which focused on looking forward from the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Dr. Theirault is the Chair of the Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group (AGRSG), which recently completed its final report, “Resolution with Justice—Reparations for the Armenian Genocide,” a wide-ranging analysis of the question of reparations for the Armenian Genocide.
Theriault made it clear that the recognition and reparations for genocide are vital to end the crime once and for all. He pointed out that the victims of the crime are “assuaged and demeaned” every day that justice is not done. He also highlighted the importance and complexity of the issue of reparations. “Harms of the Armenian Genocide are very much present today. They affected the Armenian demographic: assimilation into Muslim families, birth rates, malnutrition, loss of religious and cultural values, lost properties, land, businesses and properties. This mass theft was the basis of the economy of the 1923 Republic,” explained Theriault.
Dr. Jermaine McCalpin of the University of the West Indies and member of the AGRSG presented his lecture entitled “Reparations and Genocides.” Dr. McCalpin dedicated his lecture to exploring the common characteristics of different genocides to highlight the importance of proactive action. He stressed that he did not view denial as the last stage of genocide, as is commonly stated. Rather, he explained that it is important to understand that genocide is a cycle and that denial is the fuel that allows mass atrocities to occur. He concluded his lecture by outlining the steps that perpetrators must take to reconcile with their victims and move forward from their past crimes.
Attendees were given the opportunity to direct their questions to the lecturers after their presentations.
All three lecturers concluded that the issue of justice and reparations cannot be looked at in the context of a single group. Instead, global-scale reparation of the past 500 years must be examined to help right the wrongs of history and prevent the harmful reoccurrence of genocides in the future. It was pointed out that the collaboration of various ethnic groups is vital in order to move towards a global justice and prevention movement.