ERNA PARIS, C.M., is the author of seven acclaimed works of literary non-fiction and the winner of twelve national and international writing awards for her books, feature writing, and radio documentaries. Her works have been published in fourteen countries and translated into eight languages. Long Shadows: Truth, Lies, and History was chosen as one of “The Hundred Most Important Books Ever Written in Canada” by the Literary Review of Canada. In May 2007 Long Shadows inspired the Canadian House of Commons motion to apologize, on behalf of the government, to survivors of Canadian residential schools. In June 2002 it inspired a resolution in the United States House of Representatives to create a monument to American slaves on the Washington Mall. (For more information, please see Awards and Honours.)


The Sun Climbs Slow: The International Criminal Court and the Struggle for Justice was first on The Globe and Mail's “best book of the year” list and shortlisted for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.


Her most recent book is From Tolerance to Tyranny: A Cautionary Tale from Fifteenth-Century Spain.


Erna is a member of the Honorary Council of the Canadian Centre for International Justice; a member of the Canada Committee of Human Rights Watch; an executive member of the World Federalist Movement-Canada; a vice-president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association; and a past chair of the Writers' Union of Canada. Erna is a frequent contributor to the opinion page of the Globe and Mail. In 2012, she was awarded the World Federalist Movement – Canada World Peace Award. In 2015 she was appointed to the Order of Canada.


Wednesday, November 14, The Globe and Mail

Last week, Germany memorialized the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht – “the night of broken glass” – during which 1,400 synagogues and innumerable Jewish businesses throughout the country were vandalized. There were dozens of killings on that day, Nov. 9, 1938. At least 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

It was the visible unravelling of the old as a violent new social order was born, yet the savagery had not emerged from a void, as many have since argued. For almost a century, anti-Semitic speech had been increasingly normalized in public discourse. The brutality of Kristallnacht was an unsurprising outcome once a leader able to channel hatred arrived on the scene. [more]

Friday September 14, 2018, The Globe and Mail

It was only a matter of time. This week, in his first major public address as Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton attacked the International Criminal Court. He could have used his pulpit to opine about Russia, North Korea, or Iran. Instead, he chose to fulminate against international justice, his decades-long obsession. For Mr. Bolton, the ICC is the epitome of what he hates, which is anything that challenges American exceptionalism. What he conjured up was an epic battle between so-called global governance and the nation state. [more]

Friday August 31, 2018 The Globe and Mail

A United Nations fact-finding mission on the anguish of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar has put the world on notice. By naming six alleged perpetrators, including the army commander-in chief, and by using the term “intent to commit genocide,” three independent commissioners have effectively challenged the international community to uphold criminal accountability and the rule of global law at a time when respect for the postwar legal order is weakening.

Genocide — the most odious crime ever codified — is a legal, not a descriptive, term. Leaders and institutions are normally wary of the accusation because it incurs serious international obligations. According to the 1948 Genocide Convention, member states must not only attempt to prevent this crime, but also punish perpetrators of it. [more]

Friday June 1, 2018, The Globe and Mail

Should the Jews of Hungary pack their bags? Those with an eye to history might wonder. Last March, in a formal speech commemorating the 170th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, President Viktor Orban said the following:

“They do not fight directly, but by stealth; they are not honourable, but unprincipled; they are not national, but international; they do not believe in work, but speculate with money; they have no homeland, but feel that the whole world is theirs. They are not generous, but vengeful, and always attack the heart – especially if it is red, white and green [the colours of the Hungarian flag].” [more]

Friday April 27, 2018, The Globe and Mail

Multiculturalism with a capital M was born of smart crisis management – of political agility and the characteristic Canadian willingness to compromise in the service of national unity and nation building. The trigger, as you may know, was the Quebec crisis of the 1960s and early 1970s, when the so-called “Quiet Revolution” exploded into nationalism and violence. In 1963, the government of Lester B. Pearson created the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism to recommend means of defusing the issue.

But something unexpected happened. Paul Yuzyk, a new senator from Saskatchewan, spoke up. Canada, he said, was not “bicultural,” but “multicultural.” The commissioners were shrewd enough to understand what Mr. Yuzyk meant: He was saying that a solution for Quebec had to include the rest of Canada, or it wasn’t going to fly. So they agreed to take into account the contribution made by other ethnic groups to the cultural enrichment of Canada – and how to safeguard that contribution. [more]

Will Gina Haspel, Trump’s nominee to head the CIA, be rewarded for torture?

Friday April 6, 2018, The Globe and Mail Although ordinarily somnolent, the black dog of unaddressed history will sometimes warn about obscured misdeeds. U.S. President Donald Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to head the Central Intelligence Agency has triggered just such a wake-up – for Ms. Haspel’s history with the CIA includes practising torture – […]

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Will Canada finally deal with its Afghan war skeletons?

Friday January 4, 2018, The Globe and Mail Eugene Ionesco’s comic play, Amédée, featuring a “corpse” in a closet that extends grotesque members during an urbane dinner party, was almost certainly intended to spoof the blindness of the French to their wartime collaboration with the Nazis; but the playwright’s metaphor can be extended to other […]

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What happened to respectful debate in Canada?

Tuesday November 7, 2017, The Globe and Mail Will Trumpism come to Canada? When asked over the past year, I’ve said no. Canadian respect for diversity, an economy that has stayed afloat and our reputed politeness have made such an evolution improbable – at least in the near term. That’s still true, but we’re seeing […]

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U of T Senior College Talks: Why Multiculturism Matters

Wednesday September 13, 2017, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm The Faculty Club Faculty Club, 41 Willcocks St, Toronto, ON M5S 1C7 Contact: Senior College 416-978-7553 Multiculturalism is Canada’s greatest strength in these early years of the 21st century. It is the reason we have not fallen prey (so far) to the populist movements afflicting […]

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In a dangerous world, the ICC needs support

Monday July 31, 2017, The Globe and Mail Last month, Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, presented the tribunal’s 25th report on Darfur to the United Nations Security Council. Goodbye to the tea and crumpets of diplomatic niceties. Ms. Bensouda was angry. The council had referred the situation in Darfur to […]

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When words become weapons, repression follows

Wednesday July 12, 2017, The Globe and Mail It appears we can become accustomed to anything, provided it’s repeated often enough. What may have appalled us last year, or the year before, eventually loses its edge and is rendered normal. Think of the way highway speeding ratchets up as drivers accelerate to maintain the faster […]

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Will a populist anti-immigration agenda come to Canada?

Join Erna Paris and a renowned panel of speakers at this London, Ontario event. Monday, May 29th, 2017 Doors open at 6:00p.m. (6:30pm pre-event concert). For more information, visit Wolf Hall Debates The question on the floor: Will a populist, anti-immigration agenda come to Ottawa in 2019? Probably yes? or, Probably no? As we’ve seen […]

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For France, Macron’s victory is a reprieve only

Monday, May 8, 2017, The Globe and Mail A heavy sigh of relief could be heard in Brussels and across most Western capitals on Sunday after Emmanuel Macron won France’s second round of voting. Had his opponent Marine Le Pen become France’s next president, the beleaguered European Union might have taken a fatal nosedive into […]

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Countries that forget history become easy prey for demagogues

Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, The Globe and Mail ‘Be prepared, that’s the Boy Scouts’ marching song …” That’s how singer Tom Lehrer began one of his satirical ditties in a more innocent time. Mr. Lehrer’s borderline naughtiness appealed to the adolescents of my generation; now, as the world teeters on the edge of transition, his […]

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Fragility and discontent: We can only hope history isn’t repeating itself

Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, The Globe and Mail Words matter. That’s how the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum responded after a curious meeting in Washington last week. “The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words,” the museum said in a statement Monday after a white supremacist conference was held days earlier, just […]

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International Criminal Court: A fight that Canada must lead

Wednesday November 9, 2016, The Globe and Mail Is Canada back? That’s what the government of Justin Trudeau has been telling us. If so, an opportunity to demonstrate this claim has just landed in its lap. Canada practically created the International Criminal Court – and the court is in trouble. The ICC is the world’s […]

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The F.E.L. Priestley Lecture Series presents Erna Paris

University of Lethbridge Thursday, October 27, 2016 7:30pm – 9:30pm Location: PE250 “Why Multiculturalism Matters” Multiculturalism can no longer be seen as a feel-good political program to keep minority populations happy. On the contrary, the rights and social attitudes that underpin policies of multiculturalism have become the foundation of peaceful co-existence in ethnically mixed democracies. […]

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Canadians must never take multiculturalism for granted

Thursday July 7, The Globe and Mail It may be un-Canadian to boast, but in the wake of Brexit, rising European xenophobia and the bellowing of Donald Trump, Canada looks like an island of stability. In historical terms, most Canadians are immigrants, meaning that our leaders have had to nation-build with nuance and compromise. Because […]

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Obama’s Hiroshima visit: A compromise with history

Wednesday, May 25, 2016, The Globe and Mail If you have read John Hersey’s classic book Hiroshima, you may recall the sights that will confront President Barack Obama on Friday when he enters the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. There he will see a life-sized display of a wounded family staggering toward the Ota River. Their […]

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Should Canada close its doors to controversial French comic?

Friday May 6, 2016, The Globe and Mail The controversial French comedian Dieudonné is booked to perform 10 shows in a small Montreal gallery starting next week – if he’s allowed into the country. Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has called him persona non grata. Federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly has pointed out that discriminatory speech […]

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To have meaning, ‘genocide’ must be protected from political exploitation

Tuesday, Mar. 22, 2016, The Globe and Mail “The crime of crimes” just entered the frenzy of U.S. politics. Last Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the actions of the Islamic State against Christians and other minority groups in Syria and Iraq constitute an act of genocide. This highest-level designation was long […]

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Order of Canada

“To be recognized by one’s country… I am overcome with gratitude.” Erna Paris, December 30, 2015 Erna has been appointed to the Order of Canada. The citation reads: “Erna Paris is one of Canada’s leading human rights commentators and activists.  An award-winning journalist and author, she has never hesitated to address sensitive issues in order […]

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Will we overcome fear-driven leaders in 2016?

Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, The Globe and Mail Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold/… And what rough beast, its hour come at last/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? – Yeats, The Second Coming As Christmas approaches, these words, written in 1919 by W.B. Yeats occupy my mind. Within a few years, the first incarnation […]

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Muslims in France: a cautionary tale

Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, The Globe and Mail Many are searching for reasons for last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris. Was it a failure of French intelligence? Faulty border controls? Possibly both. But there’s a deeper issue that Western countries would be wise to consider. Since the end of the Algerian colonial war in 1962, […]

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Finding the facts of the MSF bombing

Monday, Nov. 16, 2015, The Globe and Mail The pictures are shocking. A hospital engulfed in flames, helpless patients and staff trapped inside. A mangled bed upended against what remains of a destroyed wall. This was the aftermath of the U.S.-led aerial bombing of a Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, […]

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Erna Paris: Canada is not immune to the most dangerous tactic in politics

October 26, 2015, Ottawa Citizen There’s a new narrative at play in post-election Canada. The past was dim, but the future is bright. We were worn down after a decade of authoritarian one-man rule and we voted for sunny change. We also defied the worst of identity politics, we tell ourselves. We collectively rejected Stephen […]

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The UN, Syria and a Crisis in Confidence

Thursday, September 10, 2015, The Globe and Mail “The United Nations should help,” said the Syrian refugee who had walked for hundreds of kilometres, only to be obstructed by police in Hungary. What do we say to this man about our apparent impotence in the face of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad? What do we say […]

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A wanted man, a defiant African Union

Wednesday, June 17, 2015, The Globe and Mail Move over John Le Carré. Your fanciful heroes can’t compete with real-world escapees from justice. On Monday, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, twice indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide in the ethnic cleansing of 300,000 of his country’s non-Arab citizens and the displacement of millions of […]

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Know the truth, make amends

Friday, June 05, 2015, The Globe and Mail On May 1, 2007, Gary Merasty, then the Liberal MP for Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, stood in the House of Commons to move that the government of Canada apologize to aboriginal peoples for the decades of mistreatment their children had experienced. On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper […]

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The Last Auschwitz Trial: A Link in the Chain of Genocide

Tuesday, Apr. 28 2015, Globe and Mail A frail, anxious-looking man of 93 sits in a German courtroom – minus his SS uniform. Oskar Groening is charged with complicity in the murder of 300,000 Jews in the Auschwitz death camp during the spring of 1942. His specific job was to rifle through the belongings of […]

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10 Books With Global Themes to Read This Spring

From Tolerance to Tyranny: A Cautionary Tale from Fifteenth-Century Spain explores the consequences of anti-minority politics, such as we are seeing in many places today, including Canada. View the complete list

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Long Shadows e-book, 2015

Long Shadows: Truth, Lies, and History is now available as an e-book. Indigo/Chapters Kobo

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From Tolerance To Tyranny: A Cautionary Tale from Fifteenth-Century Spain, Cormorant Books Available as an e-book on Amazon Kindle, Kobo and the iBooks store. Erna is happy to announce the publication of From Tolerance to Tyranny: A Cautionary Tale from Fifteenth-Century Spain, an updated edition of her 1995 best-selling, award-winning book, The End of Days. […]

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Excerpt: From Tolerance to Tyranny

The following excerpt was published in the Ottawa Citizen January 20, 2015. The most elusive question about tyranny is this: How are ordinary people persuaded to comply passively with injustice, or to take the next step and actively turn on neighbours with whom they may have lived in peace for decades, or even centuries? A […]

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A Language that Conceals

Kazuo Ishiguro, author of Remains of the Day, points to Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History as an influence on his new novel, The Buried Giant. An Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro

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