“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 resisted by the Obama administration, largely because the genocide label carries with it a customary obligation to take further action against the perpetrators. Since President Barack Obama will not be placing U.S. boots on the ground in Syria or Iraq (lessons learned from the failed Iraq war that spawned IS in the first place), this reality placed his administration in an ambiguous place before Mr. Kerry had even finished his historic speech. Genocide, the most serious offence within the category of crimes against humanity, concerns acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group; and under international law impeccable evidence is required to sustain the charge. While there is evidence that IS attacks on the Yazidis of Iraq might meet the criteria, Mr. Kerry’s assertion on behalf of the Christian population seemed more tenuous. [more]
ERNA PARIS 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; a member of the executive 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 as a member of the 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 to explore the roots of intolerance. Her examination of the difficulty that nations have in confronting shameful historical episodes in Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History, inspired efforts at reconciliation with residential school survivors in this country and with the descendants of the victims of slavery in the United States. She has also mentored many young writers and has consistently taken leadership roles in the literary and human rights communities.”
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 of the prescient “rough beast” came to power as Adolf Hitler, to be followed by Josef Stalin, then by the purveyors of hatred in Rwanda and Bosnia, whose racist bile culminated in genocide. The early 21st-century wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have spawned their own beast: Islamic State. [more]
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, France has failed to integrate its Muslim minority. Three generations born in France have led largely dead-end lives in bleak suburbs. Invisible to Parisians, they are a social underclass, ripe for exploitation. Although they are only about 8 per cent of the French population, Muslims represent 70 per cent of the prison population, where they come into contact with Islamist radicals. [more]
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, last month in which 30 people were killed and at least 37 injured. The internationally respected humanitarian organization has asked a bottom-line question of the United States, Afghanistan, and NATO – all of which played a role in the attack:
“Are we, or are we not, protected under the Geneva Conventions?” MSF international president Joanne Liu said in an open letter last week. “Did our hospital lose its protected status in the eyes of the military – and if so, why? Those responsible for requesting, ordering and approving the air strikes hold these answers.” [more]