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.

 


Sunday, May 17, 2020, The Star

Today’s coronavirus has echoes not just of more recent pandemics but of the medieval plague, a disease of unkown origin that unleashed terrible fear and hatred. In the following excerpt from her 2015 book, From Tolerance to Tyranny: A Cautionary Tale from Fifteenth-Century Spain, Erna Paris narrates the European experience of the plague, known as the Black Death, in the fourteenth century.

Behold a Pale Horse

There was famine, flooding and the painful erosion of deeply held conviction, but the fourteenth century had not finished delivering up misfortune. In mid-century all of Europe was devastated by unprecedented calamity. Bubonic plague.

“In a.d. 1348, the people of France and of almost the whole world were struck by a blow other than war,” wrote Jean de Venette, the prior of a Carmelite monastery in Paris.

Looking back at that terrible year the goodly prior suspected he had been permitted to see a celestial portent of the plague:

In the month of August 1348, after Vespers, when the sun was beginning to set, a big and very bright star appeared above Paris, toward the west … Whether it was composed of airy exhalations and was finally resolved into vapour, I leave to the decisions of astronomers. It is, however, possible that it was a presage of the amazing pestilence to come. [more]

Dear Visitors,
Welcome to my website.

Given what the world is currently experiencing with the contemporary plague of Covid 19, I thought I’d post my chapter on the Black Death of the Fourteenth Century from my book From Tolerance to Tyranny: A Cautionary Tale From Fifteenth Century Spain. (Earlier published as The End of Days.) It was a different age, but human responses were the same. I hope you will find it interesting and enjoy the reading.

Erna

There was famine, flooding, and the painful erosion of deeply held conviction, but the fourteenth century had not finished delivering up misfortune. In mid-century all of Europe was devastated by unprecedented calamity, and in its wake came terror for the non-Christian minority.

“In A.D. 1348, the people of France and of almost the whole world were struck by a blow other than war,” wrote Jean de Venette, the prior of a Carmelite monastery in Paris.

Looking back at that terrible year the goodly prior suspected he had been permitted to see a celestial portent of the plague:

In the month of August 1348, after Vespers, when the sun was beginning to set, a big and very bright star appeared above Paris, toward the west. It did not seem, as stars usually do, to be very high above our hemisphere but rather very near. At length, when night had come, this big star, to the amazement of all of us who were watching, broke into many different rays. Whether it was a comet or not, whether it was composed of airy exhalations and was finally resolved into vapor, I leave to the decisions of astronomers. It is, however, possible that it was a presage of the amazing pestilence to come. [more]

Saturday January 25, 2020, The Globe and Mail

This month, we mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the largest and most infamous of the Nazi’s death camps. It will no doubt be a time of sombre reflection and analysis – and a pointer to whatever trends may be emerging with regard to Holocaust memory.

Historical traumas seem to have their own timelines – and they are long. Think for a moment about slavery in the United States, an era that formally ended in 1865, but continues to wreak havoc in American civic and political life under many guises. Think about our slowly emerging knowledge of the Armenian genocide. It took place a century ago, yet the scale and the enduring import of the assault remains unacknowledged by the perpetrators, the Turkish state.

Persecution, with its attendant human suffering, is always a messy business: It burrows deep into consciousness and encompasses a range of extreme human emotions: from despair to rage, from guilt to denial. Sometimes, although more rarely, it even includes remorse.

And so it is with the Holocaust – an historically unprecedented assault against an entire ethnic group: the Jews of Europe. The Holocaust, a name that came into popular usage only in the 1970s, was unprecedented precisely because nothing on this scale had happened before. And because of the means employed: the deadly technology exploited by the Nazis to effect their murderous plan. [more]

Friday November 15, 2019, The Globe and Mail

Gambia, mainland Africa’s smallest country, took an unprecedented step this week. To everyone’s surprise, it opened a lawsuit against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague – the tribunal that adjudicates disputes among states – accusing Myanmar of genocide against the Rohingya Muslims. [more]

Monday September 30, 2019 The Globe and Mail

“The criminal madness of the [Nazi] occupier was seconded by the French, by the French state. Those black hours soiled our history forever. … France … committed the irreparable.”

These words were spoken by French president Jacques Chirac on July 16, 1995, and in the days since his death, he deserves credit for moral courage. The occasion was the anniversary of the infamous Vélodrome d’Hiver roundups of Parisian Jews on July 16 and 17, 1942, when French police incarcerated more than 13,000 Jewish men, women and children in a sports stadium on orders of the occupying Nazis. Before the war ended, 76,000 Jews had been deported to Nazi concentration camps with French collaboration. Only about 3,000 returned. [more]