Canadian Parliament Adopts Srebrenica Genocide Resolution

Response to Smear Campaign Against the Institute

ACTION ALERT: Call for a Removal of ICTY Judge Flügge from Mladic's Trial

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada

Suzana Vukic Rob Oliphant talks about recognizing the Srebrenica genocide

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada
Published: June 21, 2010  

Suzana Vukic

Recognize genocide for what it is

The Bosniak community of Canada, with a population of over 50,000, has been lobbying to have July 11 declared as the Srebrenica Remembrance Day in Canada. On June 9, this campaign, known as Bill M-416, was introduced in Parliament. Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative Party vetoed the bill. Harper will not allow this resolution to pass with the word “genocide” in it. The only way he’d allow it to go through is if the word genocide is removed from the text. Canada’s Bosniak community has responded to Harper’s gesture with a resounding “No”.

On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb troops, led by General Ratko Mladic, overran what was supposed to be the UN safe haven of Srebrenica. The Dutch peacekeepers who were protecting Srebrenica were unable to stop Mladic and his troops from overtaking the town and surrounding villages. In the days that followed, Serb troops gathered up the Bosnian Muslim population, separating the men from the women. An estimated 25,000 women and girls were forcibly transported to Bosnian-held territory. An estimated 8000 men and boys, from the youngest to the oldest, were massacred. Their bodies were dumped into mass graves. It’s the largest massacre to have taken place on European soil since the end of World War II.

The average Canadian would have a difficult time understanding what happened in the early 1990′s with the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and the wars that followed. Unless you’re from the region or have connections to it, it’s something you’d be unable to relate to.

Imagine living in the heart of civilized Europe, in a town as pleasant as, say, Hudson. You live side by side with neighbors that have been your friends for as long as you can remember. These people might be of a background that is different from your own, but you’re oblivious to these differences. These things simply don’t matter to you. That’s not what you’re all about.

Then one day, for reasons beyond your control, all of this changes. The neighborly friendship comes to a stop. You either find yourself in a position where you’re ready to pack up and leave town with your family as quickly as you can, or you’re compelled to stay, and it’s your neighbors who are making a hasty exit with their families and whatever earthly possessions they can possibly bring along. The battle lines are drawn. Yesterday’s world is gone forever.

What follows is a life of unimaginable horror. Leaving your house and attempting to get to Main Road to try to get food and supplies for your family becomes an impossible feat. Mortar shells and sniper fire rain down from the top of Oka mountain. Your town is slowly being destroyed and people are being killed. You live in constant fear of being killed or having your family members get killed or go missing. Your greatest fear is of facing the day when the enemy will overtake your town.

Srebrenica was overtaken. And 8000 of its citizens, including people who went there seeking a safe haven, were killed on the basis of gender and ethnic origin.

As a Croatian Canadian, I followed news of the war with horror and heartache. A day like the fall of Srebrenica stays in your mind forever.

The Hague and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) have recognized that what happened in Srebrenica was a genocide. The European Union and the United States have passed resolutions using the word “genocide” to describe what happened in Srebrenica. So why is Harper, on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre, refusing to call what happened there a genocide?

Brian Masse, NDP MP for Windsor West, has taken a strong personal interest in this matter. “This is an embarrassment and shameful. As the only western country to have not passed a motion or resolution recognizing the Srebrenica genocide, the Prime Minister has diminished Canada’s position in the world on the eve of the G-8 and G-20 Summits” reads a quote on Masse’s NDP website.

This isn’t just heated political rhetoric. It is indeed shameful. It dishonors the memory of the massacre victims. It also causes added pain and suffering to survivors of the massacre, some of whom have sought refuge in Canada and have rebuilt their lives here successfully.

The message to Harper is loud and clear: recognize genocide for what it is.


Rob Oliphant

Talks about recognizing the Srebrenica genocide

Liberal MP Rob Oliphant introduced a new Private Members’ Bill today, and I caught up with him after Question Period to ask him more about it.

Q: Tell me about this Private Members’ Bill you’ve introduced.

A: It’s a bill to recognize July 11th as a memorial for the victims of Srebrenica. Fifteen years ago in 1995, there was a massacre that happened in a UN safe-declared area, and 8000 Bosniak – which is Bosnian Muslim – men and boys were massacred in a very short order of time. It’s been declared by two international bodies as a genocide, and as well the American Senate and House of Representatives, the European Parliament, and the Serbian government itself has recognized this genocide. The Canadian government should do the same, and I think a memorial day would be the most appropriate thing to do for that. It’s part of the healing process that needs to go on.

The other part of the story is that the NDP have a motion on the books, and came up with a new motion that they were seeking unanimous, all-party approval for, and the NDP, the Bloc and the Liberals agreed to it, but the Conservatives refused this week to give unanimous consent to it unless the “genocide” word was taken out. The genocide, however, was internationally recognized – this is not a matter of debate. I have no idea why they did not recognize that, or what they’re afraid of. They refused to give unanimous consent for the motion, so my bill – which I’d already planned on doing this week as well – takes on a higher significance.

Q: In terms of the logistics of this bill, is this the one you’re moving forward with when your turn comes up?

A: When my turn comes up, I’ll decide which bill. I’ll have several by then. My hope is that by then, a unanimous motion will have been adopted, so part of the Private Members’ Bill is to push the government another step.

Q: You also had a question in QP today regarding your critic portfolio. Can you give me a little more about the background for that?

A: There was a report this week that retired Colonel Stogran, the Veterans’ Ombudsman, has made quite strong statements, very critical of the government, and the treatment of returning soldiers – especially Afghan soldiers, but pretty much all ‘modern veterans.’ I have two concerns – one, for the well-being of the ombudsman, because as soon as someone is critical of this government, they kind of disappear, whether it’s Paul Kennedy, or any of the number of other senior public servants who’ve been dismissed as soon as they’re critical, so I wanted to get it on the record very quickly that we’re worried about that, so that the government knows we’re watching. The second goal was to continue to raise the issues that the ombudsman is raising, regarding the lack of new programming for a changed context, and I think this goes hand-in-hand with the fact that the Prime Minister has appointed a part-time Minister of Veterans Affairs for the first time in 50 years, when I think some of these issues require full-time attention.

Rob Oliphant talks about recognizing the Srebrenica genocide 

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada