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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/3/19

Will Canada Punish Denying Something Even if it is Not True?

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PHOTO: The 1995 Srebrenica genocide resulted in a mass scale ethnic cleansing and forcible deportations of 25,000-30,000 people, as well as summary executions of at least 8372 men, boys, and elderly.
PHOTO: The 1995 Srebrenica genocide resulted in a mass scale ethnic cleansing and forcible deportations of 25,000-30,000 people, as well as summary executions of at least 8372 men, boys, and elderly.
(Image by Srebrenica Genocide Blog)
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Canadian legislators should ponder the fact that Canada does not have a Holocaust denial law protecting the dignity of six million victims, yet its parliament is contemplating a massive curtailment of its citizens' civil rights in a matter involving 8,000 unverified deaths.

A major assault on freedom of speech and conscience, as well as scholarly research, is in the works in Canada. A Srebrenica genocide denial law is coming up for parliamentary vote in Ottawa. It is being sponsored by MP Brian Masse (brian.masse@parl.gc.ca ). The pending bill is the result of a petition filed by a Bosniak lobby group in Canada, "Institute for genocide research ." The "institute" is not known to have published a single serious and academically viable book or scholarly paper on any subject whatsoever, including Srebrenica. It is a comically misnamed ethnic pressure group. But given the manufactured climate of opinion, unless this bill is strongly and competently opposed, there is little doubt about the outcome.

Here is some basic information about this parliamentary project: https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-1837 ,

Petition presented to the House of Commons on May 29, 2019 (Petition No. 421-03975).

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And here is how the measure's sponsor, Brian Masse, put the matter before his colleagues:

"Madam Speaker, on the eve of White Armband Day, it is time to reflect on the genocide denial that continues to plague our world. Petition e-1837, which has obtained 2,134 signatures, is an opportunity to examine the possible actions and initiatives that the government could take to combat this horrific behaviour.

"The House unanimously declared April as 'Genocide Remembrance, Condemnation and Awareness Month' and named genocides, which have been recognized by Canada's House of Commons, including the Srebrenica genocide.

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"It is time for the government to extend resources to commemorate the victims and survivors of genocide, educate the public and to take specific action to counteract genocide denial, a pernicious form of hate which reopens wounds and reinvigorates division. Truth is justice; honesty is the path to reconciliation and peace."

In contrast to the simplistic cant of politicians who are always campaigning to attract, if possible, a few more ethnic votes and to impress the political correctness brigade with their loyalty to the right causes, there exist in the real world complex issues not given to simplistic reductionism. Srebrenica is one of them. (Also here, here, and here.) To paraphrase Polonius, there are indeed "more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of by politicians," eager to please special interests.

One of the major pertinent issues here is, of course, the factual background of what actually occurred in Srebrenica. A staggering amount of research has been done on that subject that one supposes busy politicians, long out of school, may be excusably ignorant of. Canadian politicians in particular may be generously excused for not keeping up with Srebrenica developments because their hands are presumably full sorting out genocides closer to home.

A fundamental issue that comes to mind straightaway, that voters anxious to protect their liberties might want to bring to the attention of their MPs, has to do with freedom of speech and conscience, not whether or not genocide occurred in Srebrenica. Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms rather unambiguously guarantees "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication" as fundamental rights. How do MP Masse and colleagues who are contemplating to vote for his "genocide denial" bill propose to reconcile its language with the liberties which are constitutionally guaranteed to all citizens of Canada (and presumably also to foreign nationals on Canadian territory)? Or the fact that Canada is also party to international agreements which guarantee freedom of conscience and expression, such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Articles 18 and 19 of the Declaration, which deal with freedoms of thought, opinion, and expression should in particular be pondered by Canada's lawmakers.

The ghastly thing about it is that the Srebrenica genocide denial law would not even change anybody's mind about Srebrenica. But it would suppress (have a "chilling effect," as they aptly put it in neighboring America) public discourse on the subject and would therefore constitute a serious infringement of Canadian citizens' human rights. That is the issue of principle. All but zealous Balkan combatants should easily manage to agree on this and it ought to be gently stressed to befuddled Canadian legislators. A member of parliament is free to think whatever he or she wants about Srebrenica, with or without adequate information on the subject, including that it was genocide. But for Canadian citizens of all backgrounds, including those who happen to be legislators, their fellow-citizens' freedom of expression should take absolute priority over the agenda of a Balkan lobby. A legislator who sincerely thinks that Srebrenica was genocide should still vote against Petition no. 421-03975 on freedom of speech and conscience grounds alone.

It so happens that the aforementioned bogus "Institute for genocide research" has a record of attempts at free speech suppression, targeting those who think differently about its pet projects. In 2011 the "institute" tried unsuccessfully to steer a Srebrenica genocide denial law through the Canadian parliament, only to be blocked by opposition from the then Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his majority party. "Institute" scholars then took their revenge on American-Serbian professor Dr. Srdja Trifkovic, preventing his entry into Canada to deliver a lecture in Vancouver by falsely alleging to immigration authorities that he was a dangerous hatemonger, or something to that effect. The incident at the time was amply covered by Global Research. Prof. Trifkovic fought the spurious allegation against him energetically in Canadian courts and won. The upshot of it was that Canadian taxpayers lost considerable treasure in a wasteful judicial confrontation instigated by agenda-driven lobbyists.

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The proposed law is also manifestly discriminatory, in relation to the Canadian-Serbian community. Considering the cultural role of spitefulness (inat is the native word) in the region that the lobbyists come from, that may well be its true and ultimate inspiration. Is there a single Canadian Serb who thinks that what occurred in Srebrenica was genocide? The proposed law would nevertheless have a discriminatory effect on the ability of the Canadian Serbian community, as such, to enjoy the freedom of expression guaranteed to it and to all Canadians by Canada's constitution. As Canadian Serbs, they would be obliged to either maintain public silence about an issue they regard as being of vital interest to their nation and community or, were they to speak up in accordance with the dictates of their conscience, to face criminal prosecution.

Fortunately, in Canada there is an elaborate and effective system for filing complaints against parties deemed to have committed discrimination on religious, ethnic, or racial grounds. Should the Srebrenica genocide denial law to limit freedom of expression be passed by parliament, the aggrieved parties should without fail take advantage of those mechanisms. Discrimination complaints should be filed immediately against all members of parliament who are sponsoring this bill, with a message being thus sent to their colleagues that should they vote in favor of this measure they too will be held to account for committing an illicit discriminatory act.

Canadian legislators should ponder the fact that Canada does not have a Holocaust denial law protecting the dignity of six million victims, yet its parliament is contemplating a massive curtailment of its citizens' civil rights in a matter involving 8,000 unverified deaths. That is a degradation and in-the-face mockery of the pain of the Jewish community. But it gets even worse, or tragicomic if one prefers. In the Tolimir judgment in 2012, the vaunted Hague Tribunal ruled that the killing of three individuals in the nearby enclave of Zepa (which is part of the same conceptual package with Srebrenica) constituted genocide (Trial Judgment, Par. 1147 - 1154). That was allegedly because those individuals were endowed with such extraordinary importance within the community of Zepa that, as a result of their demise, the community was rendered unviable, hence subjected to genocide. The point is that denying this absurd and tortuously reasoned finding of the Hague Tribunal concerning Zepa (a place that assuredly no member of the Canadian parliament had ever even heard of) by operation of the projected genocide denial law would also incur criminal liability on the part of the careless speaker. That is the absurd level to which the "genocide denial" rhetoric has degenerated. Hopefully there are alert and sane segments within the Jewish community in Canada that would clearly see this point, and the glaring mathematical difference between three and six million, and would join all who care about civil liberties in opposing this odious measure.

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Stephen Karganovic is the president of the Srebrenica Historical Project.


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David Pear

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Here is an excellent article that give the background and consequences of this tragedy and the eventual breakup of Yugoslavia in 1999, after 78 days of US/NATO bombing.

The Dismemberment Of Yugoslavia 20 Years On

These laws against free speech may have good intentions, or just political pressure from special interest groups, but the ramification on free speech are terrible. This looks as if it is becoming a trend with Germany outlawing BDS.

Submitted on Monday, Jun 3, 2019 at 4:27:11 PM

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Devil's Advocate

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Yes, by all means, let's continue to concoct all sorts of reasons why someone else should tell us how to think and speak, and what we should all be allowed to read and hear.

Let's make it a felony to say anything that has not been "permitted". Let's just make it a death sentence in all cases, just to have it done.

The only constructive way to combat "bad speech" is with MORE FREE SPEECH. When are people going to learn this?

Submitted on Monday, Jun 3, 2019 at 4:48:46 PM

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Exactly, this is a little off subject, but now many US states make employees sign loyalty oaths that they do not support BDS.


This particular legislation would academic and historical work, as well as stiffel speech.

Submitted on Monday, Jun 3, 2019 at 5:21:16 PM

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I wouldn't actually say that's off-subject. Banning boycotts is against the same 1st Amendment as censorship is. Boycotts are also supposed to be a protected form of free speech.

Submitted on Monday, Jun 3, 2019 at 5:58:10 PM

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lila york

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..but but but - Israel never interferes in US politics.

Submitted on Monday, Jun 3, 2019 at 6:05:02 PM

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Even the "holocaust denial" laws make me furious. I know EXACTLY what I believe about that - based on my own research. And it is NOT what Israel has been wailing non stop for 70 years.

Submitted on Monday, Jun 3, 2019 at 6:07:34 PM

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