UBC Okanagan hosts holocaust and genocide forum for secondary school students

Students from Okanagan secondary schools will gather at UBC Okanagan April 30 for a forum exploring the realities of genocide and the possibilities of genocide prevention.

The Holocaust and Genocide Education Forum, an initiative driven by the Office of the Provost at UBC Okanagan, brings together both those who have witnessed genocide and those who study genocide and teach about it. The aim is to foster understanding and end genocide, and is an opportunity for the university to share expert knowledge with younger generations of Canadians.

“Universities provide an academic environment where the sharing of knowledge and research is both encouraged and supported,” says Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, provost of UBC Okanagan. “UBC Okanagan is very pleased to have the opportunity to host the genocide forum for high school students, allowing our faculty members to share their valued knowledge and expertise with future generations and the community at large."

“It is vital to address and prevent genocidal outbreaks in the future, and education has always been seen as an important component to that,” says Adam Jones, associate professor of political science at UBC Okanagan and featured forum speaker.

“The forum explores the place of the Jewish Holocaust in contemporary society and looks at genocide in comparative perspective. It also looks in more personal ways at the genocidal tendencies that may be latent in every society -- including our own -- and latent within every person, including ourselves.”

In addition to UBC Okanagan faculty experts, speakers include Rene Goldman, a child survivor of the Jewish holocaust and retired professor of Chinese studies.

“We are honoured our speakers coming from the larger community are willing to share their experiences, offering our student participants witness accounts of these events,” says Kristen Kane, a research officer at UBC Okanagan and chair of the forum committee.

As well as reflecting on the past and present global issues of the holocaust and genocide, the forum takes a look at Canada’s own history and some of the complicated questions surrounding Indigenous displacement.

“We still tend to displace genocide on countries and destinations that are far removed from our shores,” says Jones. “As Canadians, we’ve viewed ourselves as a breed apart -- nice and friendly. It is important to force ourselves into a process of soul searching on what our society was founded on by exploring the possible relevance of a genocide framework for the Canadian experience.”

Following the day-long program for secondary school students, UBC Okanagan will offer limited public seating for a showing of the 2006 documentary Screamers at 3 p.m. in the Student Service Centre Lecture Theatre (SSC026). In the film, internationally-known director Carla Garapedian follows the rock band System of a Down as they tour Europe and the U.S., pointing out the horrors of modern genocide that began in Armenia in 1915 though to Sudan's Darfur region today.

“We very much hope the students are sobered by their encounter, but inspired to learn more about where these tendencies and processes come from, as well as what they can do in working with others to prevent and suppress future outbreaks of genocide,” says Jones. “It is important that as global citizens we are aware of these issues and motivated to confront them.”

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