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Winnipeg Free Press, November 8, 2012 | Go to article overview

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Genocidal distortion

Michael Melanson's Nov. 3 column, Redefining genocide, distorts genocide law, history and the arguments that Jeff Benvenuto, Alex Hinton and I put forward in our Oct. 13 piece, Genocide was at work here. To begin, Article II(e) of the UN Genocide Convention includes "forcibly transferring children of the group to another group." Therefore, the contention that one needs to modify the convention to discuss genocide in Canada is simply untrue.

But rather than take a fundamentalist stance toward genocide law, scholars must examine the conditions under which it was made, its subsequent interpretation in case law, and its moral and conceptual limitations. In short:

-- The convention is the product of political negotiations through which settler societies effectively diluted cultural genocide.

-- Cases coming out of international courts are themselves, through their interpretations of the convention and more rigorous consideration of collective action, "redefining" genocide in the very manner that Melanson seems to find objectionable.

-- Genocide is not simply a legal concept; it is also a sociological and moral concept that, among other things, gives guidance as to how groups may establish non-destructive relations with each other.

This latter point encourages us to consider how we live in a world that made residential schools possible and continues to allow too many indigenous children to be removed from their homes, collective land ownership to be attacked, and indigenous peoples to be over-incarcerated, to name but a few examples of how we have done too little to decolonize Canada.

With respect to the history of Canada, Melanson would have us believe that residential schools were driven by a policy of benevolence. A thorough investigation of archival resources shows that diagnoses of the "Indian problem" were largely motivated by acquisitive desires for indigenous territories, resources and souls.

Finally, Melanson misreads our argument. We do not rank the destruction of group life, or cultural genocide, above the lives of individuals in groups. Both are means to destroy groups, and the protection of groups was the reason for the creation of the term genocide in the first place.

We also do not subscribe to a "monolithic" colonialism. In contrast, we suggest colonialism spread unevenly across North America and impacted different indigenous groups in different ways.

ANDREW WOOLFORD

University of Manitoba

Depressing attitudes

Re: Talking trash (Letters, Nov. 2). Sometimes living in whiny Winnipeg is just plain embarrassing and depressing. So our garbage pickup is going through a transition and things aren't running as smoothly as they should?

How about giving this new company a break? Or better yet, how about thanking the workers for all the extra hours they've had to put in so that our trash disappears? If anyone should get the blame, it's the ones in the suits who arranged this, not the coveralled staff on the streets.

Do you think they like being seen as inefficient, lazy or incompetent? I say quit being so negative and quick to judge. While the beginning was rough, my own garbage is now being picked up in an efficient and timely manner. Keep up the good work!

GABRIELE GOLDSTONE

Winnipeg

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The garbage was picked up at our house in Steinbach this morning by one man driving one truck. The time it took him to drive from my next door neighbour's house to mine, stop the truck, pick up two bags and drive off was 10 seconds. His average time for the next three homes was between 10 and 20 seconds.

Just saying.

ROD MACLEOD

Steinbach

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During the time when I was a City of St. James alderman, our efficient privately operated garbage system was challenged by a new-on-the-scene private garbage-collector contractor, whose bid was much lower than that of the existing contractor. …

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