Category Archives: Genocide

Zone of Interest.



The greatest films and novels are those that change your life. That is the purpose of art.If seeing this film does not change your life, you should quickly make an appointment to see a psychiatrist before it’s too late.

This is the story of blind human indifference to the suffering of others. Not just by Nazis either! It is a story about all of us! It tells the story of an ordinary German family of a Commandant in Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II.  The family lived on the very edge of Auschwitz Concentration camp in Poland.

According to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, unlike some of the other German Concentration camps during the Second World War,

“the Auschwitz camp was above all a place of extermination. In other camps, the death rate was lowered from 1943 in an effort to conserve the labor force. In Auschwitz, however, where new transports, mostly of Jews, arrived continuously and kept the camp supplied with labourers, human life never had any great significance.”

As a result, historians estimate that around 1.1 million people perished in Auschwitz during the less than 5 years of its existence. Of course, around 90% of these were Jews and it is estimated that the majority, around 1 million people, were Jews. Coming in a distant second were Poles. 70,000 to 75,000 of those killed were Poles and coming in third were approximately 20,000 Roma.

That are a lot of people who were slaughtered here, but this fact is ignored by nearly everyone in the film. The film is an examination of the way this carnage was ignored while people went about the minutia of their daily lives. The victims did not count.  They were outside the zone of interest. The Germans who lived their lives and tried to establish a civilized life next to the crematoriums were the ones who counted. How is that possible?

The German family of Commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) presided over their family home immediately adjacent to the Concentration Camp, from which sounds are emitted from time to time but pleasantly ignored. The Commandant is in charge of a facility in which thousands of people are murdered each week, but he is more engaged by the fact that the locals have insufficient respect for his prized lilacs while Hedwig, his wife, has time mainly for her children and her lovely garden of which she is justifiably proud. Rudolf and Hedwig were like the Lord and Lady of the castle. Hedwig loved it when Rudolf called her “the Queen of Auschwitz.”

The family has no time to give attention to the people being murdered. They don’t see them or hear them. It is as if they are not there. The victims don’t count. Only the Höss family counts. That is as far as their zone of interest stretches.

The Höss family appreciates their privileges but assumes they are natural and fully earned. The film shows how easy it is to take for granted one’s privilege. Privilege slips on as easily and as comfortably as a glove.  The discomfort—and much worse—on the other side of the wall is not allowed to disturb the peace of the Höss family. There is a complete moral vacuum in the family.

Even if you see the smoke from the Crematoriums, as we do from time to time, and even if people are being incinerated, and even if you hear gunshots or snarling guard dogs, you can ignore them and make a comfortable life for yourself and your family. As a result, Hedwig is able to curate carefully the clothes that are available as a result of Jews dying. She takes a fur coat for herself and gives dresses to her staff. She was disappointed that she was outbid by others when she tried to purchase clothes that had belonged to her Jewish neighbour before she was carted off to be transferred to a Concentration Camp—perhaps even Auschwitz itself. Hedwig just tried to create the best life for her and her family. No one else mattered. She was not interested in any one else.

Someone called this a “cerebral” movie. In some ways that is accurate. It makes you think.  But in other ways, it is completely wrong. This is a movie about how people don’t think. They don’t think about those outside their zone of interest.

I was particularly struck by the German officers—including Rudolf Höss—who dispassionately discuss how to improve the efficiency of the killing machine of the camps. They are each eager to make their own camp more efficient thus improving their chances of promotion. The more people are killed the better for the officers. The effect on the camp residents is entirely irrelevant. After all, they are outside the zone of interest.

It is important to remember that the Höss family was just an ordinary German family. Really, they were like families around the world during the war and at other times.  Ordinary people—people like you and I—are often indifferent to the suffering of others. Those victims are outside our zone of interest. How many of us consider how indigenous people on Canadian Indian Reserves live? How many of us worry about how poor African Americans live in American cities? How many ordinary citizens were interested in how slaves lived on American slave plantations? They were all outside the zone of interest.

We can appreciate how the Nazis in the concentration camp were not monsters. They were ordinary people. They were people like us! And this makes the film even more disturbing. Ordinary people could turn themselves with enthusiasm to the task of making the murder of people more efficient. The spouse of the Commandant could cheerfully ignore that a fur coat she coveted was owned by a neighbour. She could feel the injustice of a minor privilege being taken away from her, but could not feel the injustice of an innocent person being murdered right beside her. And the really scary thing is that we would probably be exactly the same in such circumstances. Do any of us have the right to think for one minute that we would have acted differently?  What gives us the right to think that?

I watched an interview with Jonathan Glazer the director of the film on Amanpour and Company.  He pointed out how the significance of the German family beside Auschwitz was that “they were so grotesquely familiar.”  They, like us, were able to compartmentalize the suffering. Those people on the other side of the wall were “them” not “us.” Here on this side of the wall, the family (us), played in the pool, enjoyed the lovely garden while other people (them) were burning on the other side. This raises the question of how this is possible. How can there be such a grotesque disparity between the treatment of us, our family, and the others on the other side of the wall? Why are some lives more important than others?

The victims of the holocaust are never seen in the film. We hear some vague and disturbing sounds but they are invisible. Glazer said enough films had been made showing the victims and how we should empathize with them. He wanted to make a film where, “rather than empathizing with the victims, we have the discomfort of feeling like the perpetrators.”  Our perspective is from the garden side of the wall. As Glazer said, “It is a film not about ‘look at what they did;’ it’s a film about ‘look at what we do.

The only element of hope in the film comes from a 9-year-old girl who lives nearby and fills small packages of food for the prisoners. Glazer actually met that girl, now an old woman, and talked to her. She still lives nearby. She demonstrated the best of humanity.

The deep horror is that the Germans living next to the concentration camp were people just like us. Not monsters at all. Ordinary people. They are us. We are them.

 The film establishes what Hannah Arendt said. Evil is not monstrous. Evil is banal. Evil is every day. Evil is ordinary. Evil is us and we are its cheerful and enthusiastic instruments. And that should scare the hell out of all every one of us. Sadly, our zone of interest is incredibly small. It is so small that we are moral pygmies.

Sometimes there is nothing more scary than us!


Truths that refuse to remain buried


Recently I had a personal talk with the daughter of a residential school survivor.  She is about my age. I told her I was embarrassed that I had gone through 13 years of education in Steinbach followed by 4 years of an Honour Arts degree at the University and then 3 years of Law School and 1 year of articles of clerkship working for a practicing lawyer and not once did I ever hear about residential schools. In fact, I think I only heard about them decades later.  Some have said this was no accident. It was part of a deliberate policy of keeping the truth from Canadians. This woman said, “Don’t be ashamed of that, I knew almost nothing about them either.  My mother didn’t want to talk about them. I think she was trying to protect us from what happened there.” What could be so bad she did not want to talk to her daughter about it?


When CBC reporter Duncan McCue showed up on Kuper island  British Columbia as part of his investigative report into the residential school there, Tony Charley a survivor, showed McCue where the bodies of unwanted babies were incinerated.  Why were babies unwanted?  Of course, there is no hard evidence that this happened but Tony’s brother James corroborated the story though based on hearsay. Certainly, this is not sufficient evidence for a court of law. That doesn’t make it untrue.

Survivors of other schools told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission similar stories about foetuses and babies being thrown into furnaces too. It was not that unusual. Tony said the stories were true. The stories were shared over and over again. Both brothers believed the stories.

Yet one must ask:  Why did the school have unwanted babies? Where did they come from? Questions like that are part of the horror of Kuper Island. Why was it necessary to burn them?

James Charley, Tony’s brother also heard these stories. He said the nuns were experienced in detecting pregnancies and knew what to do when ‘unwanted children’ were born. James wondered, “Who would do that to a baby?”

Catholics teach that all human life is sacred. Abortions are not permitted. How about infanticide? Or perhaps it did not matter, because these were not humans. Once people are dehumanized, then the gloves are off and anything can be done to them. No horror is off the table.

McCue called them “truths that refuse to remain buried.”


Canada’s Alcatraz: Kuper Island Residential School


Penelakut Island, formerly known as Kuper Island and renamed in 2010 in honour of the Penelakut First Nation people, is located in the southern Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland Pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada.  The Penelakut First Nation people are part of a larger group called Hul’qumi’num people. The island has a population of about 300 members of the Penelakut Band. It is not a large community, but it has suffered largely. Through no fault of its own.

The island and the Indian Residential School were the subject of a CBC radio series turned into podcasts. It is worth listening to it.


The host of the show, Duncan McCue travelled to Penelakut where the Kuper Island Residential School was located.  Some people called the school “Alcatraz.”  Think about that for a moment. A school supported by a church and the government of Canada was called Alcatraz. Canada’s Alcatraz.


Long after the Kuper Island Residential School was torn down, the survivors are still haunted by what happened there. Investigative reporter Duncan McCue of the CBC  exposed buried police investigations, confronted perpetrators of abuse as well as victims of abuse.  He also witnessed a community trying to rebuild — literally on top of the old school’s ruins and the unmarked graves of Indigenous children. The podcast he helped produce is well worth listening to as long as you can stand uncomfortable truths. I know that many of us can’t while others are tired of hearing about them. Some of these say, ‘Why can’t we get over it?’

That is a good question. Others say that their people also suffered abuse. Mennonites, for example, in some cases make such claims too. And they are right. But I don’t want to get into a suffering Olympics.  The point is not who suffered worse. I just want to point out it is difficult for survivors of residential schools, and even their descendants who have suffered inter-generational trauma, to  “get over it.”  We should learn about what happened to them first. The rest of us should be sympathetic before we become critical. Not many people in Canada had inflicted upon them schools where they had to attend even though they were designed to disparage their parents, inflict physical, emotional, and sexual abuse upon the children.  These schools were part of a Canadian system of oppression. Some even called it genocide. Who knows how we would react to such a situation.


The rest of us are lucky sit didn’t happen to them. Even though this happened for many decades, it was kept secret. I went to school in Canada for 20 years, including 7 years at university, and never heard of it once until after I had left that university. When I first heard about residential schools  found it hard to believe and later I thought it was a case of a few bad apples. It was more than that. More than 130 residential schools operated across Canada. As the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has described them, “The schools were a deliberate attempt to destroy Indigenous communities and ways of life. They were part of a broader process of colonization and genocide.”

I have read the executive summary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. I recommend all Canadians do the same. This history was hidden from us. I want to learn about that history. I think it is important for us to know that history.

Right now, I ust want to look at what happened in one residential school.  1 school out of 130. It was Kuper Island Residential School.


Torn from Her Family at age of 5


At the Pat Porter Centre on September 27, 2022, we were lucky to sit beside Vivian Barkley, sister of Jennifer Wood, one of the presenters.  Vivian came all the way from Kitchener Ontario to support her sister Jennifer Wood today. I was impressed. Both of them are residential third school survivors. That means 3 generations of their family went to a residential school.


Vivian told us how she had been swept into an Indian Residential School at the age of 5. She explained that the authorities had really gone into their community to roust up older children, but when they came to their house she was included. She said it was a shocking day when she was torn away from her family and community at such a young age for totally inexplicable reasons that she could not understand. Her family was very poor and could not afford to pay for her to come home for her school holidays so mostly for 5 years she stayed in the school separated from her family. Can you imagine what reasons the educational authorities might give to justify their actions of ‘kidnapping’ these children and taking them away from their homes?


It is not without reason, that such actions are considered by the UN Genocide Convention to be genocide. This is how that international convention, which has been signed by Canada, defines genocide:


In Article II of that Convention:


“…genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:


“(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. [emphasis added]”


Was Canada guilty of genocide.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission called it “cultural genocide.” Was that qualification necessary? It also says that everyone complicit with such acts can also be punished along with the perpetrator.

Christiane and I were both struck by how much Vivian was free of rancor and resentment notwithstanding how she had been treated by Canada.  How would you feel if Canada did that to your children? What would it take for you to want to reconcile with such a country? Is it something that can be done in a couple of weeks? Or a couple of years?

For Christiane and I this was a remarkable day. We learned some harsh Canadian truths by watching the program.

Genocide Repudiated


The Indian Residential Schools established by the Canadian government under the provisions of the Indian Act were instruments it used, often through its church partners,  to ensure dominance over indigenous people. Even if the Popes had disavowed the Doctrine of Discovery, the basis of these notions were also the foundation of that doctrine, which I have called vile.

Here is what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (‘TRC’)  said in its report to the Canada in 2015,

“For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as “cultural genocide.””


Since that report was delivered many critics have said the TRC was too gentle with Canada. They suggested the word “cultural” should be dropped from that destruction. They say, Canada was guilty of genocide. Pope Francis on his recent visit to Canada said he thought it “genocide.” The subsequent report of the 2019 Inquiry into Missing and Murdered  Women and Girls, said the actions reported on in that report amount to “genocide.” There was no qualification. It may be that the reticence of the TRC was a consequence of it not being authorized to accuse people of crimes, and genocide is a crime.

The TRC said this about genocide:

“Physical genocide is the mass killing of the members of a targeted group, and biological genocide is the destruction of the group’s reproductive capacity. Cultural genocide is the destruction of those structures and practices that allow the group to continue as a group. States that engage in cultural genocide set out to destroy the political and social institutions of the targeted group. Land is seized, and populations are forcibly transferred and their movement is restricted. Languages are banned. Spiritual leaders are persecuted, spiritual practices are forbidden, and objects of spiritual value are confiscated and destroyed. And, most significantly to the issue at hand, families are disrupted to prevent the transmission of cultural values and identity from one generation to the next.”



And then the TRC added, “In its dealing with Aboriginal people, Canada did all these things.” If Canada did all 3 things necessary to be classified as genocide, then the TRC is saying, Canada committed genocide in its dealings with its Indian Residential Schools. According to the TRS, and was amply justified by the evidence revealed in its report,


As if that was not enough the TRC also said this,

“Canada denied the right to participate fully in Canadian political, economic, and social life to those Aboriginal people who refused to abandon their Aboriginal identity. Canada outlawed Aboriginal spiritual practices, jailed Aboriginal spiritual leaders, and confiscated sacred objects. And, Canada separated children from their parents, sending them to residential schools. This was done not to educate them, but primarily to break their link to their culture and identity.   In justifying the government’s residential school policy, Canada’s First prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, told the House of Commons in 1883:

When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages; he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write his habits, and training and mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write. It has been strongly pressed on myself, as the head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”


But as if that was not enough the TRC added,

“These measures were part of a coherent policy to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will.”


Who can possibly deny that taking children away from their parents for such a vile policy is not genocide? I think the conclusion is clear and unassailable.

In my opinion these genocidal policies are incompatible with the statements made by Pope Francis in Canada. He spoke plainly and clearly. This was a most welcome message from a Pope.


More Blood  


Today, by a remarkable coincidence, one day after I posted about the Bloodlands as they were called by Timothy Snyder, Winnipeg Free Press columnist Allan Levine commented on the same issue based on Snyder’s other book. Levine’s maternal grandfather born in those Bloodlands west of Kyiv. He was 12 years old when World I broke out and 15 years old when Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized control of Russia after the horrors of that war. In my post I quoted how as Snyder said this in his book   The Road to Unfreedom, “together, some ten million people were killed in a decade as a result of two rival colonizations of the same Ukrainian territory”.


Levine’s grandfather was a Jew who lived in a part of that region that was constantly fought over by various powerful and brutal  forces.  This reminded me of another book I had recently read by Phillipe Sands called East West Street. It is a fascinating book about the origins of the notion of crimes against humanity and genocide. It is no accident that a number of the most important people involved in that history also came from that same region. One of them was Rafael Lemkin who invented the word “genocide.” He came from Lviv a city much in the news these past 2 months, but I had never heard of it before I read that book. Here is a section of the opening chapter of the book about that city:


“Between September 1914 and July 1944 control of the city changed eight times. After a long spell as the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s “Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria and the Grand Duchy  of Kraków with the Duchies of Auschwitz and Zator”—yes it is that Auschwitz—the city passed from the hands of Austria to Russia, then back to Austria, then briefly to western Ukraine, then to Poland, then to the Soviet Union, then to Germany, then back to Soviet Union, and finally to Ukraine where control resides today…the  streets of Lviv are a microcosm of Europe’s turbulent twentieth century, the focus of bloody conflicts that tore cultures apart.”


It is like hyenas and lions fighting over a carcass. During these times the city never moved, but its name changed many times from Lemberg, Lviv, Lvov, and Lwów. Now Putin wants to rip it back into Russia one more time and he doesn’t care about how many people he has to kill to do that  or whether they are women or children.


Levine’s grandfather was lucky—very lucky—to escape to Canada in 1921. Levine says that during the 12 years of 1933 to 1945, “upwards of 50 million civilians and soldiers were killed during those 12 terrible years.”  I think he meant they were killed around the world.  But this was the bloodiest part of that world because more than 10 million people died there. But that was then; this is now. As Levine said,

“Now, with the atrocities perpetrated by Russian soldiers on Ukrainian civilians near Kyiv, Mariupol, Bucha, and other cities, Russian President Vladimir Putin has once again reignited the horrors of the bloodlands. And to what end?”


Levine quotes from Snyder’s other book, Bloodlands, about how Stalin and Hitler “pursued transformative agendas with no concern for the lives of individual human beings.”  That is what fascist dictators do. And that is exactly what Putin is now doing. He, like them, is trying to build up a society on the basis of lives which are meant to be sacrificed. And sacrifice them Hitler and Stalin did and now Putin wants to do exactly the same thing. This is another great moment in history. Are we up to the challenge of confronting this radical evil? That is why this issue is so important and why I am obsessed with what is happening in Ukraine. I fear there will be more blood.

Exterminate all the Brutes

Kurtz, the central disturbing character in Conrad’s novel, The Heart of Darkness, was a product of Europe.  He was the child of Europe, believing naturally, without thinking about it, that Europeans were naturally superior to and could help the native savages achieve civilization. All the Africans had to do was assimilate to the superior Europeans. Europeans of course, are famous for this point of view though it is shared by many peoples.

Kurtz had been given the task by his company of preparing a manual to help new Europeans learn about the job of “helping” the native inferiors.  As Marlow, the narrator of the novel,  said, “the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had entrusted him with the making of a report, for its future guidance.” He wrote it.  “He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, ‘must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings—we approach them with the might of a deity,’ and so on, and so on.  ‘By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded.’  The reader, like Marlow got the idea reading this pamphlet of “an exotic Immensity ruled by an august Benevolence.”  It made Marlow tingle with enthusiasm.  No doubt it had the same desired effect on new recruits.  Marlow noted “that this was the unbounded power of eloquence—of words—of burning noble words.”


Marlow explains though that this report was started “before his—let us say nerves–, went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites which …were offered up to him.   After all Kurtz, as Marlow said, “had the power to charm or frighten rudimentary souls into an aggravated witch-dance in his honour.” Those rites are merely hinted at. Conrad never explains exactly what happened, we just know that Kurtz was treated like a god, and withered black human  heads were attached to the end of spikes on poles in the dark jungle. How that happened we are left to imagine, and our imagination is no doubt more effective than any bald statements would be.  Good novels can do that.  As a result, at the end of that report Kurtz abandoned  his noble ideals, and his noble words.

As Marlow said,

“…at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightening in a serene sky: ‘Exterminate all the brutes.’”

In Kurtz’s case, that was the inevitable result of all those noble ideals. Just as it was the inevitable result of all the pious talk of civilizing the natives. It was all a lie—a cunning, false rapacious lie!  That was the end of the noble philanthropic enterprise of European colonialism.  That was the end of noble lies everywhere. That was the heart of darkness we all carry within us and which we have to guard against. Or we too will end up exterminating the brutes!

This has significance far beyond European colonization. It is a chastening for all enterprises with excessive hubris. We would do well to be modest. Humility always becomes us. Over confidence not so much.

Kurtz is us. We are no different. That is the most terrifying part of his story.

Cultural Genocide Part II


When I went to school I was told that Prime Minister John A. MacDonald was one of the heroes of Canada. We thought he should have been awarded the status of saint John. He appointed himself as the Minister Responsible for Indians in his cabinet. If you think the expression “cultural genocide” is too strong to describe what Canada did with the imposition of its Indian Residential Schools on indigenous people consider this statement he made in the House of Commons in 1883:

“When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages: he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write his habits, and training mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write.  It has been strongly impressed on myself, as the head of the Department, that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”


The Prime Minister did not misspeak. He meant it. This was government policy. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission  explained this in this way:

“These measures were part of a coherent policy to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct people and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will. Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs Duncan Campbell Scott outlined the goals of that policy in 1920, when he told a parliamentary committee that “our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic.” Canada did not do this with “good intent” as some suggest.”


As the TRC said,

“the Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources. If every Aboriginal person had been “absorbed into the body politic,” there would be no reserves, no Treaties, and no Aboriginal rights.”

 In fact, then there would be no Aboriginals.  The genocide would be complete. The final solution would be realized.


Suffering Olympics

A wise friend of mine made a very important point. He said taking children away from their parents without consent in itself was the “greatest abuse.” You really don’t have to rail on about anything else (like I have been doing and will continue to do).  After all, according to the UN convention on Genocide that is enough to constitute genocide.

I would just put it a little differently.  Taking children away from their parents without parental consent is certainly enough to generate outrage. Yet, there are so many other egregious abuses: e.g. starving children in those schools; putting the children into what were literally fire traps; using children as forced labour instead of educating them; physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; shredding their self-esteem and denigrating their parents and their culture; bullying children and hence teaching the children that this was the way to treat their children; robbing children of the opportunity to learn how to take care of children from their parents which led directly to the effects of residential schools cascading through the generations which in turn made it impossible to do what so many blind privileged white people want them to do-i.e. “get over it.”

I don’t want to get into a suffering Olympics where we have to rate the sins when each one itself should be what the Catholics call a mortal sin. I find it impossible to say which is the “greatest abuse” when there is such a long line of horrors. Besides what is the point?

The real point is what are we going to do about it?


Genocide in the Americas


Of course there were specific acts of genocide in North America and South America. Like the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 where the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry committed an atrocity mainly against women and children. Brave army that was. They said it was done in retaliation for the slaughter at the Battle of Little Bighorn where Siouian warriors under the direction of Chief Crazy Horse defeated General George Custer and most of his soldiers. The Battle of Little Bighorn was seen by many as the final military attempted crushing of Aboriginal Independence in the United States, if not North America. As Anthony Hall mentioned in his wonderful book, The American Empire and the 4th World, “At the time of this massacre the Indian population in the area of the present-day United States had been reduced to 200,000 from an estimated pre-Columbian population of between 10 and 20 million.”

As I have said before many of those deaths resulted from hidden biological warfare launched by germs that the European invaders unknowingly carried with them, but others from specific acts like this battle.

Those battles led, in Canada to an oppressive regime of shackling Indigenous peoples, who were not released from them them until after World War II and even then only to some extent. The main instrument of that dominance in Canada was the Indian Act, an infamous federal statute that has been amended many times but is still with us today, which I will blog about soon. I think people who don’t know about the Indian Act will be shocked. Until that law was changed, the  indigenous people of Canada were not allowed to organize, for fear of repetition of the violence against the control by Europeans and their descendants.

Whether the word “genocide” or not is used, there is no doubt that the process of transforming indigenous societies by European colonization was a harsh disaster for the Indigenous peoples. As Hall described it,

“…the actual process of transforming some of the richest and most extensive Indian societies on the planet proved catastrophic for the Indigenous peoples. Thus began the world’s most ruthless and sustained episode of ethnic cleansing, one that many believe continues yet. From its earliest stages, this drive aimed to extinguish Aboriginal civilization of the Americas and to replace it with an expanded transatlantic domain for the culture of Europe and for Western civilization.”

If you look at the modern definition of “genocide” now embedded in international law, you will that this clearly qualifies as genocide.

At times the Aboriginals looked to the monarchs of the Old World to staunch the bleeding. At best that met with mixed success. For example in New Spain the Spanish monarch was seen as the only force capable of protecting any Aboriginal rights. However, as Hall said,

“While the Spanish sovereign sporadically placed some checks on the murderous excesses of the Spanish colonists, the interventions of the central authority were generally too weak to moderate significantly the acquisitive zeal that attracted fortune-seeking immigrants from Europe to the New World”

England hardly provided more protection than its Spanish rivals. As Hall said,

“While England’s early colonial enterprises in North America were shrouded in the language of Christian evangelization, a more pressing spur to join in Europe’s transatlantic expansion was the fear that, if action was not quickly taken, Roman Catholic powers, including Portugal and France, would soon monopolize and control the apparently vast wealth of the so-called New World.”

Whether we like it or not, or admit it or not, this history is still with us today. Our society in fact is built on that genocide.