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Special Opening Event

Speaking to the Unspeakable: Listening to the Voices of Survivors

Thursday 11th October 5pm
Auditorium / Le Grand Salon, Le Centre Mont Royal, Level 1
2200 Rue Mansfield, Montreal, Quebec

Doors Open at 4.00pm and the Ceremony starts promptly at 5.00pm.  Latecomers will not be admitted.

The Global Conference begins by listening to the stories of four survivors, who will speak of their experiences in the Jewish and Roma Holocausts, and Cambodian and Rwandan genocides.  These stories are the essential starting point for our exploration of why good people allow evil to happen, and how it is possible to awaken the sense of moral urgency that will make prevention of genocide a reality.

Chair: Payam Akhavan , Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University

Introductory remarks:

Heather Munroe-Blum (Principal, McGill University)

Nicholas Kasirer (Professor of Law and Dean, McGill Faculty of Law)

Gordon Echenberg (Conference Founder/Donor)

René Provost (Professor of Law, Director, McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism)


Hédi Fried

As a young girl, Hédi Fried’s life changed forever when she and her family were taken in cattle cars to Auschwitz. Her family were separated in the camp, and she never saw her parents again. Now she is a psychologist, psychotherapist and educator, and is the author of highly acclaimed The Road to Auschwitz: Fragments of a Life, which details her memories of the Holocaust. Fried is the Director of Café 84, a Psychosocial Day Care Center for Survivors, and runs therapy groups for Child Survivors and Second Generation Survivors; she also advises the Government of Sweden.

Marika Néni

Marika Néni was born on the 29th of March, 1931 in Kisvárda, a town in Eastern Hungary. In 1944 she and her family were confined to the ghetto that had been used for the local Jewish population prior to their deportation to Auschwitz.  She and her five younger siblings along with other relatives were kept under heavy guard, starved and brutalised. Her father was taken into forced labour and she never saw him again.  Marika Néni’s appearance at this special event will be the first time she has ever left Hungary.

Youk Chhang

Youk Chhang is the Executive Director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, a project begun by the Cambodian Genocide Program at Yale University. The Center has amassed more than 600,000 pages of documentary evidence of human rights violations by members of the Pol Pot regime, in order to better educate the public as well as to provide means for legal redress. For Chhang’s investigative work, which will form the basis of the prosecution’s case against surviving leaders of the Pol Pot regime in the newly-formed Khmer Rouge tribunal, he was recently named in Time Magazine’s Special Edition ‘60 Years of Asian Heroes’.

Esther Mujawayo

Esther Mujawayo was born in 1958 in Rwanda. She lost hundreds of relatives - including her mother, father and husband - during the massacres that took place in her country in 1994. Mujawayo escaped with her three children by using a small amount of money to bribe a soldier who brought her to a secure place. She now lives in Düsseldorf, Germany, and works with refugees in the field of trauma-therapy. With five other Rwandan women, Esther co-founded the non-governmental organization “The Association of Widows of the Genocide” (AVEGA), which has completed a major needs assessment of Rwandan women and made suggestions on how to improve the standard of living and increase human rights in Rwanda.


Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire

Born in Holland in 1946, Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Roméo Dallaire O.C., C.M.M., M.S.C., C.D., LL.D. joined the Canadian army in 1964 and served for 35 years. He was the Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR) in 1993-4 which, under-equipped and under-manned, was forced to watch helplessly as 800,000 Rwandan civilians were murdered. The failure of the United Nations and the international community to respond to the gravity of the situation in Rwanda is chronicled in his book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda (2003), written in collaboration with Major Beardsley, which won the Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing in 2003 and the 2004 Governor General's Award for non-fiction. After his return from Rwanda, he served as Deputy-Commander of the Canadian Army and Assistant Deputy Minister of National Defence. He is now Special Advisor to the Canadian International Development Agency, and to the Minister of International Co-operation on War-Affected Children, and Advisor to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on the Prohibition of Small Arms Distribution. Lt.-Gen. Dallaire has been invested in the Order of Canada and has also been awarded the United States Legion of Merit. He was the first recipient of the Aegis Award on Genocide Prevention from the United Kingdom in 2002, for his efforts to prevent and curtail the genocide in Rwanda. His return to Rwanda ten years after the genocide is the subject of a powerful documentary film, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire (2004). In 2005, Lt.-Gen. Dallaire was appointed to the Canadian Senate, representing the province of Quebec. He lectures widely on matters relating to genocide, post-traumatic stress disorder, war-affected children and control of small arms distribution. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University, where his research focuses on the generation of political will for action in situations of massive atrocities.

Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka is a leading voice for dignity through freedom for Nigeria, Africa and the world. Educated in Nigeria and England, Soyinka has taught English literature in various Nigerian universities, as well as Cambridge, Sheffield and Yale. He was imprisoned on conspiracy charges for 22 months until 1969 for writing an article suggesting a ceasefire with Biafra rebels. He was charged with treason again by Nigeria's military dictatorship in March 1997. His work as a novelist, dramatist and poet explore both questions of culture and the individual's relation to power. In 1986 the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Soyinka, "who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence". More recently, he gave the 2004 Reith Lecture, entitled "Climate of Fear."

Soyinka has written extensively. His collected poems include Idanre, and Other Poems (1967), Poems from Prison (1969), A Shuttle in the Crypt (1972), Ogun Abibiman (1976) and Mandela's Earth and Other Poems (1988). His two novels are The Interpreters (1965) and Season of Anomy (1973), as well as autobiographical works, The Man Died: Prison Notes (1972) and Aké (1981) and The Open Sore of a Continent: A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis (1996) and You Must Set Forth at Dawn: a Memoir (2006). Soyinka has written many plays, including The Swamp Dwellers and The Lion and the Jewel (1963), The Strong Breed (1963), The Trial of Brother Jero (1963) and Jero's Metamorphosis (1973), A Dance of the Forests (1963), The Road (1965), Kongi's Harvest (1967), Madmen and Specialists (1971), Death and the King's Horseman (1975), A Play of Giants (1984), Requiem for a Futurologist (1985), From Zia With Love (1992) and The Beatification of Area Boy (1995).

Sir Shridath "Sonny" Ramphal

Sir Shridath Ramphal is the former Secretary-General of the British Commonwealth. He is Co-Chair of the Commission on Global Governance, President of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), and Chair of the International Steering Committee of the Rockefeller Foundation's Leadership in Environmental and Development (LEAD) Programme. He has served on numerous independent international commissions which considered global issues including: the Brandt Commission, the Palme Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues, the Brundtland Commission on Environment and Development, the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues, and the South Commission. Shridath Ramphal was Chair of the West Indian Commission, whose report, provided to Caribbean Heads of Government in 1992, made detailed recommendations for the future of the region. In 1991, he was a Special Advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). His book, Our Country, the Planet: Forging a Partnership for Survival, was written for the conference and has been published in several languages. He is a member of the board of directors of Innovative Communications Corporation and was honored by the government of India as the 2002 recipient of the prestigious "Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development".

Musical Performances

Niky Kamran

Niky Kamran is a James McGill Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at McGill University. His research is in differential geometry and mathematical physics. Kamran was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2002 and is currently a Killam Fellow. He studied the violin in his native Belgium.

Syd Bulman-Fleming

Syd Bulman-Fleming has been a professor in the Mathematics Department at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario since 1976 and is currently Chair of the department. His piano studies took place in Victoria, B.C. , where he grew up, and for many years he has been an active pianist in chamber music circles in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

Aditya Verma

Aditya Verma is a sarod player based in Canada and India.  He has collaborated with artists from various traditions around the globe in both classical and popular music, including a performance with the Washington Symphony Orchestra.  In 1987, he moved to India to study Hindustani classical music in the Maihar Senia Gharana as a disciple of the legendary sitar player Pandit Ravi Shankar and renowned sarod master Ustad Aashish Khan.  Aditya has also trained under the eminent Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.  In addition to playing concerts on stage, television and radio, he has produced several cds.

Sanjay Verma

Sanjay Verma accompanies his brother Aditya on tabla.  Sanjay learned tablas from Ustad Zakir Hussain and has performed worldwide.  He has an MBA at the University of Texas.

Three Genocides’, McGill Reporter

Esther Mujawayo, Youk Chhang, Hédi Fried

Witness To Evil: Roméo Dallaire and Rwanda

From CBC Digital Archives

Image: Detail from "Urgent," UNintentional Series, 2001
by Gertrude Kearns


11 The making of a general
12 The seeds of genocide
13 On the edge of horror
14 All hell breaks loose in Kigali
15 The killings continue
16 Back in Canada to face his demons
17 The ghosts of Rwanda
18 Roméo rehabilitate
19 Evil on trial
10 Senator Dallaire

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