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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:

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  • 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.


University of Manitoba


Depressing attitudes

Re: Together on 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!




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.




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.

While we were quite satisfied with our existing contractor's services, we were obliged to consider change.

We asked our very able city engineer, James Scaife, to study the matter and advise us as to what this service should cost. To our surprise, his report and recommendation was that establishing our own publicly operated garbage collection system would save our citizens a great deal of money. We followed his advice.

Our city councillors should not put blind faith in the private sector. All essential public services should be operated by publicly employed workers whose task is to provide service, not profit.




Just imagine for a moment that we could somehow monetize the incompetence at city hall. Our property taxes would plummet.




Strained analogy

Your Nov. 2 story It's about keeping a lid on MPI rates: Swan says that Brian Pallister "compared MPI making decisions on road improvements to a patient getting operated on by a plumber and a hockey goalie streaking down the ice to receive a pass to try to score a goal."

Maybe MPI is more like a plumber fixing the anesthetist's gas-delivery system? Or a defenceman blocking a shot instead of the goaltender?




None of the letter writers Bill Rolls named in his Nov. 3 letter called for the privatization of MPI or Manitoba Hydro.

What those letter writers do expect is that these Crown corporations be run properly by their management teams and government overseers.

If MPI can stash $185 million in a rainy day fund, it needs to be giving rebates to the actual ratepayers and not getting involved in matters that are not in their mandate.

As far as Rolls' statement that MPI provides the cheapest rates in North America, where is the proof? For instance, I'd like to see some comparisons of rates between what I pay for my vehicle insurance and what someone of my age with a similar vehicle and driving record pays in Alberta.

Manitoba Hydro, on the other hand, has a huge debt but that doesn't stop the government from siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars annually from its coffers. Even with this debt, Hydro executives and the NDP apparently had no qualms about making a major boneheaded decision to run Bipole III down the west side, a decision that will cost Manitoba billions of dollars over the next decades.




Manitoba Public Insurance is operated by a competent group of professional managers with the end result that they consistently deliver low insurance rates to Manitobans, including considerable rebates over the last number of years. Good for MPI.

However, MPI should stick to insurance and influencing driver behaviour and safety through rates and education. As much as we are in need of infrastructure improvements in this province, those public works needs are and should be funded by the appropriate levels of government through general tax revenues and consumption taxes such as the fuel tax.

Indirect taxation of insurance ratepayers to fund projects outside MPI's primary insurance mandate or only tentatively connected to that mandate is highly inappropriate, especially when ratepayers can't vote with their wallets because there is only one insurer.

Government is accountable for how it taxes its citizens and then deploys those tax revenues. Invest appropriately in public works or not, tax us further or not, and then stand up and defend those actions and outcomes at the ballot box.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 8, 2012 A15


Updated on Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 1:09 PM CST: adds links

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