On the 70th anniversary of the United Nation’s (UN) adoption of the Genocide Convention, the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) at Concordia, in partnership with the Montreal Holocaust Museum, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights and the Alliance for Genocide Awareness and Remembrance, are hosting a public event in honour of the International Day for the Prevention of Genocide. Speakers include the Honourable Allan Rock, former Canadian Minister of Justice and Ambassador to the UN, as well as several survivors of genocide and mass atrocities, including Éloge Butera, Eva Kuper and Ketty Nivyabandi.
Allan Rock is president emeritus of the University of Ottawa and a professor in its Faculty of Law, where he teaches international humanitarian law and public and constitutional law.
Rock was elected to the Canadian Parliament in 1993, and re-elected in 1997 and 2000. He served for that decade as a senior minister in the government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in both social and economic portfolios. He was Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada (1993-97), Minister of Health (1997-2002) and Minister of Industry and Infrastructure (2002-03).
He was appointed in 2003 as Canadian Ambassador to the UN in New York during a period that involved responding to several complex regional conflicts, including those in Sri Lanka, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur. He led the successful Canadian effort in New York to secure, at the 2005 World Summit, the unanimous adoption by UN member states of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing and other mass atrocities. He later served as a special envoy for the UN investigating the unlawful use of child soldiers in Sri Lanka during its civil war.
In 2008, Rock became the 29th president and vice chancellor of the University of Ottawa, a comprehensive university of 50,000 students, faculty and staff. The university ranks among the top 10 in Canada for research intensity, and is the largest bilingual university — French and English — in the world. He completed two terms as president in 2016.
Most recently, Rock was a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School, associated with the program on International Law and Armed Conflict.
Éloge C. Butera is an associate fellow with the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism at McGill's Faculty of Law and with MIGS. He is a human rights activist with an active involvement in Canadian public life, with a strong focus on human security and transitional justice issues. Butera has worked in the Canadian Parliament as a research and legislative assistant to Senator Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire and as an articling student to professor Irwin Cotler P.C., O.C., Member of Parliament (Mount Royal) and former Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada. In 2013, Butera was inducted as an honorary witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, where he bears witness to the harm inflicted by Canada’s residential school system on generations of Indigenous Canadians. A survivor of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda, Butera has spoken to dozens of audiences across Canada about his experience during the genocide and the role that an informed citizenry can play in preventing future mass atrocities and genocides.
Born at the start of the Second World War in Warsaw, Poland, Eva Kuper survived the war by a series of miraculous events involving luck, coincidence and the courage and faith of several individuals, both family members and virtual strangers. She emigrated to Canada with her family in 1949 where she grew up "practically Canadian" with the history of the Holocaust always there in the background. She was educated at Sir George Williams University and Concordia, spending the major part of her work life in education and educational administration. Kuper has taught children and adults in a variety of settings from pre-school centres and schools to Vanier College and Concordia, and was principal of one branch of Jewish Peoples' and Peretz Schools. She has also led workshops on a whole range of topics dealing with human development and education. Today, Kuper is an active volunteer and sits on the board and executive of Auberge Shalom pour femmes, and volunteers her time at the Jewish General Hospital’s child psychiatry department, the Montreal Holocaust Museum and Temple Emanu-El Beth Sholom.
Ketty Nivyabandi is a Burundian poet and activist for human rights, social justice and democracy. In May 2015, following president Pierre Nkurunziza’s candidacy for a third and unconstitutional term in office, she launched and led a historic women-only march to the capital city's Independence Square, under brutal repression from the National Police. A severe government crackdown on dissenting voices followed, and Ketty was forced to flee from persecution.
As a refugee, Nivyabandi continues to raise awareness on ongoing human rights abuses in her country, particularly against women, and has led several awareness campaigns about Burundi. Nivyabandi has appeared before the Canadian House of Commons, and regularly speaks on human rights in oppressive states, freedom of expression, refugee rights and women human rights defenders.
She is a non-violence advocate and founding member of the Women and Girls Movement for Peace and Security, an apolitical voice advocating for women to have a front seat at the peacemaking table.