Toronto Sun | 24Jun2008 | Peter Worthington

Study of genocide must include Holodomor

Sometimes it's difficult to understand the reasoning of those in our school system who have the power to implement changes.

Many Canadians feel that the teaching of Canadian history in our elementary schools is abysmal to misguided. I remember when our kids were in elementary school some 30 years ago, one of them announced Portugal had a claim on discovering Canada because the cook in Henry Hudson's ship was Portuguese. (Whether the cook was or wasn't, isn't the point; it was distorting history in order to be inclusive.)

I'll guarantee that the British involvement in Canada's history, is not taught in our schools as thoroughly and anecdotally as it was prior to our fixation on making Canada a multicultural country, with history adjusted to include every faction.

The above may be debatable, but what isn't debatable is the Toronto District School Board's (TDSB) loony decision to restrict its new Grade 11 course on the study of genocide, to three cases: The Holocaust, Rwanda and Armenia (disputed by the Turks). What's "loony" is the Board's refusal to include the Ukrainian "Holodomor" of 1932-33 -- holod means hunger, mor is death. Combined, it's genocide by starvation.

The course was initially called Genocide: Historical and Contemporary Implications, which the TDSB's Review Committee urged be changed to Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. Either title seems acceptable, so long as the topic is explored rationally, accurately, and doesn't become propaganda.

What isn't acceptable, is excluding the Ukrainian genocide executed by Josef Stalin to bring Ukraine to heel, to eliminate potential opposition, and to exercise absolute control via a policy of terror. Between three and seven million Ukrainians died in history's only deliberately imposed famine, used as a political weapon.

When I was based in Moscow in the mid-1960s and wrote about the famine, the Soviets didn't like it but acknowledged it happened and blamed Stalin's excessive zeal.

Ukrainian-Canadians resent their history of neo-slavery under Stalin being not only ignored, but unknown in the West. That's not quite true, as the Holodomor is well-known, albeit not by that name. The TDSB should be ashamed to reject it.


When the starvation genocide was underway in 1932-33, the New York Times' Walter Duranty (the most morally corrupt journalist of his day) ignored it, praised Stalin, and won a Pulitzer Prize (which the NYT has resisted returning, but admits shame).

At the same time as Duranty, a young Malcolm Muggeridge was based in Moscow writing the truth of the "famine" for the Guardian -- which wasn't interested.

In his innumerable books, Muggeridge has noted that left-wing writers made good money writing favourably about the Soviet Union, which meant hiding truth and toeing the party line. Even today, some blame drought for the Ukrainian famine. A brazen lie.

Some universities still have difficulty believing Stalin would create a famine simply to control or punish people -- just as they downplay the Soviet Gulag that killed deep into the tens of millions.

The TDSB rejects the Holodomor on grounds that the genocide course is only 110 hours, and insufficient for other genocidal studies. Rubbish. Any knowledgeable person can present an arguable case in an hour. Surely, the course is to educate, not indoctrinate.

There are other genocides worth studying. Cambodia, 1975-1979, for instance, is a hell of a lot more "contemporary" than Armenia, 1915-23. In Cambodia, 26% of the population (1.5 million) was disposed of -- anyone wearing spectacles, speaking English, wearing a suit, or giving indication of being educated or sophisticated was killed.


While each genocide is unique in its way, the Holodomor was a policy decision -- and not the only one. Stalin was known as "the killer of nations" and ordered the forced exile of Chechen, Ingush, Crimean Tatars, Meskhatians, Karachai, Kalmyks, Volga Germans and other minorities, some 40% of whom perished. More genocide?

The school board should rethink its flawed course on genocide. As it stands, it is grossly distorted and unfair, and gives a false impression of man's injustice to man.