The Rwandan community in Canada has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for radical change to the country’s view of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda.
Canada’s relation with the genocide remains complex and contradictory. On the one hand, it’s soldiers witnessed first hand the mass slaughter, and it’s decorated soldier retired Gen Romeo Dallaire was commander of the ill-prepared UN force at the time.
Canada is also where many of the architects of the genocide ran to including Dr Leon Mugesera, who coined “cockroaches” reference for Tutsis. Two suspects have been deported back including Mugesera.
Canada has also been accused of profiling Rwandan visitors in ethnic categories using visa forms that required they write “Tutsi”, “Hutu” or “Twa”. These were identifications that facilitated the genocide, and have been outlawed in Rwanda.
In 2008, relations between Kigali and Ottawa fell to an all time low over this lengthy visa application questionnaire, in addition to the ethnic questions. Canada backed down, removing the need for specific ethnic identifications but left many of the questions which are said to cause discomfort to Rwandan travelers. The questions which remained require answers which allow the Canadians to categorise the Rwandans.
Complaints over the Canadian visa process have remained, as Rwandans accuse the High Commission of delaying to process visa, and more often deliberately refusing visas for Rwandans.
Now, the Rwandan Community Abroad-Canada has opened a new chapter of the campaign against Canada’s behavior.
In a letter dated February 8, the community wants Canada to implement a UN resolution obliging all countries refer to the mass killings as “the 1994 genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda”.
“We truly believe this will help in the fight against genocide denial and impunity for violations that constitute the crime of genocide anywhere in the World,” reads in part the letter signed by Joachim Mutezintare, the leader.
The Rwandans, numbering thousands, also want the Prime Minister’s government to initiate legislation in Parliament making negation of the genocide criminal.
The laws will create deterrent for genocide deniers with “goal of preventing Canada from becoming a safe haven for those that may be implicated in the crimes of genocide”, say the community.
“This is not only the right thing to do, but is also a moral obligation that will send a clear message that Canada stands in solidarity with thousands of genocide survivors who have sought refuge in Canada.”
Apart from the regular private visits of now Senator Dallaire, senior Canadian officials have not been to Rwanda of recent.
In April 2010, then Canadian Governor General Michaelle Jean was in Kigali. She held bilateral talks with President Paul Kagame in which the issue of visas was addressed.
Over the past two years, however, Rwanda and Canada are suddenly the best of friends. They are both the champions of UN action against change and peacekeeping.