6.0 Introduction

Chapter Introduction

The crime of genocide was first recognized by the international community in 1948, when the United Nation’s adopted the Genocide Convention. Although the origin of the term genocide only dates to 1944, actions that we now refer to as genocide have occurred throughout human history. This chapter explores the origins and meaning of the term and the international criteria for genocide. Several of the more well-known genocides in human history are discussed, including: the Armenian genocide; the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide; and the genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada. The chapter also examines how mass killings of particular groups are framed around perceptions of difference, typically tied to religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, and misleading constructions of race and ethnicity. The assignment at the end of the chapter provides the opportunity for students to learn about other genocides not covered in detail in the assigned course material.

Icon with exclamation mark inside a hexagon to signal potentially emotionally difficult or distressing course content.Chapter content, including videos and links to reading material, contains information that may be distressing to read and watch. Please take breaks while completing the chapter materials and utilize the resources and supports listed at the start of this book when necessary.

Chapter Objectives/Learning Outcomes 

After completing the chapter materials, you should have an understanding of:

  1. The definition of genocide.
  2. The UN International Criteria for Genocide.
  3. Examples of well-known genocides (e.g., the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and the genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada).
  4. Some common characteristics and features of genocides.

Questions to Think About When Completing Chapter Materials

  1. What types of language, behaviours, and decisions can eventually lead to a genocide? Provide two examples from the course materials to illustrate.
  2. What are some common characteristics of genocides?
  3. What is an example of a genocide that many people are unfamiliar with? Why do you think it is less familiar?
  4. Why is it critical to teach and be educated on genocide and the history of genocide?
  5. Explain how the actions (or lack thereof) of the Canadian government against Indigenous peoples have rarely (and only recently) been labelled as a genocide by the public, Canadian leaders and/or international community?


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On Death and Dying (Original) Copyright © 2022 by Jacqueline Lewis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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