September 26th, 2014

The Legacy of Genocide in Rwanda

We often think of genocide in simple terms as a self-contained, incredibly destructive, conflict between two ethnic groups. However, the causes and outcomes of such violence are often much more complex. In fact, the large-scale destruction, displacement and mutual resentment that results from genocide often creates unintended consequences that reverberate through time and across national borders, laying the groundwork for future conflicts. This has certainly been the case with the Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred by Hutu-nationalist militias.

In Rwanda, the killings left a scar on the nation’s psyche which has proven difficult to remove. Despite ongoing efforts by the Rwandan government to play down divisions between Hutus and Tutsis, ethnic tensions remain just beneath the surface in many areas of Rwandan society. This is true even at the nation’s universities, where young Rwandans split themselves up into “Francophone” or “Anglophone” groups, with these terms serving as code words for Hutu or Tutsi ancestry (

Some of the government’s reconciliation efforts, while positive in theory, have also had a chilling effect on Rwanda’s political culture. Laws against the spreading of “genocide ideology” and “divisionism” intended to reduce ethnic hatred have frequently been used by the government of President Paul Kagame as a pretext to arrest student leaders, intellectuals, and political opponents (

On an individual level, many are still haunted by memories of the events of 1994. These psychological wounds are particularly deep for the women of Rwanda, many of whom were left with unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases due to the wave of sexual violence that accompanied the genocide. Often, their suffering is compounded by social isolation, as neighbours, family members and former friends frequently turn their back on those women who were unlucky enough to become pregnant as a result of these attacks (

Perhaps the most destructive after effect of the Rwandan genocide, however, has been its contribution to ongoing warfare and political instability in central Africa. Following the rise to power of Rwanda’s new Tutsi-led government in 1994, leaders of the Interhamwe (the genocidal militia responsible for much of the killing in Rwanda) fled across the border into the DRC. After reforming as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), they then staged cross-border attacks against the Rwandan military, who responded with campaigns of their own. Tensions between the two countries eventually devolved into a state of unofficial warfare, in which the governments of Rwanda, DRC and other neighbouring countries have lent support to rival rebel groups ( This has resulted in millions of deaths and the creation of hundreds of thousands of refugees, while also increasing tensions between Hutu and Tutsi populations in the area.

Though conditions in the eastern DRC have improved somewhat in recent months, the tragic legacy of the Rwandan genocide continues to present obstacles to lasting peace and stability within Rwanda and the African Great Lakes region as a whole. We can only hope that the next time the spectre of genocide rears its ugly head, we, and the policymakers who represent us, will be more aware of the terrible costs of inaction.


Posted in Uncategorized by sfenwick
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September 23rd, 2014

MPs Vote on the Conflict Minerals Act this Wednesday

This Wednesday at about 5:30pm Eastern time, our Members of Parliament will vote on Paul Dewar’s Conflict Minerals Act. If you haven’t already, please sign our online petition telling Canada’s MPs to support the bill.

If you can spare the time, please also email your local MP today to support the bill. In situations like these, it’s more important to email your MP than the Prime Minister’s Office. You can find your MP online using your postal code. If you need help for what to say, we have a suggested text on the STAND Canada website.

Once you’re finished, tune-in! The vote will be carried live at Let your friends the world know that you’re watching by taking to Facebook and Twitter. When using Twitter, use the hashtags #cdnpoli and #turnoffconflict.

Scott Fenwick
Executive Director, STAND Canada

Posted in Action Alert, The Politician by sfenwick
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September 22nd, 2014

Dodd-Frank vs. the Conflict Minerals Act

By Anna Ou, Policy Researcher

As Bill C-486, the Conflict Minerals Act (CMA), comes to a vote today, Canadian consumers may soon have the opportunity to be more knowledgeable of where their products come from and make moral decisions on purchases based on this information. Following the footsteps of its American counterpart in 2010, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the bill looks to ensure that Canadian natural resources companies in the Great Lakes region of Africa are doing their due diligence to not engage in transactions that may benefit armed rebel groups and spur human rights violations.

Similar to Dodd-Frank, Bill C-486 calls for companies to disclose their financial activities, including supply chains, in respect to the extraction, process, and trade of minerals such as gold, tin, tungsten, and others, in the Great Lakes region. However, one noticeable difference between the two is that the Canadian bill refers to the Great Lakes region as a whole, with no particular countries singled out, while Dodd-Frank primarily focuses on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with neighbouring countries as additions. As Canadian mining companies make up the highest concentration of foreign enterprises in the DRC, and the country remains the source of extreme violence and great human rights abuses in Africa, it seems odd that there were no indicators in the bill to mark its significance in the issue. But as the civil war violence in the DRC saturates most, if not all, of its neighbouring countries, it makes sense to include them all under one title to ensure maximum coverage.

What really separates Dodd-Frank and Bill C-486 is that the former seems to take on a more consumer-based approach in combating the issue of conflict minerals, in which government regulations are put in place to bring greater transparency for domestic choices. For Bill C-486, a greater importance is placed on the foreign welfare of the people of the African region, with its preamble clearly stating Canada’s responsibility on the international stage in promoting the trade of conflict-free natural resources. As the bill looks to follow much of OECD’s guidelines on due diligence, which are recognized by 34 member countries, Canada will play a leadership role in tackling this issue once the bill is passed.

Nevertheless, while Dodd-Frank and Bill C-486 both intend to bring greater transparency to consumers by getting companies to show their blueprints in how they obtain minerals, US companies have been experiencing difficulties in interpreting and complying with the Dodd-Frank Act. In a survey conducted by PwC in February 2014, more than 25 percent of the US companies that participated are still in the early stages of compliance and many were not sure if the rules applied to them.1 Should the CMA come into force in Canada, would Canadian companies also encounter similar confusions, or will lawmakers take this into account and produce a clearer interpretation of the Act? For now, we can only anxiously await the upcoming vote in the hopes that our MPs will make the choice to help curb the violence surrounding conflict minerals.

1 “2014 Conflict Minerals Survey,” PwC, last modified April 8 2014,

Posted in The Politician by Alison Chan
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September 15th, 2014

ACTION ALERT: Email your MP about the Conflict Minerals Act

As Parliament resumes today, it is important important more than ever to email your MP to support Paul Dewar’s Conflict Minerals Act. Members of Parliament are due to vote on the bill in the coming days, and your vocal support is key.

Visit the Conflict Minerals Act page of the STAND Canada website about emailing your MP, including:

  • How to find your MP
  • Who else to contact
  • What to say in your emails.

Don’t forget to also sign our Conflict Minerals Act petition too!

This Wednesday, September 24 marks a national day of action in support of Bill C-486. Help us turn off conflict by joining Canadians across the country by shutting down your cell phone for 486 minutes between 6:00p.m. and 2:06 a.m. (local time).

This act will help stand in solidarity with the survivors and bring awareness to those killed in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which has been fueled and funded by the illegal trade of conflict minerals. Check out the event on Facebook.

Scott Fenwick
Executive Director, STAND Canada

Posted in Action Alert by sfenwick
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September 15th, 2014

Conflict Minerals: know your products.

By Colin Baulke

Bill C-486, known as the Conflict Minerals Act, would require Canadian corporations to practice due diligence in the trade of specific minerals originating from the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Although this law would make significant steps in reducing the exploitation of “conflict minerals” originating in the region, it is still important for individuals to self-audit their own purchases. To help you with this, STAND has created a list of five household products you may not have realized used minerals that would be in violation of proposed Bill C-486.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in The Activist by sfenwick
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