Over 300 Rwandans and friends of Rwanda convened at Parliament Hill in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, to take part in activities to mark the 17th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
17 years since the tragic events and thousands of miles from their home country, memories of the Genocide are still fresh in the memories of survivors living in Canada.
Yvonne Kaligirwa, 38, who has lived and worked as a nurse in Canada for the last four years, vividly recalls the events.
“Remembering is always fresh for me. I think everyone has a way of remembering and feeling their sorrow,” she told The New Times, as tears welled in her eyes.
Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Canada, Edda Mukabagwiza, encouraged the survivors to tell their stories as a way of countering those who deny the event ever took place, or those who try to trivialise it.
“It’s an occasion to look back with honesty and to ensure that the legacy of the Genocide is faced with dignity,” she said. “Survivor’s dignity comes when their stories and experiences are witnessed and believed,” She added.
According to Alain Ntwali, the president of the Genocide survivors’ association, Humura, in Canada, life as a survivor in the Diaspora often underlines the need to take good care of oneself, especially in case of post traumatic effects.
Kaligirwa convincingly concurred: “We the survivors have the key to our lives. Like everyone else, when you get overwhelmed by problems, try to open up, search for ways to overcome them and move on”.
She noted that it is also important to ask for help, where necessary, especially in a lonely life as an immigrant and survivor.
Kaligirwa lost her sister and brother among other family members during the Genocide.
Commemorative activities in Ottawa will include a conference at the Ottawa City Hall.
Speakers will include Victor Munyarugerero, a Rwandan, who will share his experience about life at Kigali’s Hotel des Milles Collines during the Genocide.
Another key speaker will be Taylor Kraus, founder of Voices of Rwanda, an organisation that has documented testimonies of Genocide survivors in video.
Meanwhile, Canada designated April 7 as a Day of Reflection on the Prevention of Genocide, the same day adopted by the United Nations.