Romeo Dallaire resigns from Senate

Romeo Dallaire speaks at Laval University in Quebec City on May 22, 2014. (JEAN-FRANCOIS...

Romeo Dallaire speaks at Laval University in Quebec City on May 22, 2014. (JEAN-FRANCOIS DESGAGNES/QMI Agency)

Mark Dunn, Senior National Reporter

, Last Updated: 11:35 AM ET

OTTAWA — Retired lieutenant-general Romeo Dallaire witnessed unimaginable horrors and was helpless to stop the 1994 Rwandan genocide that some accounts say claimed more than one million lives over a 100-day period.

The decorated leader of the United Nations mission in Africa still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the slaughter of mostly Tutsis at the hands of Hutus.

His nightmare has been recounted in books and film and even songs were penned about one of the darkest moments in UN history when Dallaire's pleas for additional forces to contain the massacre fell on deaf ears.

He tried to take his own life four times upon his return to Canada until he got the help he needed to treat depression and PTSD — issues he champions today to help other veterans.

Dallaire, a 36-year military veteran, resigned from the Senate on Wednesday after nine years in a place that has fallen into disrepute and seven years before age would have forced the Liberal appointee out.

He told a news conference health didn't factor into his decision to leave.

Nor did the scandal and criminal investigation into some of his colleagues and the auditor general's probe that could uncover further wrongdoing, he said.

"The PTSD was not a factor of my resignation. I'm going to be probably travelling more and more engaged internationally than I am right now."

Dallaire said he was leaving with a "torn heart" to work on humanitarian issues, particularly on the child soldier front, genocide prevention, crimes against humanity, veterans advocacy, PTSD research and conflict resolution.

And he has a couple of books in the works.

"The pressure from the outside, the duties that I owe to the many organizations...have come to the point where I cannot meet the challenges of the Senate responsibly."

When asked to recount Rwanda and the personal trauma that followed, Dallaire said what happened two decades ago will never go away.

"I live every day what I lived 20 years ago and it is if it was this morning. You can't walk away from the scale of destruction, nor can you walk away from the sense of abandonment my troops and I had in the field."

His departure caught many off guard.

"This is a sad day for me as leader of our (Liberal) caucus. It's a sad day for the Senate. It's a sad day for Canada," Sen. James Cowan said. "Romeo Dallaire is one of the most remarkable Canadians that I have ever met."

Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Dallaire was a tall figure on Parliament Hill.

"I think his contributions, his public service are unparalleled. He has been a truly great Canadian on a number of fronts and I have a great deal of admiration for him," said MacKay, a former defence minister.

Mark.Dunn@sunmedia.ca

Twitter:MarkDunnSun

 

Romeo Dallaire timeline:

1946  – born in Denekamp, Netherlands, June 25
1960 – Became army cadet
1964 – Began studying at le College militaire royal de Saint-Jean (Royal Military College)
1969 – Received bachelor of science from College militaire royal de Saint-Jean
1989 – Named brigadier-general and became commandant of College militaire royal de Saint-Jean
1993 – Commissioned as major-general for United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR)
1994 – The Rwandan genocide begins in April, and Dallaire’s peacekeepers are limited to saving lives by helping the Tutsis hide. His actions are credited with saving 32,000 lives. The genocide is declared over on July 18, between 800,000 and 1,171,000 people were killed.
1995 – Named commander of Land Force Quebec Area
1998 – Named lieutenant-general
2000 – Attempted suicide while suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder
- Medically released from Canadian Army
2003 - Released biography Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda
2004 – Testified at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
2005 – Appointed as Liberal senator by then-prime minister Paul Martin
2010 – Released second book, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children
2014 – Announced he will resign from Senate effective June 17

-Sources : romeodallaire.com, Wikipedia


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