OTTAWA — Canada should be a UN-peacekeeping leader once again and that includes a possible mission in the Congo, says Sen. Romeo Dallaire.
Dallaire, who headed up the UN mission during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, said Canada has a “responsibility” to prevent human rights atrocities as much as it has one to “go in afterwards and pick up the pieces.”
“I think the Congo is but one mission. Darfur is another. There are 109,000 peacekeepers around the world, and we’ve got 53 Canadians engaged,” Dallaire said Thursday. “We can and have the competency to command these missions, to provide the command and control capabilities, headquarters and so on. We’ve got the depth linguistically, and also experientially now having been involved in counter-insurgency to be able to respond to peacekeeping today.”
Dallaire said peacekeeping operations are no longer about soldiers “standing there watching” in blue berets and short pants. Today’s peacekeeping operations mean troops must be prepared to protect the vulnerable.
“Protect the moderates, protect the innocents from extremism — and that means that no matter what mission you’ll be engaged in, the risks of casualties exist,” he said. “That is what peacekeeping is — it’s peacemaking in our era.”
Dallaire made the comments after the first meeting of a new Senate committee studying ways to prevent sexual exploitation, especially of aboriginal people. He also said he “appreciated” the recent apology to Rwandans from Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, which he called a “great gesture” whether it was an official apology or not.
“And I say that as the former force commander on the ground with bodies up to my neck and screaming for support. A head of state went to that country and demonstrated the solidarity with the Rwandan people. To me, that is a great gesture, and I think it’s reflective of essentially what Canadians believe,” he said.