Senator Roméo Dallaire opened his lecture last Monday by having his audience imagine planet Earth from space, describing a “bluish, vulnerable ball in the middle of the vastness” – with no visible borders.
The blurring lines of human rights and what he brands “disasters” anchored Dallaire’s lecture. The peace and security of our modern world was scrutinized as “a new world disorder” as Dallaire posed questions about what Canada can do in 2006 in the face of human failure.
The lecture followed a medal ceremony honouring the former Lieutenant-General, now Senator, with the Loyola medal.
Awarded by the Loyola Alumni Association of Concordia University, the medal was first given in 1961 to honour outstanding leadership and achievement on the Canadian scene. Previous medal winners include former Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau, Jean Vanier and Oscar E. Peterson.
Following the medal ceremony, Dallaire lectured on the role of Western countries in genocides such as in Rwanda and Darfur. The Oct. 16 lecture was his first public address since becoming the Senior Fellow at Concordia’s Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) in September.
His role with MIGS will revolve around public lectures and workshops to bring greater understanding of the realities of genocide. Concordia President Claude Lajeneusse stated prior to the ceremony that “[Dallaire’s] arrival has allowed us to join in a common goal: to improve the conditions of our world through education and research.”
On peacekeeping organizations in the West Dallaire said, “We have not found the new lexicon. NATO has existed for over thirty years, and still only uses words like ‘attack’ and ‘defend’.” He said he feels policies and attitudes are outdated. After watching what unravelled in Rwanda and now in Darfur, questions and definitions need to be updated
He talked of a new atmosphere of global security, the “truth about the casualties in Iraq,” ethnic cleansing horrors and the political failures of the 1990s. He pointed to a whole new political arena that has developed and how the global community needs to reevaluate its disappointing reaction to the Rwandan genocide.
Dallaire spoke of entering a new high-tech and more complex era and asked, “How are we responsible? In opposition, are we functioning members .or practioners of war?”
Dallaire’s already high international profile rose even more after the release of his 2003 book, Shake Hands with the Devil: the Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. In his book, Dallaire chronicled his deep spiral into depression and thoughts of suicide. He felt responsible for not being able to stop the 1994 Rwandan massacre, where he had led the UN peacekeeping force. The book won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction.
Dallaire’s enthusiasm for MIGS is grounded in his faith in their international reputation and the work the centre is doing. The organization and research centre has grown considerably since 1986, partnering with McGill University and UQAM, and extends to scholars living in France, Israel, Great Britain and the U.S.
For more information on MIGS and Senator Roméo Dallaire visit http://migs.concordia.ca and www.romeodallaire.com