I had not planned this post, but I feel that it is more than justified. I would like to recognise LGen Roméo Dallaire who has recently received a Star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.
I have had the extreme honour to meet General Dallaire on several occasions. He is one of the most powerful people I have ever encountered. Born in The Netherlands in 1946, he was the son of a Canadian soldier and a Dutch nurse. Shortly after his father was repatriated, he and his mother immigrated to Canada. He joined the Canadian Army and graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada in 1969 (the year that I became a cadet – not that I draw any other parallels). However, it wasn’t until he applied for a Canadian passport to travel with his military unit that he found that being born to a Canadian soldier did not confer upon him Canadian citizenship. His application for citizenship was approved.
General Dallaire has become one of the most highly respected advocates for human rights, especially in regards to children, veterans, and the prevention of mass atrocities in the world. A retired Canadian Senator, he has received honours from all corners of the world, not least of which is as an Officer of the Order of Canada.
General Dallaire Is a Canadian hero in the truest sense. While Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda prior to and during the 1994 genocide, General Dallaire provided the United Nations with information about the planned massacre of Tutsi tribesmen by the Hutus. This genocide ultimately took more than 800,000 lives in less than 100 days. However, permission to intervene was denied and the UN withdrew its peacekeeping forces. Along with a small contingent of Ghanaian and Tunisian soldiers and military observers, he disobeyed direct commands from the UN and Canada to withdraw. He remained in Rwanda to fulfill their ethical obligation to protect those who sought refuge with the UN forces.
Upon his return to Canada, he held various command positions, but was constantly haunted by the horror of the genocide in Rwanda. Dallaire suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and in 2000 attempted suicide. Anyone who has read his book Shake Hands with the Devil (as I have attempted many times) will get a glimpse into the trauma that he faced, the courage he displayed and his sense of despair at his inability to take greater steps to minimize the slaughter.
Dallaire is an outspoken supporter of raising awareness for veterans’ mental health and is the Patron of Wounded Warriors Canada.
Honour the Fallen; Help the Living