International Day of United Nations PeacekeepersPublished on 30 May 2012 Hansard and Statements by Senator Roméo Dallaire (retired)
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire:
Honourable senators, today I rise because it is May 29, the day we commemorate the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. Although Canada has a national day on August 9 that commemorates the loss of a crew of 12 Canadians, including a brigadier-general, in the Middle East in the 1960s, May 29 is the day for international recognition of all peacekeepers. An estimated 3,000 have been killed in different operations around the world and several tens of thousands have been injured in a variety of ways.
During the Cold War, peacekeeping was very much a rich country’s business because the UN had no capacity. Countries with capacity were the only ones who could send forces into classic chapter 6 peacekeeping. In those days, about 13 countries, mostly developed ones, were the main participants. Today, there are over 82,000 peacekeepers around the world. Interestingly enough, as our guests from India will know, India has over 8,000 personnel deployed in peacekeeping. Currently, 117 countries are involved in peacekeeping. Where Canada once had a leadership role not only in the field but also at the different headquarters in bringing in the concepts, operations and command, giving significant command exposure and opportunities to the Canadian Forces personnel, today we have only 17 people wearing the Blue Beret.
I recently spent three and half weeks in the Congo, South Sudan, Central Africa, Uganda and Rwanda. There are two missions in the Congo, three missions in Sudan and one mission in Eritria. Interestingly, Rwanda has deployed close to 4,500 troops in peacekeeping. On that trip, a young Canadian Major, who was the second-in-command of all the liaison offices in the Congo mission, which comprises nearly 26,000 troops, was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and given full responsibility for the liaison with Congolese forces because of the ineffectiveness of his superior, who was fired.
It is true, as the Chief of the Defence Staff says, that it is not the number but the value added in specific places that can be of great service. However, there is a requirement for numbers on the ground. As we have seen in Syria, the necessity of having eyes and ears on the ground is critical to the international community accomplishing its mission of responsibility to protect the advancement of human rights.
Honourable senators, there are missions screaming for Canadian capability. We have walked away from this role. It is high time we return to it and recognize the sacrifices of those of the past.