Central African Republic—United Nations MissionPublished on 5 June 2014 Your Question Period by Senator Mobina Jaffer
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Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer:
My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. David Stewart from my home city of Vancouver, British Columbia, submitted this question to the Liberal Senate Forum, and I ask it on his behalf. I would like to quote his words directly:
There is an ethno-religious cleansing occurring right now in Central African Republic. Whether or not it qualifies as genocide is entirely inconsequential. The facts are simple: for months and months, the violence has been brutal, savage, and relentless. Many have been slaughtered. Armed militias have recruited thousands of children as soldiers and sex slaves. Schools across the country remain closed, nourishment is scarce, and preventable diseases run rampant. As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, one cannot help but recognize the many similarities between the two crises. In 1994, Canada refused the request made by the UN Secretary General to send further reinforcements — ultimately abandoning General Roméo Dallaire and his small contingent of soldiers. Given that there is no strategic benefit to intervention (geopolitical or otherwise), the response of the international community has been minimal. There are no surprises here; this remote region of Africa has been neglected for more than a century. However, Canada is uniquely positioned to play a pivotal role in averting what is likely to develop into a mass atrocity. Our voice is respected, and seen as largely neutral. We belong to La francophonie without the colonial history. Our troops are highly qualified; we have the necessary skills and equipment. And we have the experience. Despite this, as it stands now, Canada has failed to make more than a token contribution. Simply put, humanitarian aid is not going to stop the killings and disarm the militias. Peacekeeping efforts need to be ramped up considerably. There are currently 8,000 soldiers on the ground, which, on a per capita basis, pales in comparison to the number of peacekeepers sent to Bosnia and Kosovo. The UN has estimated that it requires a minimum of 12,000 soldiers in order to adequately fulfill its mandate. Canada has the capability to narrow this gap significantly. Have we already forgotten the lessons of Rwanda? We made an explicit promise — ‘Never Again’. Inaction is entirely immoral, and will likely have devastating consequences. We cannot remain indifferent; we have a responsibility to protect. So, I ask of the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is our government prepared to defend our country’s peacekeeping legacy and abide by the world’s moral code by contributing much needed soldiers to the UN mission in Central African Republic?
So the question he has is: Is our government prepared to defend our country’s peacekeeping legacy and abide by the world’s moral code by contributing much-needed soldiers to the UN mission in the Central African Republic?