Romeo Dallaire shares insight on modern world at Lunenburg Lit Fest

by Michael Lee

  • <p>MICHAEL LEE PHOTO</p><p>Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire speaking at the Lunenburg School of the Arts on September 29 for the first day of Lunenburg Lit Fest.</p>

A leader in the fight against the use of child soldiers paid a visit to Lunenburg last weekend to share his wisdom on war and what he believes is Canada's role in the modern era.

Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire helped kick off Lunenburg Lit Fest on September 29, speaking to a packed crowd at the Lunenburg School of the Arts.

The former senator, veteran, author, human rights activist and founder of the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative used the hour he had to detail his personal experiences as the force commander for the UN mission in Rwanda and how Canada must position itself as a "bridge" between developing countries and the world's major powers.

"That was our forte," he said. "That was us and they believed in us."

Dallaire talked about the wounds left behind in other countries from decades of colonization, followed by the end of the Cold War and the ensuing wars which were fought, not between nation states, but along ethnic, religious and tribal lines.

In Rwanda, for example, he said the UN force was there to "establish" an "atmosphere of security," but with no concept of how to handle these unfamiliar situations.

"We were inventing words in the '90s, but there was nothing behind them," he said.

"So in the era we are in, we're still doing a lot of on job training."

Beyond the need to prevent future conflicts, Dallaire also touched on the "revolutions" taking place around the world in environment, technology and security, and the impact it's having on a global scale.

On the topic of child soldiers, he said it's not just about helping those who have been child soldiers in the past, but preventing them from becoming soldiers in the first place.

Not only will this make it harder for groups to recruit, but it will lessen the burden on our own soldiers who may be deployed to fight and kill these children in future wars.

In handling these and other challenges, Dallaire said what is needed is leadership and a respect for each other as human beings. "It's only in respect that you are equal," he said.

With Canada entering its 150th year of Confederation, Dallaire challenged those in the crowd to think about Canada's role in preserving humanity.

"To fight that is fighting who we are and what we are."

Dallaire was also joined by Patrick Woodcock, an accomplished poet who read from some of his personal works and others.

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