Canada’s Lack of Leadership in United Nations World Affairs
Canada is known to be the “nice guys” of the world, but we have shady patches in our history that could easily strip us of our “nice guys” title, especially when it comes to foreign affairs. During the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the Canadian government ignored many reports of the intense violence going on in Rwanda. Canada voted against Palestinian statehood and has been showing our disagreement on this issue, but continues to talk without taking action. Canada is known to opt out of environmental resolutions, including the Kyoto Protocol and more recently, the UN’s Anti-Drought Convention. Canada often does not take a leadership role when it comes to UN foreign affairs.
Canada did not adequately respond to the Rwandan genocide conflict in 1994. We responded too late and too lightly because of our ignorance. We received many detailing reports about the intense violence that was going on against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The Canadian Government received these reports months before the genocide started in April. The government received many reports about the increasing ethnic tensions that were going on and the increasing violence that foreshadowed a civil war, but we chose to ignore them. We received reports as early as February 17, when Denis Provost a Canadian consul in Rwanda sent a fax of a press meeting of African ambassadors in Rwanda. The fax reports showed that the UN missions had proof that there were militia training camps and that weapons were passed out to Tutsis- an obvious move of preparation of a massacre. Major Brent Beardsley a military aide to Romeo Dallaire during the genocide said, “Ottawa knew something was going on. . . everyone was sitting back and waiting for some else to take a lead,”(Black). Canada had reports foreshadowing a civil war and we chose to ignore them. Beardsley’s statement shows that Canada did not take a leadership role and just sat back and waited for someone else to take it. We should have taken action and proposed a plan to stop the genocide as soon as we were getting these gruesome reports. Beardsley also says that the government did not have Rwanda has a priority and because of this, they chose to ignore the reports (Black). This shows Canada’s ignorance of the situation. Canada had an attitude of “it’s not our problem” and because it doesn't affect Canada in a major way, they decided to ignore the situation. Even our then foreign affairs minister, Andre Ouellet, acknowledged our lack of intervention saying, “You know we are all responsible in the sense nobody woke up on time,” (Black). Ouellet is acknowledging the fact the no one stood up and brought the issue to the United Nations’ attention as a major crisis before the genocide started, when we were first getting reports. Canada had the reports and could’ve taken the leadership role and brought it to the United Nations’ attention. Then they could have proposed a plan to prevent the genocide from happening, such as placing troops there earlier or having armed troops. Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general that led UNAMIR said, “The rage I have is towards our ineptness and sense of irresponsibility to those who expect us to be in a leadership role,” (Hampson). Dallaire talked about our lack of leadership. He was the one who experienced our ignorance and cowardly instincts as he was the Canadian general that wanted to actually do something about it. He asked for reinforcement from the UN as soon as Habyarimana’s death, but was denied; not even his own country helped him. We ignored Dallaire’s cries for help and action and continued to just follow the UN’s ineffective solution. The UNAMIR chose not to use force and were only successful in helping survivors out and counting the dead. Canada should have stood up at the UN meetings and should have assisted Dallaire and ask for armed troops to be put in place to prevent more violence. Our former Governor General,...
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