Canada, Lectures, News, St. Thomas University

Romeo Dallaire says Canada needs to become an ‘activist nation’

Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire urged the current generation to take on a leadership role and move the country towards becoming an activist nation at a lecture on Feb. 18.

Dallaire delivered the 2016 Lodhi Memorial Lecture at St. Thomas University, telling the overflowing audience of more than 400 people in Kinsella Auditorium “we’ve been sitting on our asses too long.”

“This body of humanity has a right to live,” Dallaire said. “It has a right to seek a lie, to see the opportunity to grow, to be positive, to permit their next generations, to have the intellectual vigour that you get in your universities so that you can understand the problems and solve them.”

Dallaire oversaw United Nations forces during the Rwanda genocide of 1994, refusing to pull out of the multinational mission despite orders from Secretary General Boutros-Ghali. He protected as many Tutus as he could until Troops arrived two months later, although hundreds of thousands were slaughtered in the meantime.

Dallaire said when a country massively abuses the rights of its people, it is in the self-interest of the rest of humanity has a responsibility to engage and protect those people.

“We had the capability of attenuating those conflicts in their embryo because we saw those governments moving to massively abuse the rights of their population,” he said. “That permitted us, through the U.N., to engage, to protect those citizens.”

Dallaire spoke of the right to protect, often referred to as R2P, which is a proposed U.N. norm that arose out of the Rwandan genocide. It was championed by Canada during the Paul Martin government and was cited by the U.N. when it intervened in Libya in 2011.

He said the bombing of the army of Mu’amme Gaddaffi, without putting any troops on the ground to prevent the resulting chaos, gave R2P a bad name it doesn’t deserve.

“We had the tools to do it, and we didn’t have the guts to put the boots on the ground,” Dallaire said.

He compared the situations in Rwanda and Libya to the current conflicts in Syria.

The Syrian War began as protests against authoritarian President Bashar al-Assad during the Arab Spring, but soon drifted into a civil war. Five years later, al-Qaeda and ISIS have gained a foothold. The country is in ruins and millions of refugees have fled, living in refugee camps and streaming into Europe.

Dallaire told the crowd that clips on TV and the internet don’t truly depict what is going on in those countries justice, and that people like him who have lived in the midst of it see the harsh reality.

“We can smell the horrible smells of death and decay, we can hear the kids crying, we can see the anguish in the parents, mothers,” he said. “We can see the fear of another bomb falling down, killing; we can see the elderly, laying by the road dying and wondering what the hell happened. We see it and live it.”

Dallaire stressed that is why he believes that today’s “generation without borders” should establish a sort of rite of passage from countries like ours that can take a leadership role because they have the capacity to do it.

“Go and see what’s happening with 80 per cent of humanity,” he said. “Go and see the reality of that humanity and come back after having touched, smelled and heard, tasted, felt – as human beings with others – what they’re going through. And influence this great nation to become an activist nation.”

Originally written for a class at St. Thomas University.

Canada, Climate change, Lectures, News, St. Thomas University

‘Canada needs to build a weather-ready nation,’ says expert

The wild storm on Wednesday night animated Blair Feltmate’s warning to an audience at St. Thomas University that Canada needs to build a weather-ready nation.

Feltmate, a professor at the University of Waterloo, spoke as part of the McKenna Centre for Communications and Public Policy Distinguished Speaker Series. He told the crowd of approximately 80 people that climate change is real and it would be nearly impossible to reverse its effects.

“We’ve removed an area of forest from the earth slightly larger than the United States of America,” Feltmate said. “That’s gone for good. Paved over.”

Specifically, Feltmate’s talk focused on floods because he called the “biggest monkey in the room” the fact that there is too much water.

He warned that Canadians will soon no longer be able to afford the effects of this, focusing on the property and home insurance sector.

“If any industry is on the forefront of addressing the challenges of climate change, it’s the insurance sector,” Feltmate said. “They’re not the canary in the coalmine – they’re the ostrich in the coalmine.”

Feltmate said the country needs to be thinking about adapting infrastructure on two scales if it continues to use fossil fuels.

“Maybe there’s not going to be water here now but there might be 25 or 50 years down the road,” he said. “Let’s adapt to the current challenges… but also we have to use models to forward project what the weather’s going to be like in the future and build that into our system.”

Feltmate proposed solutions to these natural disaster issues, including up-to-date flood plain maps, the concept of the Home Adaptation Assessment Program, and building codes and upgrades.

His lecture left the audience with the overall idea that not adapting to climate change is not an option. Feltmate stressed that it is time to forget the talk and act quickly.

“We need to build a weather-ready Canada right now,” Feltmate said. “Not 25 years from now, not 50 years from now, not 75 years from now. We have a formidable challenge on the table at this moment and we need to embrace adaptation currently.”

Originally written for a class at St. Thomas University.

Lectures, News, St. Thomas University

2016 Dalton Camp Lecture: Lyse Doucet and the power of words

BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet addressed the power of words and journalism during conflicts such as the Syrian refugee crisis at this year’s Dalton Camp Lecture.

“I think all of us here today want to believe that words – our words that we write – can make a difference, can make meaning, can even change lives,” she said last Tuesday.

Doucet, a native of Bathurst and also a presenter for the BBC, told the full audience in St. Thomas University’s Kinsella Auditorium that the way the stories of the refugees’ struggles are written is important. The words, the detail and the faces of these stories determine the message that is being sent out.

“Facts matter, language matters, words matter,” she said.

Doucet used the photo of 3-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi washed up on the shores of Turkey as an example of how a photo can be worth a million words.

“Our big world suddenly became smaller, more connected… international news is no longer foreign – it’s all local news now.”

Doucet’s lecture connected today’s refugee crisis with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Evangeline.” Doucet said that it is also a story about “how words and images can make a difference.”

The poem, “a story of great love and loss,” tells of a young couple who are separated by the Acadian expulsion of 1755. The Acadians were forced out of their homeland, becoming refugees. Doucet explained that the Acadians later adopted the story as their own as they began to search for their own narrative.

“It is a very human story. A story all of us can understand, and it stays with us today because it is a story of our time.”

Doucet said that even though these stories have changed so much, we aren’t hearing nearly all of the ones today. Groups like ISIS and events like the recent attacks in Paris are overwhelming the governments and have dramatically flipped the stories that are being reported.

“Now the narrative has shifted from providing shelter to tightening security,” she said.

Doucet stressed that there are more than just sentimental issues within the crisis, and it is the job of journalists to cover them, stay with the story, and find answers.

“I began my tribute to [Dalton Camp] with that poem from Lord Byron… ‘A small drop of ink makes thousands, perhaps millions, think,’” she said. “Write bravely, live boldly, and make everyone pause to think.”

Originally written for a class at St. Thomas University.