150+ Canadians Day 64: Romeo Dallaire

Roméo contributed to peace by advocating for a greater UN response to the Rwandan genocide and against use of child soldiers. #Canada150

Lieutenant-General Dallaire (retired) served as Force Commander of UNAMIR, the United Nations peacekeeping force in Rwanda. The United Nations failed to respond to his pleas for more assistance and his fear for a genocide.

Roméo Dallaire is founder of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, a global partnership with the mission to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers. He is a celebrated advocate for human rights, especially in regards to child soldiers, veterans, and the prevention of mass atrocities. General Dallaire is also a respected government and UN adviser, a best-selling author, and former Canadian Senator.

Notably, General Dallaire was appointed Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda prior to and during the 1994 genocide. He provided the United Nations with information about the planned massacre, which ultimately took more than 800,000 lives in less than 100 days. He, along with a small contingent of Ghanaian soldiers and military observers, disobeyed the command to withdraw and remained in Rwanda to fulfill their ethical obligation to protect those who sought refuge with the UN forces.

His courage and leadership during this mission earned him the Meritorious Service Cross, the United States Legion of Merit, the Aegis Award on Genocide Prevention, and the affection and admiration of people around the globe. His defiant dedication to humanity during that mission has been well-documented in films and books, including his own account: Shake Hands with the Devil: the Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction in 2004 and the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for political writing awarded by the Writers’ Trust of Canada.

Since General Dallaire’s 1997 revelation that he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he has devoted decades of passionate leadership and advocacy to the issue on behalf of other veterans, including the publication of his bestselling memoir: Waiting for First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD.

General Dallaire has served on UN Advisory Committees on Genocide Prevention and Peacekeeping Training, and as Special Adviser to Government Ministers on Veterans Affairs, National Defense, and War Affected Children. He also served as a Canadian Senator from 2005 to 2014. Since 2010, General Dallaire’s primary focus has been his work with the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, seeking ways to assist militaries worldwide to help eradicate the use of child soldiers, a mission to which he has committed the rest of his life.

Included among the honours bestowed on LGen Dallaire:

  • Officer of the Order of Canada
  • Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec
  • Commander of the Order of Military Merit
  • United Nations Association of Canada’s Pearson Peace Medal
  • Arthur Kroeger College Award for Ethics in Public Affairs from Carleton University
  • Laureate of Excellence from the Manitoba Health Sciences Centre
  • Elie Wiesel Award from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Harvard University Humanist Award

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