Romeo Dallaire: Legacy in the Senate

Romeo Dallaire: Legacy in the Senate By: Erica Howes

Senator Roméo Dallaire

Senator Roméo Dallaire

Romeo Dallaire is a name we associate with leading the movement of humanitarianism or as the fearless Canadian who tried to save the broken bodies and last bits of Rwanda. We picture the cover of his best-selling book about the genocide or the posters advertising Canada’s advancements in humanitarian aid. Romeo Dallaire essentially defines the term 'international hero'. But as June 17 marked the final day of Dallaire’s time in the Senate, it’s not his international image that’s being recognized. For the past nine years, Dallaire has spent thousands of hours in committee meetings and debates in the Senate Chamber on Parliament Hill. He has made hundreds of speeches to fellow Canadian Parliamentarians and helped pass bills of national security. “I have an awful lot of work ahead of me, and it was important for me to leave at this point,” Dallaire said at his resignation, explaining his focus will be on his international projects.

It’s true that the last nine years of paperwork, committee meetings and passing bills don’t make as exciting a story as fighting bruised and bloodied in Rwanda, but they still play an important role in Dallaire’s contribution to this country.

Since his appointment in 2005, Dallaire has chaired the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, focusing on the “renewed commitment to provide care and service to our veterans,” he said in a speech.

He chaired the Committee against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth, which has grown to include over 200 people from local NGOs, to representatives from the Assembly of First Nations.

According to Dallaire’s website, committee work means studying bills in detail, investigating policy matters on issues that affect Canadians and examining government spending. Besides the two committees he led, he was also part of the National Security and Defence Committee and Committee on Anti-Terrorism.

Drawing from personal experiences, he made countless speeches to the Senate regarding human rights and foreign aid. In June 2013, he urged the government to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to protect private freedoms and ensure security. In March 2013 he spoke about the role of the UN and in 2012 he made many speeches about mental health and suicide prevention, to name a few.

For some of us, the world of Canadian politics may seem just as foreign as the faraway land of Rwanda, but the difference is we can see the changes in our everyday lives. We see highways being named after veterans and the implementation of services for post-traumatic stress disorder victims. We read about the new restrictions on prostitution in our downtown streets and see Canada being represented at UN meetings.

“The reason why we believe that change is possible is not because we are idealists but because we believe we have made it, so other people can make it as well,” Dallaire wrote in his book They Fight like Soldiers, They Die like Children.

Romeo Dallaire is no doubt an internationally-renowned hero. His work in Rwanda will always be considered noble, fearless and seen as a symbol of pride to Canada. But it’s important to recognize that the last nine years of his life were not just spent in an office on Parliament Hill. They didn’t involve rescuing broken bodies or being in the brunt of a genocide. But they still involved change and a fight for justice, one that we as Canadians feel, touch and hear the effects of every day.

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