Roméo Dallaire: Response to Syrian refugees 'atrocious'

Roméo Dallaire: Response to Syrian refugees ‘atrocious’

Roméo Dallaire, commander of an ill-fated UN mission in Rwanda, on the un-Canadian response to refugees and the missed opportunities for intervention

Liberal Sen. Romeo Dallaire, best known in Canada as the former commander of the UN's ill-fated peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, is seen at Senate caucus in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Liberal Sen. Romeo Dallaire, best known in Canada as the former commander of the UN’s ill-fated peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, is seen at Senate caucus in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

On Monday, Canadian Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Roméo Dallaire added his voice to those calling for Canada to accept far more Syrian refugees than it has committed to take in. “I think that Canada and its decision so far in regards to refugees is nothing less than atrocious and totally foreign to what and who we are,” Dallaire, who commanded the UN’s force in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide there, said in an interview with Maclean’s.

Canada, he said, could easily take in 70,000 of the approximately four million Syrians who have fled the country, and the civil war that has torn it apart, since an uprising against dictator Bashar al-Assad began in 2011. Another 7.6 million are displaced within Syria itself.

Canada has so far accepted only about 2,400 Syrian refugees. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government in 2013 promised to settle 1,300 Syrian refugees in Canada by the end of 2014. That pledge wasn’t fulfilled until earlier this year. In January, the government promised to accept an additional 10,000 by the end of 2018. While campaigning last month, Harper said Canada would bring in another 10,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees by 2019.

Dallaire said that isn’t enough. “If a country like Sweden can take in 100,000, then we’ve got some real serious problems with our philosophy and what we believe in our values of humanity and sense of humanity.”

Related: We can bring in 200,000 refugees in 12 months. Here’s how.

The NDP has promised to settle 10,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the end of this year, and said it will bring in another 9,000 government-sponsored Syrian refugees every year after that for the next four years. The Liberals say they will bring in 25,000 by the end of this year.

Dallaire was appointed to the Senate in 2005 and sat as a Liberal, although Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau removed Liberal senators from the party caucus in January 2014. Dallaire resigned from the Senate in June 2014, seven years before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75, to focus on other work, including research on post-traumatic stress disorder, from which he suffers, and an initiative to end the use of child soldiers. He says he’s no longer involved with the Liberal party, but did spend one day campaigning with Liberal candidate Allan Thompson as a personal favour.

Related: Our in-depth primer on Syrian refugees, one of the 13 big campaign issues

He recalls, as a soldier decades ago, seeing Vietnamese refugees on Canadian military bases, part of the influx of some 50,000 so-called boat people whom Canada settled in 1979 and 1980. “We know we need immigrants to keep this country going. The Vietnamese have proven to be an extraordinary asset,” he said, and so have Hungarian refugees, 30,000 of whom came to Canada following the failed 1956 revolution against Soviet rule in that country.

Dallaire, who has visited with Syrian refugees in Jordan, believes they would similarly benefit Canada. “This is a middle-class society. These are educated people. This is a different scenario from a number of other refugee cases and conflicts that we’ve seen. This is an asset that we can be gaining from.”

He also expressed frustration with the world’s response to the war in Syria that is driving so many of its residents to flee. “We still seem to sit there and hope we can get away with doing the least possible and hope the thing will disappear,” he said. “I don’t see how we can continue to simply let this conflict continue to fester and create more and more casualties. There’s a hypocrisy in regards to human rights and treating all humans as equal when you’re letting this campaign continue.”

Related: Q&A with Michael Molloy, the Canadian who delivered the ‘boat people’

Dallaire said he advocated international intervention during the first six months of the war under the doctrine of “responsibility to protect,” which holds that the international community has a duty to intervene when a state fails to protect its citizens from atrocities such as ethnic cleansing and genocide. Now, he says, the war has become increasingly complex and urbanized, which would make a military intervention to protect civilians more difficult. If there is to be intervention, he believes regional actors, rather than the West, should lead it.

The original report on responsibility to protect, drafted by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, recommends that intervention only be considered if the chances of success are reasonably high. Dallaire believes that criterion is unlikely to be met in a West-led mission.

Canada is currently part of an international coalition that is targeting the so-called Islamic State jihadist group, but not Syrian regime forces. Canada is conducting air strikes against the group in Iraq and Syria, and is training Iraqi Kurdish forces on the ground in Iraq. Dallaire is not convinced air strikes are an effective tool against Islamic State, but believes training local forces can be beneficial.

Counterpoint: David Frum on why Syria’s refugee crisis is having its ‘Princess Diana moment’

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Roméo Dallaire: Response to Syrian refugees ‘atrocious’

  1. Canadians have been shamed before the world by their govt……..PMs and generals agree

    And so do voters.

    • Look at the mess Germany got itself into by throwing open the door to anyone and everyone. Now, they have had to shut their border with Austria to try to regain control. Any response from Canada should be measured and controlled, and needs to follow established processes. My vote is for Harper.

      • Considering the geographic restrictions, we aren’t about to be overrun; not unless they can walk on water. We can do much more, with very little risk. Harper is playing on xenophobia and hoping there are enough such individuals to help lift his numbers.

    • EmilyOne: You are such of fan of Putin and he has been propping up Assad which the cause of many of these refugees. Why don’t you get your friend Chretien to call Putin and suggest he take in 70,000. After all he and Jean are meeting as diplomats do. These refugees should be happy to go to the first safe place.

    • Yes we voted in PET for many years and he refused to apologize for my things like Japanese internment during WWII. We Canadians are truly used of egotistical PMs. Chretien is another…visiting Putin who then is building a military base to prop up Assad in Syria….

  2. Komarade E1 I’m sure the Belgian Paratroopers serving with Dallaire share his views….Wait a minute their DEAD because of his incompetence………….

  3. I guess your poor leadership skills and incompetence which led to the deaths of many wasn’t enough….neither was the drinking and driving…or the whining…your opinion is not needed or wanted.

    BTW how did ol’ Jeanny Cretin deal with wonderful migrants?

    Well, let me tell you…he rounded them up, put them behind razor wire, and shipped them back to Asia on a chartered plane…that’s what. And these were people who endured months at sea…drinking urine to stay alive…who arrived here to start a new life. And the Lieberals packaged them up and shipped ’em back.

  4. Hey Emilyone read up on this Moron who is a disgrace to the Armed men and Women of Canada…IMHO….

    Dallaire had told the Senate Liberal leadership weeks ago that he planned to retire early; he wasn’t scheduled to leave until June 2021. But his timing was kept secret until Wednesday. He said the Senate expenses scandal — and the auditor general’s study that it spawned — also had nothing to do with his resignation. Audit teams have been showing up in senators’ offices to pore over their records and, according to one Senate source, recently walked into Dallaire’s office as part of their routine checks. Another LIE-BERAL trait…tuck tail and RUN when the investigations start! POS – Public Outrage SPEAKS! Will look for you when your name appears IN THE SENATE AUDITS after they’ve poured over your records!

    You Romeo are the most despicable person and the Canadian Armed Forces I’m sure, are totally disgusted in you as well. One thing you LIE-BERALS prove to me daily is that of your IGNORANCE, INTERFERENCE, CORRUPTION, UNCOUTHNESS, AND NO DOUBT WOULD ABSOLUTELY SELL THEIR FIRST BORN TO MAKE HEADLINES OR TO THE DEVIL.

    However, Dallaire may find it hard to swallow his pride after enjoying such a massive PR campaign organized for him ever since his 600-page book appeared in October 2003 (Shake Hands with the Devil, The failure of Humanity in Rwanda, Random House Canada). That Halo over your head must be crushing your brains and memory. Go write your next FICTION book as the last one was a total flop OF LIES, MISTRUTHS, which we all know is a Lieberal trait! MISTAKE SHOOTING DOWN THE PLANE THERE BOSS?

    Now, go your next FICTION book. Let’s call it “How Bullchit baffles brains”

    • Dallaire has never been charged, and is instead greatly honoured.

      Let’s just say Mackenzie never made it…..not even as a Con candidate which he tried.

      Stop with the partisan crap.

      • Why don’t we just be honest about the real history of Canada…McKenzie King who put Japanese in internment camps and Pierre Trudeau who refused to apologize after the fact saying history causes pain. If we start saying sorry, it will never end. You need a better grasp on the truth of Canadian history and PM’ s EmilyOne. There are few that would live up to some some make believe standard you have concocted and there are few and fewer Canadians who want to rush the fences and import thousands of refugees without vetting them when ISIS has promised to release thousands terrorists into the migrants. We have seen that the strategy of open doors hasn’t worked out great for France and Germany is shutting its borders until it can do some security checks. It doesn’t make Canada selfish, just cautious.

        • Mackenzie is a Con and Dallaire is a Liberal…..that’s the basis of all this blather, making it the limpest excuse yet for not taking refugees.

  5. One only needs to look at London, Paris, Sweden et al to see what the mass migration of Muslims has done to these countries. Police and or Military absolutely refuse to go into some the Muslims settlements in Paris for fear of being attacked. British soldiers are being chopped to pieces in the streets of London by these animals and no one is stopping them. That is their (ISISs) agenda. To infest as many none muslims countries as possible and slaughter the infedels I hope that during the Paris conference on Globull warning scheduled for December of this year, that they make it a requirement to visit the Muslim infested areas. Lets see how many “volunteer” to take a look at what will happen to Canada if the gates are flung wide open as the Liberals and the Dippers suggest.

  6. These refugees are not our problem. They should be sent to oil rich, Arab countries. Our government budgets cannot afford to support these people. The Sovereign Wealth Fund of Saudi Arabia is worth $US762 billion.

    • Harper knew he could count on you. He was appealing to the base and knew the wedge would benefit him.
      Well done Earl and the rest you didn’t let him down.