Blog Post by Claude Pensa

“The Will To Intervene” was the template for a captivating lesson concerning our role here and in the world’s society today and remarkably into the far seeing future.  The word was delivered by Senator Romeo Dallaire on November 23 at Western University’s 6th Annual Claude & Elaine Pensa Lecture on Human Rights to bursting at the seams lecture halls.

“Bursting” because the array of students, politicians, citizens and academics, are unified in their respect and admiration for the iconic Dallaire.

In this period of time when it behooves us to give thanks for our blessings, a little reflection on what it’s all about is perhaps called for. What first comes to mind is that these blessings and the joys of the season are not accorded in equal measure to all. This points me in the direction of the purpose of these lectures, human rights, which are the foundation principles guiding us to live together in a just society.

The Senator’s arresting message was delivered for a full hour without a note, his audience fully engaged. During the question period which was to come, it proved that his listeners got it; especially the students to whom the Senator pointedly directed his words, exhorting them to become involved in their own home society and in politics (where sadly, voting among young people is far too low).  Their unexercised political strength could render them as the balance of power in Canada.  They must become involved as well to correct the injustices that exist, to be sure, beyond the borders in the third world. 

In practice, he said, around the world while all humans are human, some are more human than others. We are among the favoured – that 20% world favoured – who are not crushed by poverty, oppression and disease.

Canada’s place in the world is the platform which makes intervention possible. Canada holds a distinct role as the primary middle power engaging the respect and reliance of the third world and a willing partnership internationally of the great powers. Canada is a world economic power, the 12th largest economy and with that comes power and responsibility. We can lead the way to ensure that justice is not enshrouded in darkness. His message underscored his fundamental belief in human rights and the absolute significance of the human individual. I saw in Dallaire a yearning to see a Canada living up to the expectations aroused in its people and who know, though we are shy in our expression of patriotism, that we live in a favoured place, a place blessed by a deeply democratic principle, the rule of law and free elections.

He urged the young people especially to get involved in NGO’s, the orientation of which could be diverse; human rights, the environment, the elimination of disease, hunger and oppression.

“You are the future” he told them.  What a fertile field is the promotion and preservation of human rights. 20% of the people in the world are crushed by poverty, fear of persecution, disease. He asked them to thrive in the challenges of our time rather than being mere spectators. He wished them to become warriors against oppression and poverty. 

He urged them to become part of Canada’s role and responsibility to be a global leader; though he mocked Canada’s seeming disinterest in the United Nations when it shunned a role as members of the Security Council. Canada, he pointed out, seemingly has no plan to arouse our nation in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

We surely have lost the leadership of the 1960’s when Canada, enlivened to its great potential, celebrated the Centenary.

The senator toured this world horizon and its challenges.  What is before the world is astoundingly formidable; poverty, unrest, war, a shrinking environment; all of which await the energy and dedication of the hope of tomorrow – our young people.

The most moving moments in this remarkable address were his responses to the Child Soldier Initiative which he founded, to which Harrison Pensa made a donation.

The whole world knows that Romeo Dallaire is a warrior in defence of human rights.

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