2nd Session, 41st Parliament,

Volume 149, Issue 44

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Honourable Pierre Claude Nolin, Speaker pro tempore

Recruitment of Children in Armed Conflict

Hon Mobina S. B. Jaffer: I rise today to mark an important step forward in the fight to protect children around the world. On Friday, March 7, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2143, condemning the recruitment of children into armed conflict.

The Security Council calls on all nations to ensure that their military and police forces are properly trained, not only to deal with child soldiers when they encounter them in an armed conflict but also to prevent the recruitment of children as soldiers in the first place.

Honourable senators, the problem of recruitment of children into armed conflict is widespread in our world. There are around 250,000 child soldiers in the world today, and around 40 per cent of them are girls. These numbers are virtually unchanged since 2006.

During its hearings on the resolution, the Security Council heard from a young man named Alhaji Babah Sawaneh. Alhaji’s childhood was spent in fear and danger, far from the comfort and security so many children know here in Canada.

Alhaji was 10 years old, living in Sierra Leone, when he and his brother ran into a group of armed rebels. Alhaji and his brother were abducted and conscripted into the armed group. For the next two years Alhaji was trained to shoot and dismantle AK-47 guns and was used to fight in various attacks. In what should have been carefree and precious childhood years, Alhaji and other child soldiers like him burned down houses, destroyed properties and killed people.

Honourable senators, Alhaji is just one of the hundreds of thousands of children who have had their innocence stolen from them. This UN resolution should give hope to those children still in the clutches of armed conflict. The international community has not forgotten them, and we will work to change their lives and our world for the better.

I wish to recognize in particular the incredible work done by the Child Soldiers Initiative at Dalhousie University. I extend my congratulations to Dr. Shelly Whitman, the executive director of the initiative, and her entire team, who are working in various countries to prepare military and police forces to confront the reality of children in armed conflict.

In particular, honourable senators, I wish to congratulate our own colleague, Senator Roméo Dallaire, who has dedicated much of his life to raising awareness of the plight of child soldiers. Senator Dallaire’s work on this file was recognized by many speakers during the Security Council’s hearings on Resolution 2143.

Honourable senators, I am sure I speak for all of us here today when I say that he has made a truly remarkable effort to improve the lives of children around the world and to protect those who are most vulnerable in our global society.

Senator Dallaire, we thank you for your work and we wish you all the strength to continue your work. Thank you very much.


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