Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 37th Parliament,
Volume 141, Issue 28

Wednesday, March 31, 2004
The Honourable Dan Hays, Speaker


Motion to Recognize Genocide Adopted

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer, pursuant to notice of March 29, 2004, moved:

That this House call upon the Government of Canada to recognize the genocide of the Rwandan people and to condemn any attempt to deny or distort a historical truth as being less than genocide, a crime against humanity.

She said: Honourable senators, today the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association and Women, Peace and Security commemorated the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, wherein Senator Andreychuk spoke to the Rwandan community to say that the Rwandan genocide was not only of the Rwandan people but also of all people of the world.

Mr. Gasana, the President of Humura Association spoke eloquently to the next steps to be taken for the survivors. Mr. Philibert Muzima was courageous enough to share with us his personal account of the genocide. He ended by saying, “Quand est-ce-que sera justice pour nous?”

Ms. Gertrude Murekatete spoke to the role of mothers and said that she wants to teach young Canadian children that you do not kill someone because he or she is blonde or brunette; that is wrong.

Honourable senators, we heard very moving testimonies today, and I encourage you to go to the Humura Association Web site, to read the numerous testimonies of Canadian Rwandans who have shared their terrible stories with us.

Honourable senators, few events since World War II can be compared with what transpired in Rwanda just 10 years ago. In just 100 days, as many as our new Prime Minister has been in power, over 800,000 men, women and children were raped and murdered — a number that equates to the population of Ottawa-Gatineau. It was the worst genocide that the world has witnessed since the Holocaust.

According to the report of Human Rights Watch, shattering the bonds between Hutu and Tutsi was not easy. For centuries, they shared a single language, a common history and cultural practices.

Honourable senators, as a young child I used to spend my holidays in Rwanda. I have very fond memories of Rwanda. I used to visit my uncle and play with other children in his garden for hours. I remember children of all ethnic origins playing together. From a child’s eye, I do not remember the divisions. We were just playing together in a very peaceful country.

The Rwandan genocide was one of the most defining moments of the 20th century. For Rwandans, whether inside the country or abroad, the consequences of the genocide were direct and tangible. By the time the killing had stopped, three quarters of the Tutsi population had been decimated. Many Canadians were not even aware that such a horror was taking place.

However, one Canadian witnessed the events unfold and desperately tried to help with what little he had. He has come back from the edge of self-destruction and suicide to become a voice for the Rwandan people. In an interview with Ted Koppel, Retired General Roméo Dallaire said this: “Your mind with time, in fact doesn’t erase things that are traumas. It makes them clearer.”

I have fond memories of General Dallaire, who has offered to help the Canadian women’s peace and security committee with its work. I am in awe of his energy and determination.

People such as General Dallaire have voiced anger over the way in which the western world acted during those three and one half months. It has been pointed out in papers that there was more coverage of Tonya Harding kneecapping her competition than there was coverage of the genocide. General Dallaire has so eloquently asked: “Are all humans human, or are some more human than others?”

Why did the western world not focus more attention on Rwanda and its people? General Dallaire said that the level of consideration for human life and raising western countries to that level above the level of self-interest is, I believe, an achievable objective in the years to come. He is a hero for us, not only because of what he witnessed but also for the deep impact it has had on him and how he continues to work on the issue. Honourable senators, it would have been a great pleasure to have General Dallaire here today, but he has returned to Rwanda to share his experience with the Rwandan people.

Rwandans are grappling with the challenge of rebuilding lives and their communities. Many came to Canada during or shortly after the genocide, and they have many memories they want to share with you. Honourable senators, the world forgot about Rwanda once; let us not do it again. Let us acknowledge, by this commemoration, the tenth anniversary of this horror.

I should like to read a poem found on the Humura Association’s Web site. It reads, as follows:

The mass and majesty of this world, all
That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others; they were small
And could not hope for help and no help came:
What their foes liked to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.