Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 145, Issue 8

Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Violence Against Women and Girls in Conflict

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, on August 13, Canada lost two courageous women when Jackie Kirk and Shirley Case were brutally killed in a cowardly attack when their car was ambushed in Afghanistan. They were returning from a meeting with a local community on a project to help children with disabilities. Jackie and Shirley had dedicated their lives to ensuring that children, especially little girls victimized by armed conflict, would have access to education.

I first met Jackie when I was the Special Advisor on Women, Peace and Security. Jackie had taken the bus from Montreal, as she often did, to participate in a meeting to address violence against women and girls in conflict. What struck me more than her vast knowledge of the challenges in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan was the incredible warmth and passion she had for the issues.

Following her death, Jackie’s husband commented that they used to joke that he had to compete with the millions of girls who go without school because of conflict. Jackie’s work promoting education and the protection of rights for women and girls will be remembered not only by the ones she helped but by all former colleagues and friends. Her legacy carries on with the support she gave her students at McGill to do the same incredible work that she did.

As violent and tragic as her death was, her life and heart were equally as beautiful. While I did not know Shirley Case personally, it was clear that she was both loved and held in high esteem by her family, friends and fellow humanitarians. From domestic social issues in Canada, to her work in developing countries and her commitment to the natural environment that she so loved, it is clear that Ms. Case was driven by the desire to make this world a better place for all.

Shirley left her legacy in Canada with organizations such as Katimavik and Canada World Youth. Internationally, she served CARE in Chad and Bande Ache, Indonesia, and her last post was with the International Rescue Committee in Afghanistan.

Her energy was boundless, matched with the spirit of adventure and contribution that will serve as an inspiration to all young Canadians working for international peace and security. Shirley’s impact as a great humanitarian and a passionate environmentalist will survive long after this tragedy. Those whose lives Shirley touched have committed to planting a tree in her honour every August 13.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security highlights the impact that conflict has on women and girls. Canada supports this resolution.

Honourable senators, we need to ensure that the rights of women and girls are incorporated into every aspect in our engagement in Afghanistan; in our defence, our diplomacy and our development.

Today’s Ottawa Citizen reported that the Taliban are suspected of targeting Afghan women headed to a women’s meeting that had been set up by the Canadian Forces. Five improvised explosive devices were discovered on the routes the women were taking to obtain information about their rights.

In the article, Master Corporal. Helen Hawes, a Canadian soldier, stated:

I’m a bit of a feminist, so if I think that we could be sending young girls to school, my personal opinion is, let’s make it happen. . . . That may not be the right cultural answer, but being a woman, having been given every opportunity in my life in the western world, I hope that these girls don’t grow up just cooking and cleaning. They want change.

Honourable senators, our troops and humanitarian workers are performing great work on our behalf in Afghanistan.