Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 45

Thursday, June 11, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Rape and Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been called a war against women. In the eight years of civil war, tens of thousands of women have been victims of rape as a weapon of war on a scale the world has never seen before. They are physically ravaged, emotionally terrorized and financially impoverished. This war has killed over 5 million people since 1998; more than any other conflict since the Second World War.

A year ago this month, the United Nations asked Canada to take a lead role in the peacekeeping mission. It was disappointing to see that our government declined this opportunity to help. We have a proud history of peace-making, and we need Canada to make its presence known in East Congo. Canada is a world leader of human rights, and we need to live up to this reputation for women and children in the Congo.

Today, I want to share a story about a Congolese woman I met who changed my life. Her name is Bernadette. The first time the militia invaded her house, they killed her husband, one son, and they raped and killed her daughter while she was forced to watch. That day, Bernadette was also raped. She shouted for help, but no one answered her pleas.

The second time the Congolese army invaded her house, they raped and killed her second daughter while Bernadette was forced to watch. Bernadette was raped again. She shouted for help, but no one came.


The third time the militia invaded her house, luckily her other three children were not at home. Bernadette was again savagely raped. This time her genitals were mutilated. The militia poured kerosene in her vagina and lit her on fire. Although Bernadette survived, this time she did not shout for help. She knew there was no one to answer her pleas.

Honourable senators, that was the reality of many of the women who are sitting here amongst us on Parliament Hill. This reality continues for many women in the Congo.

Canadians need to hear Bernadette’s cry. We have a duty to stand for the sake of humanity, but we have a further duty. Canadians have many mining interests in the Congo. We benefit from all those interests. The cellphones we use come from the Congo. If Canadian companies are extracting these resources, there must be a program to give something back in the way of social responsibility.

Honourable senators, I ask you today to work with me to join hands, so that we can support women like Bernadette in the Congo. The women on Parliament Hill today are Canadian. Their families are suffering in the Congo. Honourable senators, we need to act.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.