TORONTO, April 23, 2006—Romeo Dallaire will deliver Defence for Children International’s Lowery Lecture in Toronto on Thursday, May 18. In it he will make a passionate call for all Canadians to face their failures in places like Rwanda and other countries where hundreds of thousands of children – some as young as eight years old – are abducted to fight in armies run by unaccountable armed groups.
The lecture titled Children as Weapons of War draws attention to the links between child soldiers and the global trade in small arms. Dallaire calls on Canadians to take action to ban the export and supply of small arms, light weapons, and other military equipment because the armies that abduct young children to fight are sustained by the arms manufactured by companies in the West.
In addition, Canada must do more than pay lip service to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. As citizens we must let government know that we want it to use its political and military power to protect vulnerable citizens, especially children, in extreme situations such as that which exists in Northern Uganda. In the words of GuluWalk co-founder Adrian Bradbury, people in places like Darfur, or Rwanda, or Uganda, must hear Canadians say, ‘You are not alone. The world is starting to take notice and we have only begun our fight to send your message of peace.’
Children are critical to the success of these armies, says Dallaire, because they are cheap, plentiful, and cook and kill without complaint.
They are weapons but they are also victims. They are forced into these armies, through abduction and due to desperate poverty. They act as cannon fodder in dangerous missions, and serve as sex slaves to their commanders and other male members of these armies.
Military commanders ‘recruit’ children because they can be so easily replaced when they are killed or disabled. This is made much easier because modern weapons – manufactured by companies in the West, including Canada – are so lightweight, easy to use, and widely available.
It follows, says, Dallaire, that to eradicate the use of child soldiers, Canadians must mobilize and pressure government to implement a ban on small weapons trade, but also to work towards implementing – in reality and not just in words – the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
E-mail: contact @ dci-canada.org