Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Soft power and ongoing genocide

Babble on.

As it turns out, I have time for one more post today.

Imagine my surprise: Pierre "The Hair" Pettigrew has just responded to my e-mail of August 21st, 2004 regarding genocide in Darfur. I'm not one of those folks who think politicians should drop everything to answer one person's letter or phone call or e-mail: we elected them to do a job, and if all they do all day is respond to wack-jobs like me, they can't get that job done. But that assumes our Minister of Foreign Affairs is spending his valuable time actually doing the job. From his e-mail, I'm guessing he’s spending more time practicing 'spontaneous' facial expressions in front of a mirror than he is on the Sudan file.

Dear Mr. Brooks:

Thank you for your e-mail of August 21, 2004, regarding Sudan. I regret the delay in replying to you.

The Government of Canada has been deeply concerned about the serious humanitarian and human rights violations in Sudan, a country that has been embroiled in civil conflicts for years, including the long-standing conflict between the north and south. Since February 2003, conflict has engulfed the western Sudanese region of Darfur.

Particularly troubling are reports of the plight of refugees who have fled to Chad, the increasing number of internally displaced persons, the violations of humanitarian law, including sexual violence, and the personal security of those affected.

Solving the north-south conflict is key to resolving crises in other areas of the country. Therefore, Canada applauds the signing, on January 9, 2005, of a comprehensive peace agreement to end the civil war in southern Sudan. The agreement has positive implications for a political settlement to the dispute in Darfur. The Canadian government is also pleased about the signing of a preliminary peace agreement on January 18, 2005, between the Government of Sudan and the National Democratic Alliance, the umbrella group encompassing most of Sudan's organized political opposition. This agreement positions Sudan to end more than a dozen years of conflict in the east and north, and bodes well for real progress for peace throughout Sudan in the near future.

Canada has adopted a two-pronged approach to respond to the crisis in Darfur. We are providing humanitarian aid to meet the needs of those affected by the violence and we are using our diplomatic channels to address the political root causes of the conflict. Since 2003, Canada has provided over $40 million for humanitarian aid, protection and peacebuilding efforts in Sudan, including over $26 million for Darfur. We have supported human rights initiatives in Sudan and we will continue to respond to evolving needs in consultation with other donors including United Nations agencies, the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations.

Among the first nations to respond to the crisis, Canada early on registered its concerns with the Government of Sudan, in both Khartoum and Ottawa. We have issued statements urging action to end the terrible violence in Darfur, and we have sent high-level representatives to Darfur to register Canada's concerns and to determine first hand, the gravity of the situation. The Right Honourable Paul Martin, Prime Minister, met with President Ahmad al-Bashir of Sudan on November 25, 2004, to convey Canada's concerns regarding the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darfur, and the importance of signing a comprehensive agreement to end the southern civil war, and to propose practical measures with respect to the crises. Prior to the Prime Minister's visit, the Honourable Aileen Carroll, Minister for International Cooperation, delivered a letter on behalf of the Prime Minister to the President of Sudan in September 2004, urging the Government of Sudan to deal with the crisis. Senator Mobina Jaffer, Canada's Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan, visited Sudan on several occasions and stressed to the Sudanese government the need to take direct steps to ease humanitarian access. On November 1 and 2, 2004, Sudanese and Canadian government officials met in Ottawa to continue discussion on domestic and regional issues.

Senior United Nations representatives who visited Sudan in September 2004, indicated that the Darfur situation remained serious and actions of the Government of Sudan to remedy the situation had not been adequate. They noted that human rights violations and impunity persist in Darfur. Canada urges all parties to the conflict to resolve it peacefully and ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, including by bringing perpetrators of serious violations to justice.

Canada urges the Government of Sudan to cooperate with the United Nations. On July 30, 2004, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 1556 which sent a clear message that the UNSC was prepared to take action to end the crisis in Darfur and to protect civilians. Resolution 1564 followed on September 18, 2004, and emphasized the protection of civilians and called for an enhanced presence in Darfur by the African Union (AU). Canada is contributing $20 million to assist the AU with enhancing its observer mission in Darfur. Approximately $16 million of this contribution will be designated for chartered helicopters to assist the AU. This contribution is part of Canada's ongoing support to the AU to build its
capacity to respond to crises. Canada strongly supports an expansion of the AU mission in Darfur as the best way of resolving the crisis.

Let me assure you that Canada remains committed to constructive engagement to build long lasting peace for all Sudanese. We continue to urge the rebels in Darfur and the Government of Sudan to cease aggressive actions and to respect human rights and humanitarian law.

Should you wish additional information with respect to Canada's response to the situation in Sudan, I invite you to visit our Web site at http://www.fac-aec.gc.ca/menu-en.asp.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

Pierre S. Pettigrew

Our Minister of Foreign Affairs is 'concerned' and 'troubled'; he has 'urged' Khartoum to stop killing their own people through Senators and Ministers of the Crown; he 'remains committed to constructive engagement'.

That's a whole lot of words, Pierre. How many lives do you think those words have actually saved? How many perpetrators of the most heinous and bestial crimes have your words brought to justice? How do you figure folks in the refugee camps feel about your words, and the vaunted Canadian “soft power” they represent?

I can tell you I don’t think your words are worth my spit, Mr. Pettigrew.

What’s required in Sudan are honourable, dedicated, professional men and women who are armed to the teeth and possessed of a mandate to protect the innocent with deadly force. If the Liberal Party of Canada had any clue how to fund, prepare, and deploy such a force, Canadian soldiers would embrace such a mission. The fact that we’re not in a position to deploy such a force, even if Mr. Dithers and The Hair were to unexpectedly join the ranks of the skeletal, is a disgrace.

Babble off.


At 6:19 p.m., Blogger brenda said...

What is it about Foreign Affairs? I had a very similar experience with Mr. Bill (Graham). I wrote to him sometime in the fall of 2002 (both in his role as Minister and also as my MP) to complain about Canada's failure to unequivocally label Hezbullah "bad guys." The view at the time was that "Yes, there is a bad wing. But there is also a good wing that does humanitarian stuff." I received a response in late spring, 2003, just before we moved. I believe the first line, with the exception of the reference to e-mail and the date, was exactly the same as the letter you received. The rest of the response was about as useful. It went on at great length explaining just how the Government of Canada determines who's bad guys. Which was basically to say there is no way at all -- ie, no one can be completely bad.

At 9:23 a.m., Blogger RightGirl said...

Wow, August! I just emailed the guy this morning, thinking I might get a reply within a month. I won't hold my breath.

Nice to know he did get round to it, though. Too bad it was a collage of old quotes and press clippings he sent you.


At 8:28 p.m., Blogger Dr_Funk said...

Winston Churchill once gave an amusing speech about how his mother wouldn't let him see a travelling freak show called the 'Boneless Wonder' when he was a child..and that he was suprised to see the Boneless Wonder sitting on the government benches in the person of Ramsay Macdonald (PM in Labour coalition government). Seems as though we have a whole cabinet of Boneless Wonders sitting on our Government benches now....


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