Last Wednesday, Stockwell Day, Alexa McDonough, Odina Desrochers and I held our second all-party press conference on Darfur. We did this for two reasons: First, to remind Canadians that the situation in Darfur, and in other areas of Sudan, is not getting any better; in fact, it is getting worse.
This is not something that will simply go away if we ignore it long enough. We have to remind ourselves constantly of the horrors that Darfur citizens face every day - the young girls and women being raped, the 4,000 citizens dying every week. Clearly, the situation is not improving, and Canadians need to know this.
The second reason for the press conference was to tell the Prime Minister that Canada is not doing enough and that there seems to be far more talk than action on Canada's part. Sumia Ibrahim, a Sudanese refugee, summed up the international community's response: "[The United Nations] ..... seems to have adopted the same strategy as the National Islamic Front in Khartoum. If they delay any meaningful action long enough, everyone in Darfur will be dead. Then they can all go home without getting their hands dirty."
To understand what Canada could be doing, it's important to know what we have already committed to Sudan.
Since October of 2003, Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency, has contributed $37- million to Sudan - which has the world's largest number of internally displaced people, at more than four million, and more than 500,000 refugees in bordering countries. This donation translates to $8 a refugee or internally displaced person over a period of a year and a half. Compare that with the $425-million allocated to tsunami relief and reconstruction efforts. This is not including the $200-million that CIDA will match in public donations.
Canada has nearly 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, and yet we continue to send more. I was surprised to find out that we have more troops in Florida - six - than in the whole of Sudan - where there are only three. In the past four years, Canada has allocated nearly $400-million to Afghanistan, and promises $250-million more in the next four years.
The survivors of the South Asian tsunamis and the Afghan people working so hard to rebuild their country need and deserve aid. But we have to ask why it is that, when faced with genocide and a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions in Africa, there doesn't seem to be any money available.
The answer to that question lies in what can be called a lack of political will, rooted in a number of areas: our ignorance of the complexities and nature of African dictatorships, our fear of sending troops to "tribal" wars in Africa and - as retired lieutenant-general Roméo Dallaire has pointed out many times - blatant racism on the West's part.
Another key hindrance to intervening in Sudan is one that plagues not just Canada, but most of the Western world: our reliance on the UN to fix all the major crises in the developing world. Last week, Mr. Dallaire made the point that the UN will never work properly as long as mission commanders, such as he was in Rwanda in 1994, have to go down on their knees and beg the world's richest countries for support and troops.
It appears that the UN itself is starting to address this problem openly now. In a recent report, Jan Egeland, UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said: "The basic lesson of earlier crises like Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda is that too often the world sends us the Band-Aid, and the world believes that we keep people alive and then they don't have to take a political and security action. This is wrong and that's why we are really tired of being that kind of a substitute for political and security action."
An example of this reluctance to take a stand is Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew's recent welcome of the UN inquiry report on Darfur that supported the idea that "the Security Council refer the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court."
In essence, this disputed many NGO findings of genocide, and thus relinquished our duty to intervene, saying to the world that Canada's method of putting an immediate stop to crimes against humanity is through the international courts. The ICC may be a viable means of dealing with perpetrators of hate crimes and genocide after the fact, but they do nothing to stop daily killings now.
Although we speak highly of the "responsibility to protect," a lot of Canadians don't know that the doctrine is essentially useless without a relevant Security Council resolution to take action. So, if the UN is not ready, willing or able to do anything, where does that leave us?
What we need is the kind of operation that Roméo Dallaire has been calling for: tens of thousands of troops of NATO quality, with a robust mandate to protect civilians and humanitarian operations.
Canada should act on recommendations by Errol Mendes, a University of Ottawa law professor, that call on Prime Minister Paul Martin to take a leadership role in bringing the international financial institutions and the creditor Paris Club together to discuss how to use the debt and arrears levers to force the Khartoum government to negotiate in good faith with rebel groups. Canada should put in place travel restrictions on senior National Islamic Front officials and press the Security Council to insist on a series of sanctions: freeze all assets of the Khartoum government and companies controlled by it in the European Union, Canada and the United States; withdraw any rights of the government in the International Monetary Fund; and ban arms sales to Sudan.
It's unacceptable for Canada to say that we don't want to ask the African Union to press Sudan for a stronger mandate, or to offer Canadian troops because the problem must be solved "regionally." I don't know one Sudanese refugee in Canada who thinks that the AU can be expected to single-handedly solve one of the most complicated conflicts and humanitarian crises in Africa.
It's an excuse that Canada and the West accept only because the problem is in Africa.
As Darfur residents continue to die every day, Canada and the international community seem to be saying that these lives are not worth an intervention.
David Kilgour, Liberal MP for Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont, is a former secretary of state for Africa and current chair of the subcommittee on human rights and international development. He wrote this article with Magdalene Creskey, a research assistant who has worked in community and educational development projects in conflict areas in southern Africa.