LGen Dallaire and MP Dewar call for regulation of ‘conflict minerals’

Posted: 09/20/2013

Dewar and Dallaire

A child soldier who once threatened Roméo Dallaire with a loaded rifle spared him because he was distracted by a chocolate bar in the Lieutenant General’s hand.

Now retired from military service and a Senator, Dallaire described this encounter to a crowd of more than 200 lawyers who gathered at Osgoode Hall on September 16 to hear him speak alongside Paul Dewar, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic.

“We are looking at the how child soldiers are used as weapons of war,” LGen Dallaire said.

LGen Dallaire founded the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, an organization whose mission is to eradicate the use of child soldiers through advocacy, research and training around the globe. The organization is making critical in roads using a prevention-oriented approach that teaches international security sector actors how to interact with child soldiers.

The Law Society of Upper Canada and Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights invited both leaders to discuss how the demand for certain conflict minerals mined in Africa has drawn children into warfare.

The panel was a part of the Law Society’s Rule of Law & Public Education Equality series, which is designed to promote dialogue and increase awareness of human rights issues.

Conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa have a particular relevance to the international community because they are often fuelled by the mining of minerals used to build many smartphones, tablets and video game consoles.

Canadian companies must adopt practices which preclude them from mining or building products with such so-called conflict minerals, Mr. Dewar said.

“We carry a piece of the conflict with us.

“Stop the supply chains that aid and abet these militias.”

The 90-minute panel discussion, moderated by Bencher Paul Schabas, chair of the Law Society’s Human Rights Monitoring Group, also considered what tactics have been effective in reducing the use of child soldiers.

Mr. Dewar encouraged lawyers to counsel mining companies to be compliant with policies and regulation that do not encourage conflict.

LGen Dallaire is well-known for his human rights advocacy. In his award-winning book, Shake Hands with the Devil, he recounted the murder of more than 800,000 people in 100 days while he was commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda.

More recently, he published a book depicting his life’s mission to end the use of child soldiers, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children.

Mr. Dewar has proposed and rallied public support for legislation to help end the trade in conflict minerals in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.