CJC Darfur Action Committee Holds Ottawa Lobby Day


"Canada has great moral authority on the world stage and we can make a difference."


By: DAN VERBIN  
Published: June 4th 2010
in News » Local

Anna Heilman, a Survivor of both the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz, lobbies MPs Tim Uppal and Brian Jean about Darfur, as members of the CJC Darfur Action Committee look on.
Pic: CJC

Last week, 15 representatives of Canadian Jewish Congress’s Darfur Action Committee travelled to Ottawa to lobby Members of Parliament, Senators and government officials to have Canada increase its contributions to solving the refugee crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region.

 

“Canada has a great moral authority on the world stage and we can make a difference,” Benjamin Shinewald, CJC National Executive Director told Shalom Life. “A good example of that is the role the government of Canada, and Canada as a whole, took in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Canada was instrumental in ending apartheid. That’s not just verbiage. That’s true.”

 

Shinewald said that last Thursday’s lobbying effort made a real difference, with a very positive response from a number of MPs and Senators from all three federalist parties as well as several government officials.

 

The coalition was under the CJC umbrella and leadership and included volunteers as well as Christians and Muslims advocating for Durfur. “The volunteers felt fantastic at the end of the day,” he said.

 

He added, “I do think it was successful. Advocacy is seldom something were you have immediate dramatic results. And especially with something like Darfur, the way you achieve progress is incrementally. But I think we did advance the cause measurably yesterday.”

 

Ben Fine, an Action Committee volunteer, said that he found that MPs and Senators from the three parties were very receptive to the Action Committee’s suggestion of a permanent Parliamentary Committee on Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.

 

“All the Parliamentarians with whom we met were sympathetic.  Some, like Liberal Glen Pearson, were so knowledgeable and committed that they took lots of time to help us learn more about the conflict.  Others, like Conservative MP Tim Uppal, were so supportive that they immediately offered to advance our ideas with their colleagues,” he said.

 

Since 2003, the Janjaweed, a Sudanese-government backed militia, has conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Darfur against African tribes, killing up to 400,000 Darfurians and displacing 2 million others. Currently, some 200,000 Darfur refugees live in extremely poor conditions in camps in next door Chad, with the rest of the refugees stuck in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur.

 

Literally thousands of tiny farming villages have been wiped out, with four million people of Darfur now dependent on international food aid for survival.

 

Today, Darfur is in a very precarious position, with the region remaining unstable amid ongoing fighting. Furthermore, instability surrounding IDP camps means that millions are unable to leave without risking their lives.

 

 “Canada should be commended for its continued commitment to the people of Darfur and Sudan,” said CJC. This includes sending military and diplomatic personnel and equipment and co-chairing the Friends of United Nations Assistance Mission in Darfur. Canada has also worked with other countries to support the Sudan peace process, leading to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of January 9, 2005, which officially ended the 20-year North-South civil war. On the domestic front, Canada has enacted into law UN Security Council mandated sanctions.

 

“There’s a lot Canada can do in Darfur,” said Shinewald. “Can Canada solve the problem on its own? No. This is a tragedy that must be solved first and foremost in that part of the world, in Sudan and in Africa. This is an international humanitarian catastrophe and for that reason every country and everybody has a role to play.”

 

The Darfur Action Committee had two other recommendations besides the Parliamentary Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Genocide and Other Crimes against Humanity: One, continued support for a diplomatic resolution to the Darfur conflict, independently and through international collaboration; Two, for Canada to play a leadership role in strengthening the UNAMID Mission through the Friends of UNAMID at the UN.

 

Related articles: (Darfur, CJC action committee, genocide, ethnic cleansing, Holocaust, parliament, MP, Senators, Canadian government, apartheid, Sudan, Africa)
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