If not now, when? If not us, who?
Activists, politicians and artists used that message to urge the Canadian government to take a stronger active role in Darfur at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square on April 13.
London Liberal MP Glen Pearson, Sergeant Debbie Bodkin of Waterloo Regional Police and Canadian musicians Low Level Flight, and Tim Baker from Hey Rosetta!, were just some who participated in the fifth annual Global Day for Darfur.
This year’s event was an interactive day that focused on the children of the war-torn region of Sudan. The on-going conflict in Sudan has claimed over 2000,000 lives and caused the displacement of over 1.5 million Darfurians.
According to UNICEFs Child Alert Report, the children of Darfur live beyond the reach of international relief efforts. They live in fear and are exposed to violence, malnutrition and illnesses.
Pearson and his wife Jane Roy began human rights and development work in Sudan in 1998. They adopted all three of their children – seven-year-old twins Ater and Abuk and their 10-year-old brother Achan from Sudan.
Though Pearson acknowledges the humanitarian aid that the Canadian government has offered to Sudan, he says that the government needs to do more.
“We have laws, international laws that we must respect, Laws like the R2P [responsibiltiy to protect]. What I would encourage the Prime Minister to do is call a worldwide conference of key leaders around the Darfur issue and say how can we make R2P work?,” said Pearson.
“The other thing that I encourage him to do is to just stand up and speak out to the government of Sudan for what they’re doing. I know he wants to because my sense from talking to him – the Prime Minister is a really decent man. I know everyone loves to slam him but I know he wrestles with it. I think he’d like to see happen,” he said.
Bodkin agrees with Pearson. As one of the 12 investigators with the UN Commission of Inquiry into Darfur, she spent time interviewing victims of the Sudanese region in 2004.
“Canada can be the initiator to motivate other countries to come on board so that its not just Canada, but it is Canada leading the pack of many countries and saying, come on; we have to do this together,” said Bodkin.
While she painted devastating stories with words that she choked over, onlookers felt her emotion and pain and shed tears for the victims of Darfur.
“The youngest girl I spoke to was seven years old and would never walk again, properly, as the result of her injuries during a rape by three men. I also doubt that happiness will be seen again in her beautiful but now glazed over brown eyes,” said Bodkin.
Pearson and Bodkin believe that Canadians can make a difference. Bodkin suggested making noise.
“People who are academics and more astute in world of politics can be writing to our government saying why are we doing this, why can’t we do that? People who have ideas-tell our government,” she said.
Canadian across Canada took part in a demonstration for Darfur on Sunday. The event was led internationally by Globe for Darfur( http://www.globefordarfur.org) and locally by STAND Canada (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur) (www.standcanada.org) and Project Equity.