Watch above: Romeo Dallaire is stepping down from the Senate. But rather than retiring, he’s moving from the Canadian to the world stage. Shirlee Engel reports.
OTTAWA – Liberal Sen. Romeo Dallaire, a career soldier best known in Canada as former commander of the UN’s ill-fated peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, is resigning – not retiring, he insists – from the upper chamber.
Dallaire’s last day in the Senate will be June 17, after which he intends to focus attention on a growing portfolio of international humanitarian work, the square-jawed senator told a news conference Wednesday.
The decision has nothing to do with either the shadow of scandal that has loomed over the Senate for more than a year, or with the Rwandan-born post-traumatic stress disorder that has haunted him for 20 years, he said.
“I have submitted my resignation to the Governor General with a torn heart, because I have served here nine years in the Senate and the work here was meeting the challenges that I hoped (for),” Dallaire said.
“The international dimension of my work has shifted my sense of duties from the Senate here and the nation to the international sphere.”
Dallaire, a former lieutenant-general who retired from the Canadian Forces in 2000, was appointed to the Senate in 2005 by prime minister Paul Martin.
He made headlines in December when he fell asleep at the wheel of his car and crashed into a traffic barrier on Parliament Hill – an accident he attributed to the stress of the upcoming Rwandan anniversary.
Dallaire still bears the mental and emotional scars of bearing witness to the bloody genocide that erupted there in the spring of 1994.
As the world marked the tragedy’s 20th anniversary last month, Dallaire complained bitterly about lessons he says have gone unheeded – including his sense that the Conservative government wants little to do with the UN.
But he insisted Wednesday that has nothing to do with his decision to leave."The PTSD was not a factor in my resignation," he said.
“The way I’m looking at it, I’m going to be travelling more and more engaged internationally than I am right now, so I’m not leaving one job to find time to do other things; I’m leaving one job because I’ve got a more demanding job.”
WATCH: NDP leader Thomas Mulcair praises Romeo Dallaire’s record of military and public service – but says he resigned because he’s “seen enough” of corruption in the Senate
Dallaire has long used his role as senator to champion the needs of military veterans, and he said Wednesday he believes the Senate continues to play a vital role within Canada.
“It’s come to the public,” he said of the Senate’s newfound prominence in the Canadian consciousness, although he acknowledged that “the angle may not be the most positive one, for sure.”
“There’s no doubt in my military mind that this country needs that second chamber to balance out the other one,” he said, referring to the House of Commons. And senators should continue to be appointed, not elected, he added.
Dallaire also recently pressed the Conservatives to build a replica of the Vimy Ridge monument known as Mother Canada in Gatineau, Que., across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill.
© The Canadian Press, 2014