This afternoon I attended the rally for Darfur today in Queen's Park. I must say that I was of mixed feelings about attending. As important as it is that events such as this be held to draw the media's attention to the attrocities (and for that I applaud the young people who organized the event), the fact is that rallies tend to attract large numbers of the well intentioned but uninformed and hippy dippy types for whom a protest in the park is a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. That is not to suggest, of course, that there were not also people in attendance for whom bringing attention to the genocide is profoundly important.
After having attended the event, I remain of mixed feelings. The band that performed as things were getting started were certainly of the uninformed variety. We started with a song for the environment (which, if I do say so myself, does not compare with the song I later composed: "Hug a Tree for Darfur"). "I hope everyone's feeling great here today!". We're here to draw attention to a genocide, just peachy thanks. But they were young and inexperienced, so at least they had an excuse.
The same cannot be said for Olivia Chow, who seemed to use the event as an opportunity to talk up the NDP. Apparently they have cared about the attrocities in Darfur for a long time. This must be part of their very own hidden agenda, because until very recently I don't remember them talking about it at all.
Luckily things began to improve as people who have actually shown a long time commitment to the cause spoke. Representatives of the Darfur Association of Canada, Canadians Against Torture and Slavery in Sudan (CASTS) and the Sudanese Canadian Human Rights Coalition, along with current and former MPs David Kilgour, Irwin Cotler and Maurice Vellacott gave impassioned pleas for action in Darfur.
Acol Dror, co-founder of CASTS, originally from southern Sudan, told her own story of her father's murder by the Sudanese government . Her speech reminded us that Darfur is not the first time that the government in Khartoum has committed attrocities on Sudanese civilians. If the world does not act, it will likely not be the last. Norman Epstein, also of CASTS, spoke about the need to act outside the United Nations if necessary, citing Kosovo as precendent for action against genocide without the Security Council's approval.
Many of the speakers mentioned the sanctions against four Sudanese individuals, pointing out that these actions were grossly insufficient to end the attrocities. Along with providing increased aid, and support on the ground, demands were made to create a no-fly zone over Darfur to protect the citizens against government-sponsored attacks. It was suggested that China should also be brought to task for their support of the Sudanese government, not only working to protect them in the Security Council, but also supplying them with arms. Although it was somewhat gratifying to hear some tangible proposals that could protect the people of Darfur, the question remains who will bother to act.
And then there was Jack. Jack, of course, couldn't miss an opportunity to act the buffoon, literally screaming into the microphone and insisting it is what he'll be doing in the Commons when they discuss Darfur this week (I suppose it couldn't be any less valuable than what he might actually say). I'll be watching for it.