A New Year’s resolution for Canadian students

One of the dominant narratives of the 20th century was that of humanity’s collective failure to stand up to evil. In its face of global indifference, however, one group of people consistently raised its voice to demand justice: students.

October 1956: Hungarian students march down the streets of Budapest triggering that country’s revolt against Soviet rule. In the 1960s: white students from the American North partake in “Freedom Rides” in an attempt to de-segregate busses in the racist South. In the late 1980s: students around the world help lead an international boycott against apartheid in South Africa, crippling its economy and helping bring down the regime.

Fast forward to 2007, in Darfur. Its endless graveyards are evidence of crimes against humanity. Burned out villages are becoming permanent reminders of what has transpired under our watch. The faces of refugees tell stories of unspeakable horror.

But for Darfur, the tides have been turning. World leaders and celebrities alike are speaking out. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called the situation “unacceptable.” The UN Human Rights Council held a special session on Darfur. Sudan is starting to feel the pressure. In short, we are moving closer to putting UN peacekeepers on the ground to strengthen civilian protection.

We are at a critical moment. It is time that Canadian students join together en masse to pressure our government into taking concrete steps to bring about an end to the killing in Darfur. After four years of inaction, over 200,000 dead and millions displaced, we need to take a stand. Never again means never again.

Canada can and must take on a leadership role in ending this crisis. On the diplomatic front we can help jump-start a multilateral mission to protect civilians. Our CF-18 aircraft could help enforce a no-fly zone to prevent Sudanese aircraft from bombing villages as they aid the Janjaweed militias. Financially, our aid dollars can provide critical support. It’s time we come out and commit; we have the capacity to lead.

Acting on that capacity is simple. The prime minister needs to pick up the phone, rally his government and world leaders to join in implementing a strong multinational force on the ground to protect civilians. To this point he has not been nearly vocal enough–and we are seeing the results of inaction. But politicians do not act without a reason. If the prime minister is going to pick up the phone he needs to see that his constituents demand more–that Canadians demand leadership.

This is where we come in. Our government answers to us. We just need to be heard. Students know how to organize and mobilize; we do it on our campuses every day. We’re experts at writing letters, signing petitions and getting our message out there. This instance should be no different. From Victoria to St. John’s, it’s time Canadian students speak as one national voice demanding a real response to the Darfur crisis.

The narrative of the 21st century is being written as Darfur is at a crossroads. As students we have a critical role to play in shaping history. Either Darfur will start to live again or it will continue to perish. Let us fight for change as hard as students have before us. For if we don’t, and Darfur dies, a part of our humanity dies with it.

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