UN Peacekeeper Immunity Challenged

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By: Joe DeCapua

A new initiative has been launched to block U.N. peacekeepers from being granted immunity when accused of sexual exploitation and abuse. At least 50 such alleged incidents occurred last year, but Code Blue Campaign supporters say the actual number is probably much higher.

The U.N. has admitted that sexual abuse by peacekeepers is a problem and that it has a zero tolerance policy toward it. But Paula Donovan, Co-director of AIDS-Free World, said that policy is not enough.

“Both by the U.N.’s own accounts and by anecdotal accounts and information coming from the field and frompeople within the U.N. system, who don’t feel at liberty to speak publically, we know that the problem is actually much more severe than the U.N. is reporting to the General Assembly.”

Donovan said U.N. claims are not backed by the evidence.

“Each year, the Secretary-General reports on the numbers of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse and claims that the problem is slowly, but surely being solved. In fact, our research shows that that’s not the case at all. That the problem is quite extensive. That the U.N. does not report in the most accurate or transparent ways about the problems that come to their attention,” she said.

AIDS-Free world is joined in the Code Blue Campaign by Graça Machel, who led a 1996 study of sexual exploitation of children in armed conflict; Retired Lt. General Roméo Dallaire, who commanded the U.N. mission during the Rwanda genocide; African Women’s Development Fund CEO Theo Sowa and former U.N. Under-Secretary General Anwarul Chowdhury.

Donovan said justice is not being served when the U.N. investigates sex abuse allegations against peacekeepers.

“We decided to try to determine where the breakdown starts and what we learned was that it’s a chain reaction that actually stems from the fact that under a 1946 convention U.N. staff, police and experts on mission – in peacekeeping missions – have immunity. So, we’re calling for the end to what we are perceiving as a misinterpretation of a very old convention,” she said.

She said immunity was originally meant for diplomats, but is now being applied to accused criminals.

“So, we will also be calling for a complete and thorough commission of inquiry independent entirely of the United Nations that will look at what’s broken within the system and not only how it needs to be fixed, but who is responsible and who needs to be held to account for the dreadful way that these cases are handled, covered-up and misrepresented to the public,” said Donovan.

Naming the campaign Code Blue, she said, is not just because the U.N. operates under a blue flag.

“In the United States and some other countries, when all efforts have failed to keep the patient alive and the patient is going into cardiac arrest in a hospital, an announcement is made throughout the hospital – code blue in room such and such – and all who can help to keep the patient alive rush to the scene and help to resuscitate the patient who is near death. So, we feel as though we’re at that point with the United Nations.”

The Code Blue Campaign calls for amending the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. It said the convention should exclude sex-related crimes from the immunity granted to U.N. personnel. Another option, said Donovan, is to have the Secretary-General “issue a policy bulletin” of the convention “that reflects today’s realities.”

“That immunity should never have been in place or applied where these particular accusations are concerned. And you have the double standard here. You can say you have zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse – but you’re tolerant enough to have the presumption of immunity when someone is accused,” she said.

Campaign organizers denied the effort will harm U.N. operations. They said it will “strengthen the reputation and credibility of a critical U.N. function.”

Accusations of sexual abuse have been leveled against French and African peacekeepers in Central African Republic after an internal U.N. report was leaked in April. The United States has called for an inquiry into how the U.N. dealt with the allegations. The report says alleged abuses against children occurred between December 2013 and June of 2014.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Powers said if the allegations are true it would be a “profound violation…of the dignity and physical security of individuals in their most vulnerable state.”

To listen to interview with retired Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire on his support for the Code Blue Campaign, click on the link below.

Stephen Lewis, Romeo Dallaire Call For End To Sex Abuse By UN Employees

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By: |Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – An international coalition that includes the former Canadian UN ambassador Stephen Lewis and retired general and senator Romeo Dallaire launched a campaign Wednesday to end sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers and international employees.

The coalition, which calls itself Code Blue, wants UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon to lift the diplomatic immunity that protects UN employees from being held to account when abuse complaints arise.

The campaign has added relevance because of the scandal that erupted last month in Central African Republic with child sex abuse allegations against French soldiers involving boys, some as young as age nine.

Lewis said Ban’s inaction makes a mockery of his annual pledge of zero tolerance towards abuse.

“Time and time again, on an annual basis, the secretary general reiterates the goal of zero tolerance, and time and time again, on an annual basis, the evidence that the secretary general himself presents makes a mockery of the phrase.”

Lewis said sexual violence is more prevalent among the non-military international players — civil servants, police, experts and staff from UN agencies — but they are largely protected by a 1946 UN convention on immunity.

During a news conference Wednesday in New York, blocks from UN headquarters, he dared Ban to waive it more frequently.

“The ultimate decisions on the exercise of immunity in each and every instance rests in the hands of one man: the secretary general of the United Nations,” said Lewis.

The one-time Ontario NDP leader served as Brian Mulroney’s UN ambassador in the 1980s and campaigned with the Progressive Conservative prime minister to help end South Africa’s racist apartheid regime. He has remained active in the UN and international affairs since then.

Paula Donovan, a campaign organizer, said she is hoping for the support of the Canadian government and its people because of the country’s peacekeeping tradition.

“Governments like Canada have a very serious vested interest in peacekeeping and keeping it as noble as it was intended when you guys invented it.”

With the backing of U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, former external affairs minister Lester Pearson proposed the first UN peacekeeping mission in 1956 to help defuse the Suez Crisis.

Pearson received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957, but in recent decades Canada’s contribution to UN peacekeeping has dwindled. UN figures show that 22 Canadian troops are deployed on such missions, far behind the top three countries — Bangladesh at 9,300 and India and Pakistan at about 8,100 each.

Donovan said despite its low numbers, Canada continues to contribute technical expertise and money to UN peacekeeping, so it is engaged.

“The issue of sexual abuse and exploitation of children, those are all high on the Canadian agenda, so I can only hope and imagine that the Canadian government and certainly the people of Canada will embrace this campaign.”

Nineteen years ago, Mozambique humanitarian advocate Graca Machel wrote the leading report on the issue, which documented a significant rise in child prostitution in six of 12 countries that had seen the deployment of UN peacekeepers.

“The evidence is that things have not changed, have not improved, apparently they have gotten even worse. You are all familiar with the recent events in Central African Republic,” said Machel, who is also Nelson Mandela’s widow.

Machel said all countries in the United Nations are responsible for the international peacekeeping missions that are deployed under its banner.

Therefore, she said, every country in the world is responsible for the shattered lives of women and young people that some UN peacekeepers are leaving in their wake.

“This is not about something which belongs to somebody else — it belongs to us,” said Machel. “Just think about that, and take this as your cause.”

Dallaire, who commanded the ill-fated UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda during its 1994 genocide, said nothing can undermine the credibility or neutrality of a mission more than when the protectors of traumatized civilians become their abusers.

“There is no such thing in a conflict zone, or a post-conflict zone, as consenting adults,” said Dallaire. “No fraternization, and no consenting adults means a barrier that cannot be crossed by those who are deployed.”

Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire supports Omar Khadr

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By: Catherine Griwkowsky

Omar Khadr is a victim.

That’s what retired Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire and the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative executive director Shelly Whitman have said in a statement following the release of Khadr, 28, on bail on Thursday.

In the statement Dallaire and Whitman said he was a child soldier, not a terrorist.

“Recruited at 13 years old, then shot and taken prisoner two years later, the story of Omar Khadr has been nothing if not infuriating,” the statement reads.

“As a child, Khadr was forced to move to Afghanistan and join al-Qaeda by his father. It is believed that during a raid on Khadr’s compound, the 15-year-old threw a grenade, killing Sergeant Christopher Speer, a Delta Force strategic forces soldier and medic. Eight years later, he pleaded guilty under duress. But over the past decade, Khadr’s rights have been violated time and again. From the very beginning, he has been denied the right to due process and a fair trial, the right to protection from torture and — perhaps most appallingly — the rights stemming from the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

The letter says Khadr deserves a chance “to be educated, to be loved, and to be forgiven,” saying he deserves the same Canadian-government-funded rehabilitation as other child soldiers.

On Thursday, in his first interview since being released from custody, Khadr said he was “very happy” to be free and that he wants to prove to Canadians that he is better than how the authorities have portrayed him.

Alberta’s highest court released the former Guantanamo Bay detainee on bail pending the appeal of his convictions in the United States.

The judge rejected an application by the federal government for a stay of Khadr’s release until it can appeal his earlier bail decision.

Khadr had been behind bars for nearly 13 years. As part of his bail conditions, he must reside at defence lawyer Dennis Edney’s west Edmonton home, where he will remain under strict restrictions including wearing an electronic tracking bracelet.

Edney criticized the federal government for allowing a Canadian boy to be tortured in Guantanamo Bay and accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of being a “bigot,” saying Harper “doesn’t like Muslims.”

Khadr was ordered released on bail by a lower court judge on April 24, however the federal government applied for a stay of the ruling until they can appeal it. An appeal hearing is likely to be heard in the fall.

Khadr was serving an eight-year prison sentence in Bowden Institution as a result of a 2012 international transfer agreement with the United States, but was seeking release pending the determination of an appeal of his U.S. convictions by a military commission.

Khadr, originally from Toronto, pleaded guilty in the U.S. in 2010 to murder and four counts related to terrorism and spying. The charges came as a result of the role Khadr played in the 2002 killing of a U.S. special forces medic during a firefight in Afghanistan when he was 15. He spent a decade at Guantanamo Bay before his trial.

Former senator and retired general Romeo Dallaire tapped for Calgary Peace Prize

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By: Damien Wood

There’s no such thing as a local issue anymore, says the Calgary Centre for Global Community’s executive director.

Gurbir Sandhu, in telling the Sun retired Lt.-Gen., former senator and current humanitarian Roméo Dallaire will be the centre’s 2015 Calgary Peace Prize recipient, said all issues are inter-connected.

“We do not live in isolation,” Sandhu said.

And so the hope is to start a conversation here about the great efforts being made out there.

She said “it’s all about inspiring hope in our communities.”

Dallaire’s known for efforts surrounding the Rwandan Genocide and child soldiers, including The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and his books, Shake Hands with the Devil and They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children

Bringing in Dallaire to accept the award April 9 at the Magnolia Banquet Hall in northeast Calgary, and do a presentation and Q&A session on child soldiers is something the centre’s committee is very excited for.

Sandhu said the committee had nominations for about a dozen possible recipients this year, and Dallaire was the top of that list.

“He’s a great Canadian hero and a great human being recognized all over the world,” she said.

The centre’s past recipients of the award include Dr. Tadatoshi Akiba, Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Louise Arbour, Sally Armstrong, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, Emmanuel Jal and Dr. Samantha Nutt.

Further information can be found at calgarycgc.org/calgary-peace-prize.html

[email protected]

On Twitter: @SUNDamienWood

Dallaire: Radical groups recruiting children in Canada

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By: Davene Jeffery

A program created to stop the recruitment and indoctrination of child soldiers is also helping Halifax police deal with gangs and with the radicalization of youth here, Romeo Dallaire says.

The former senator, retired lieutenant-general and founder of the Child Soldiers Initiative spoke to a large crowd at Citadel High School Tueday night about ending the use of children as weapons of war.

The Initiative, based at Dalhousie University, has developed training programs that help military forces facing child soldiers in conflicts to de-escalate situations, as well as a school curriculum to teach young children about resisting indoctrination.

However, it is also helping police in this country prevent young people from joining radical groups like ISIS.

“They are recruiting here,” Dallaire said.

“There are child soldiers being created in this country.”

These groups target kids who are disenfranchised, or who have been bullied or who can’t see where they are going, he said.

He said his organization is looking at developing processes to help prevent these young people from being sucked in by radicals.

Dallaire’s organization is also working on a set of tools to help municipal police forces in this country, said initiative executive director Shelly Whitman.

“Our work is very practical, scenario-based training,” she said.

“What we try to do is create an awareness of the context and then give tools in terms of what they can do in improving their interactions with youth.”

Dallaire said he is not against organizations that are helping rehabilitate former child soldiers, but these groups are not stopping armed groups from using children to help them fight.

They are spending billions of dollars, but the problem is not going away, he said.

There are currently seven states and about 50 non-state groups around the world using children as weapons.

And the numbers of child soldiers around the world is growing, he said.

While most security forces train their members to see child soldiers as just another combatant, Dallaire says he wants to change that.

“We believe that children are human.”

“We don’t want soldiers killing kids.”

Dallaire said the training program his organization has developed is tactical, scenario-based and helps teach soldiers how to diffuse situations.

He said he is also encouraging the use of female soldiers on the front lines, because the presence of women has been shown to help diffuse child soldiers.

But these training programs are expense.

“I need money,” Dallaire told the crowd.

The initiative currently has an annual budget of about $1.2 million a year, Whitman said.

“It’s been steadily growing, but we have a lot of requests for our work.”

More information about the initiative can be found online at childsoldiers.org.

Roméo Dallaire delivers impressive speech on Child Soldiers

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By: Ray Bradshaw

HALIFAX – Roméo Dallaire put PTSD on the map. The former Canadian Forces Lieutenant-General and later Senator witnessed unspeakable horrors first hand. He was commander of United Nations Rwanda mission during the genocide in 1994. In just over three months of ethnic slaughter – nearly one million people were butchered.

Dallaire has since made it his ultimate mission to campaign against the use of children as weapons of war and that’s the message he brought with him to 500 people at the Spatz Theatre at Citadel High Tuesday night.

Roméo Dallaire is passionate about his project: the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative. His goal is to end the use and recruitment of child soldiers around the world. He’s so dedicated to the effort, he resigned as a Senator to raise awareness.

“Those children are…children,” he told the audience, “and they’re being used as simply instruments of war, by adults.”

Dallaire witnessed the genocide in Rwanda in 1993-94 as commander of the U.N Rwanda mission. He captivated the audience at Citadel High School in Halifax – with a gripping speech – keeping everyone’s attention, including students from Horton District High in the Annapolis Valley.

“He’s just so incredible to listen to, says Mackenzie Pardy, a Grade 12 student at Horton. She adds, “He’s endured so much and he’s still so optimistic and still puts so much effort into fighting this issue and I think that’s important to see as teenagers.”

On stage, Dallaire continues to talk about child soldiers. “Some of them don’t even remember what a family was because they were abducted at 8 or 9 years old,” says Dallaire.

Despite his efforts and the efforts of others, child soldier recruitment is growing he says. “It is spreading and it is in our own country and if we don’t take preventive measures and if we don’t train people how to handle the situation, it’s going to continue to grow.”

Dallaire’s way of fighting back is simple, but it requires money. “Wouldn’t it be smarter to provide security for those schools where they knew something was happening and prevent them from being recruited in the first place” he tells the audience.

Dallaire’s organization is helping to combat the recruiters. He says “We built the training program for military and police.”

Dallaire’s organization also works with Dalhousie University which notes, not every child soldier carries a gun. “It’s from porters to carrying ammunition, to carrying water to ultimately being sex slaves and bush wives,” says Dallaire.

Horton High students have been coming to hear Dallaire speak since 2010 and he’s having an effect on them. “Many of them leave saying this is one of their most memorable moments of high school – to hear such a great humanitarian speak,” says Renata Verri, a History teacher at Horton High.


Kayla Hounsell in Africa: ‘I was young by body and I was young by mind, but I was not young’

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By: Kayla Hounsell

He doesn’t know when he was born, and therefore he doesn’t know how old he is, but he believes he was around four years old when he became a soldier.

“I was not young,” he says. “I was young by body and I was young by mind, but I was not young. I was well aware that I’m there to fight, so I thought of fighting.”

Today John Kon Kelei is a lawyer, a university instructor, and an advocate for children affected by war. He dedicates his time to speaking out about his experience as a child soldier in South Sudan.

“It is a matter of choice,” he tells me. “You keep quiet and maybe some other children will be victims by the fact that people are not aware of it, or you talk about it and maybe you will save some few.”

We are meeting just days after the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) secured the release of 3,000 child soldiers in South Sudan, one of the largest ever demobilizations of children. 280 have been released so far.

UNICEF has reached out to an organization in Halifax for help.

Kelei is not working with UNICEF but he has been to Halifax several times to work with the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative at Dalhousie University.

“I’m fond of that program,” he says. “That’s why I joined my hand with them, to at least raise awareness around the policy makers.”

Founded by retired Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire in 2007, the Dallaire Initiative aims to eradicate the use of child soldiers worldwide.

Executive Director Shelly Whitman says people like Kelei give reality to the work they do.

“Asking children who were recruited if the interventions we propose would have made a difference,” she says via email from Halifax. “If they endorse your work then that is a million times more worthy than any donor or government’s thoughts on the value of your work.”

Both Whitman and Kelei say it is always good news to hear of the release of child soldiers, but they caution there is much more work to be done.

“When you leave the military barracks that is the only thing you know, and that’s the only skill that you have to survive,” says Kelei. “But then you are sent to a civilian world which is totally new for you…I have always been complaining within the UNICEF itself to please stop with the short-sighted programs of rehabilitation and reintegration.”

UNICEF says this latest program will mean at least two years of constant work with the children, more if necessary depending on the child’s individual needs.

“It is significant to have this release of 3,000,” says Whitman. “But the worry is that each time South Sudan goes back to war children get used again, and we need to break this pattern.”

Whitman, who will be travelling to Uganda from Halifax later this month, is now hoping to also visit South Sudan. UNICEF wants to distribute the Dallaire Initiative’s handbooks here.

John Kon Kelei was not released from the army. After five years, he defected.

“If you don’t do it well and you are caught, you can wind up before the firing squad, so it is very dangerous,” he says. “It could mean death.”

Kelei urges people not to dismiss former child soldiers.

“People always think that these are children that went through the war, they can never achieve something higher. No, that’s wrong. Because if I could be the holder of a Master’s degree today, why not they?”

When the release secured by UNICEF is complete, there will still be an estimated 9,000 child soldiers in this war torn country.  John Kon Kelei stresses the continued need for organizations like the Dallaire Initiative.

“To my friends in Canada, in Nova Scotia as a whole, please support this initiative. It is about the lives of some children. You can see me now, nice in suit, in a red tie. Many of the children are there outside, who may be much more beautiful in suits than I am, and they need your support.”

A plea from a man, who knows the realities of war no child should ever see.

ISIS Child Soldier video1

New ISIS video shows training of child soldiers in Iraq

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By: Nick Logan

WARNING: This story contains details and images that some readers may find disturbing. Discretion is advised.

Keeping with its pattern of documenting its own war crimes on video and using that footage as propaganda, ISIS has posted a video online depicting the training of child soldiers.

Almost three dozen boys, all of whom would only be in elementary or middle school if they lived in Canada, are depicted learning martial arts, how to disarm or capture an enemy fighter, and how to endure brute force.

Scene after scene shows an adult trainer punching and kicking boys — in their sides, their legs and in their abdomens — while the young recruits hardly flinch and wait for to be dealt another blow.
ISIS Child Soldier video1

ISIS Child Soldier video3

The video is called The Blood of Jihad Part 2. The first part appeared online in October and depicted the training and graduation of adult recruits.

Descriptions of both videos indicate the training camps were somewhere in Iraq’s Ninawa province, bordering Syria, much of which ISIS has controlled for months and considers a part of its self-proclaimed caliphate.

The training was similar to what’s seen in this latest video, except all of these soldiers are much smaller and much more vulnerable.

“It does show the kind of audacity that they have,” said Dr. Shelly Whitman, executive director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative at Halifax’s Dalhousie University. “And, it speaks to… [ISIS] being clear about this being a multi-generational war.”

READ MORE: Is the world ready to deal with a generation of ISIS child soldiers?

Posted to YouTube (but later removed) and other sites on Monday, the training video is not nearly as “brutal” as other ISIS propaganda videos or even other examples of what child soldiers in other conflicts have had to go through, Whitman told Global News.

“If you look at [this video], there are some elements that are not all that different than us taking our kids to learn martial arts,” she said. “I could see kids looking at that and thinking that that’s pretty cool, that they look a bit like they’re making them into little ninjas.”

ISIS Child Soldier video4

ISIS wants to appeal to young recruits and “prioritizes children as a vehicle for ensuring long-term loyalty, adherence to their ideology and a cadre of devoted fighters that will see violence as a way of life,” a United Nations panel investigating war crimes in the Syrian conflict concluded.

What’s not clear from this video is whether the children were recruited or kidnapped before being trained and indoctrinated.

Earlier this year in Syria, ISIS abducted more than 150 Kurdish boys, held them in a school in Aleppo province and showed them videos of beheadings and attacks, while subjecting them to daily instruction on militant ideology for five months, the U.N. and Kurdish officials said. The boys were later released.

In Raqqa province, an anti-ISIS activist collective has documented the presence of at least five known youth training camps, one specifically for children under 16 in the town of Tabqa.

The video released Monday clearly glorifies children becoming jihadis. But, Whitman explained we’re not likely seeing all the whole picture.

“I’m sure there are worse elements of their training than what they demonstrated on that video,” she said in a phone interview.

Viewers also don’t see the horrific acts child soldiers have to carry out once they finish training.

READ MORE:Why you should be concerned about ISIS recruiting children (June 25)

The UN panel reported “ISIS fighters under 18 years of age are said to have performed the role of executioner. A 16-year-old fighter reportedly cut the throats of two soldiers, captured from Tabqa airbase in late August 2014.”

“We still need to recognize that they are children, no matter how people are using them,” Whitman said. “Even when children become soldiers, we want you to recognize that they’re children first and a child soldier second.”

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Although the government has only approved Canadian Forces taking part in airstrikes, and a small contingent of troops to train Kurdish fighters in Iraq, Whitman said she’s “sure we’re going to go beyond that” if Canada is committed to eliminating ISIS.

And if that means Canadian boots on the ground, she said soldiers need to be prepared to encounter children on the battlefield.

“[I]t’s going to have different implications, from a psychological perspective, on our troops,” she said. “If they’re not prepared for this, it’ll have an impact on them… and that has an impact, when they come home, on their own family.”

-With files from The Associated Press


Celebrating women of excellence

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By: DalNews

Dalhousie had particular cause to be proud of some of its outstanding faculty this week.

On Wednesday, 19 women were honoured during the 25th Annual Progress Women of Excellence Awards held at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax. Among them were Dal’s very own Shelly Whitman, executive director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, and Sherry Stewart, professor of Psychiatry, Psychology/Neuroscience and Community Health and Epidemiology at Dalhousie University and the founding director of the Centre for Addictions Research at Dal (CARD).

The two faculty members, celebrated in the awards’ “Education and Research” category, were joined by six other recipients who are Dal alumni.

The awards were presented by the Canadian Progress Club Halifax Cornwallis, a charitable women’s foundation that is dedicated to helping those in need in the HRM. The event also doubled as a fundraiser in support of Phoenix Youth, a non-profit community-based safe haven homeless youth.

“I feel very honoured to have been chosen to receive this among the other women who did,” says Dr. Stewart. “One of my colleagues in the Psychology department, Christine Chambers, won it in the past, and she’s a very outstanding researcher, so I knew that it wouldn’t be easy and that the competition would likely be difficult.”

Saluting excellence

Both Dr. Stewart and Dr. Whitman were recognized for their work in education and research and boast extensive experience and accomplishments.

A Nova Scotia native, Dr. Stewart completed her undergraduate degree at Dalhousie and went on to pursue graduate school at McGill University, where she focused her research on anxiety sensitivity and alcohol abuse in young people. She returned to Dal in 1993 for a faculty position and continued her research on substance use, abnormal behaviour, mental health and addictive disorders. Her grant-funded research has been instrumental in improving understanding, prevention and treatment in her fields of study. In addition to her recent award, Dr. Stewart has gained local, national and international recognition for her work and is regarded as one of the top two most productive clinical psychology professors in Canada.

For Dr. Whitman, her professional career began with the opportunity to work with Ambassador Stephen Lewis on the OAU Rwanda Genocide Report. Equipped with a PhD in International Law and Human Rights, Dr. Whitman went on to work with UNICEF on various projects including gender, peace building and children in armed conflict, was hired by the former President of Botswana to lead research for the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, and spent four years at the University of Botswana lecturing in political science. Shortly after returning to Canada in 2006, she became deputy director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dal and later the executive director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative which physically moved to the university in January of 2010.

Despite their numerous successes, both women remain humble and focused on what’s next. Dr. Whitman is working with Dallaire Digital Ambassadors to shape online dialogues around children in armed conflict and will be traveling to New York in December to launch an e-learning course that has been developed with the UN Institute for Training and Research. The initiative also recently visited the U.S. State Department to share its work on child soldiers.

“I think what pleases me the most is that I don’t see it as an award for ‘Shelly Whitman’; I see it as an award for my office and for our work,” says Dr. Whitman. “One of the challenges is that we’re known around the world, but in Halifax, people don’t even realize that there’s this world-class initiative housed right here.”

At the same time, Dr. Stewart is equally busy. Alongside a team of researchers, she recently launched Dal’s Caring Campus Initiative that aims to reduce alcohol and drug misuse among first-year university students. She also has three upcoming research projects to fill her time: one which has received pilot funding from Dalhousie and two which are under review for grants.

“When I talk about the success that I’ve had in research, one of the things that’s really good about Dal is the quality of students that we have,” Dr. Stewart says. “We can’t do good research without students who help us in the lab, help us have the exciting ideas and contribute their own past experiences to the kind of work that we’re doing. It’s really the great students that we have at Dalhousie, and we’re very lucky.”

Outstanding alumni

In addition to Dr. Stewart and Dr. Whitman, six alumni were honoured at the awards. (As noted, Dr. Stewart, BSc’87, is also an alum.) They are:

  • Christa Brothers (LLB’96), litigation partner with Stewart McKelvey
  • Ann Mellema (MBA’96), director, programs governance with Irving Shipbuilding
  • Mary Vingoe (BA’76), freelance director and playwright
  • Vicki Grant (BA’82), writer
  • Elana Liberman (LLM’04), owner/CEO of Cyclone Studios Inc.
  • Dr. Elaine Gordon Cragg (DDS’69), doctor of dental surgery and past recipient of the Dalhousie Alumni A. Gordon Archibald Award.