Room? #26 at the Canadiana Backpackers Inn, Toronto?
We had a very special guest this week. The rooms in our hostel are all named after “Famous Canadians”. There is a photograph and a thumbnail biography of each celebrity framed on the door of every room. We had a young woman check in for a night and given Room Number 26. As fate would have it, the room is named for her father.
Her father is not a singer, hockey player or Hollywood celebrity. In so many ways, he is so much more. He is, in fact, a soldier – a retired General – and a? true Canadian hero.? Unlike ordinary pop culture luminaries, Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire is? the kind of? man who makes so many of us proud to be Canadians. And for that reason alone,? the mere presence of his daughter in our hostel did us honour.
General (now Senator) Dallaire,? was the Commander of the United Nations’ Forces in Rwanda during the most hideous period? of one of the continent’s poorest regions.? During that time, Hutu extremists, the Interahamwe, as they called themselves, perpetrated the wanton slaughter of more than 800,000 Tutsi’s in a savage orgy of inter-tribal genocide.? The General’s understrength force struggled valiantly and vainly against overwhelming odds to stop the slaughter while the United Nations and, indeed the world, stood by and dithered.
General Dallaire has given a graphic account of that terrible time in his remarkable book “Shake Hands with the Devil”.? It is a book that should be required reading by all United Nations personel to remind them of the terrible cost of their inactivity. But even more importantly, it should be read by all Canadian students in their? final year of high school if only to give them an understanding of the true meaning of the word “hero”.
Of all of our rooms named? for Canadian celebrities, Room 26 is, without a doubt, the “most special” to many of us here at the Canadiana. It occupies a prominent spot at the top of our stairs. It is our humble salute to a truly great Canadian.
Catherine Dallaire (on right) with Sharon (member of staff) outside the Romeo Dallaire Room, in the hall of Canadian Hero’s.