Situation in the Central African Republic

Elizabeth May: Mr. Chair, this is a very important debate. I think everyone on all sides of the House recognizes that there is a humanitarian crisis with a potential for looming genocide. However, a lot of Canadians hear this kind of language very often about different countries about which they know very little, and it tends to create the impression that we have a situation that is beyond help—that Canadians can throw humanitarian aid, but it will not make a difference.

I want to personalize it. To my hon. colleague, who is a friend and also a woman in political life, let us focus on the opportunity right now. Since January 23, this besieged country has one of the few women presidents in Africa right now. Catherine Samba-Panza, who represents a voice calling for non-violence, is calling for her people—she calls them her children, while they are calling her “Mother Courage”—to lay down their arms. She is asking the UN for help. She is asking the world for help.

This is not a situation in which, as is so often tragically the case, we have a deranged, despotic leadership and people torn by sectarian violence. We have sectarian violence on the ground, but we have a president of the Central African Republic who is asking us for help. It is a very specific woman who has only been in power since January 23, less than a month.

What can Canada do beyond what we have done now? If asked, what can we do to ensure the success and the restoration of peace, security, and a healthy civil society in CAR?

Lois Brown: Mr. Chair, I thank my colleague for that question because it gives me the opportunity to recognize many of the women in Africa who are taking their positions in places of leadership across that continent.

I was in Malawi last January with the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association. Joyce Banda is the president of that country. I was in Mozambique speaking at a conference for the African Minerals Development Centre where Minister Bias, who is the minister of mines for the country of Mozambique, has taken a very strong leadership on the issues of regulation and legislation for African minerals.

These women are stepping up. I have met many women in critical positions in Africa, and we encourage them as women to take their place on the world stage in these places of political life.

We know that the president of CAR is facing a very difficult situation right now. Canada is going to continue to be there. We will continue to assess the situation and watch as the needs unfold. Canada will continue to help.