The Parallel Parliament

by Glen Pearson

Tag: canadian aid for southern sudan

Promise Fulfilled

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THE WORK OF FOUR REMARKABLE Canadian women in South Sudan has been so inspiring that I am including my new London Free Press article here on their efforts.  Just link to http://www.lfpress.com/2015/02/26/pearson-a-london-groups-promise-14-years-ago-to-build-a-high-school-in-the-south-sudan-region-of-aweil-was-fulfilled-this-year-the-school-will-open-in-apriland see some great pictures, along with a description of their efforts.  This is inspiring stuff in a new nation struggling to find its feet.  Proud to know these four great champions.

The Long Road Home

Of all our numerous undertakings, our work in Sudan over the last 15 years has stretched us the most. Something about attempting to function in what was then Africa’s largest country and in the continent’s longest running civil war helps you mature pretty quickly.

When we first journeyed to the region in order to fight slavery we were totally in over our heads – and we knew it. Moreover, we had CBC television and the London Free Press along with us for the duration and feeling a sense of responsibility for their protection when you’re trying to learn the situation yourself was a sobering exercise.

And yet it was life-altering. We had walked into history and we sensed it every minute. It had taken a long time for the world to wake up to the reality that was slavery in Sudan, but once it was “out there” Canadians reacted with alacrity and a far-ranging sense of compassion. Canadians are born for this kind of thing – not just because of our own history as the destination point for the Underground Railroad, but because Canada could boast of a long history in Africa and wonderful heritage of siding with the oppressed over lengthy periods of time.

That first journey was indeed remarkable – as were the umpteen follow-up trips to the region. We were cooperating not just with the southern Sudanese, but with the UN and other countries who were attempting to acquire data and fact-based evidence that slavery was not only a reality, but was in actuality a tool of war. Thanks to the London Police Department, who supplied us with fingerprint training and the tools to go along with it, we were able to provide that evidence in a way that proved conclusive. Moreover, Macleans magazine came with us twice, as did the London Free Press.

These were remarkable days that not only saw us enmeshed in the deep pains of human mortality but also the danger to our own safety. Yet despite all the worry of family and fellow citizens, their backing of our efforts was vibrant and consistent. This is the kind of community we live in and we were but extensions of their compassion and commitment to human justice.

We were there for the end of the war, the deconstruction of slavery, and the eventual peace that was to see south Sudan become the newest nation in the world just last year. Along the way we were able to free over 10,000 slaves, none of which were recaptured. We made thousands of friends, endured many failures, and ultimately shared in the Sudanese success. And, yes, first one, then three children ended up coming to Canada to live with us once their mother was shot attempting to escape slavery with her children in tow.

So many people ask us about those early years and it just seemed that the time was right to chronicle our efforts during a difficult time. And so we agreed that I would write a book if Jane would do the illustrations. What you’ll see in the video below is the final product. The book is available at Amazon.com here, but you can also get a copy from Jane and me if you’re in the London area.

The events recounted in the book are those of two average Canadians caught in exceptional circumstances. More important, we were backed by a community and a media that wanted the story told. In that telling, the world grew aware of a massive atrocity and their response brought the worst part of slavery to an end.

The entire thing was a human drama from beginning to end – just as the book recounts. Yet when we go back to Sudan every January we see these former slaves, now attending school, operating a micro-enterprise, enjoying the grandchildren, and yet still suffering deprivation. A few yet wear Canadian pins in their ears and the Canada flag flies proudly over the schools that have been constructed by the good people of Canada. Our biggest development challenge now is raising funds to build a secondary school for Darfur refugees. To see more of what we’re doing, check out www.casscanada.net.

The Long Road Home is a tale well worth the telling; perhaps you’ll find it worth reading. The cost of the book is next to nothing, but the blood lost in the telling and the many friends we lost along that journey make it priceless to us. This is just the kind of stuff Canada does, and a new nation has resulted that owes a tad of its new birth to the generosity of Canadians. We walked that path together and, indeed, it was a long road home.

Winds of Change – Departure

Winds of Change – Beginnings

I travel to Sudan one week a year to help in overseeing our projects.  Visits used to be much more frequent but parliamentary schedules and duties just make that impossible. The annual trips are taken on my break time and the costs are my own – nothing from the taxpayers.

This recent trip was a move through history, as south Sudan conducted its own referendum, overseen by the international community, in which it would determine whether to become the world’s newest nation. We took a team of 12 Canadians to one of the world’s most remote regions to witness a people who felt they were righting a historic wrong. In the process, all of us were asked to be international observers and the referendum itself took on an entirely new meaning for us.

Canadians are heavily invested in Sudan. Rotary clubs, religious institutions, universities, student groups, etc. – all these, representing thousands of Canadians and a good many people and groups in my own riding, have opted to assist south Sudan to find a new future. Recent Canadian governments have invested heavily in Sudan as well, making it one of three “countries of focus” for over a decade.

This week I’ll be posting a number of videos I took while in the south. I apologize in advance for some of the audio, as the winds were heavy near the beginning of the trip.  Many will have known of my involvement in Africa for years, but this will give you something of a visual idea of what my wife, Jane, and I undertake with other Canadians in that vast but distant land. It was such a historic time, with many media interviews and much international interest, that I thought it best to let you see some of history being made. The videos start at the point of our arrival, but move on through the referendum process itself and on to some of the team members and their responsibilities. There were people of many political persuasions on the trip, including another MP, but it’s always been our purpose to forget partisanship and forge consensus on what can be done to assist the African continent.  Every trip we have taken with large teams in previous years has successfully negotiated its way through political brands and successfully brought us a new shared sense of purpose. That was especially true on this present journey, as we were just overtaken by history and its possibilities.

Tomorrow: The Referendum Starts

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