The other side of security

Maj. Brent Beardsley will speak about ithe link between humanitarian crises and domestic concerns this weekend

Canadians need to re-examine the way they view national security before it’s too late, says Maj. Brent Beardsley. Beardsley is an infantry officer in the army’s Royal Canadian Regiment. He was part of the United Nations Allied Mission in Rwanda during the Rwandan genocide, and worked with Roméo Dallaire on the book Shake Hands with the Devil: The failure of humanity in Rwanda.

Beardsley is speaking this Saturday at Queen’s International Development Conference, addressing issues of international aid and security issues. Beardsley said Canada should view environmental and humanitarian crises as issues having a profound effect on Canada’s national security.

“Those types of issues, we may see them initially as social, but if left unchecked, if not seriously addressed, it can become a source of conflict or even a source of war,” he said. “When people have no hope and no chance to improve their lives and they are so poor that survival is a day-to-day struggle, eventually it will lead to a rage, and a rage that will inevitably lead to some form of conflict,
and that’s when we could get involved.
“We have to pay that price because we haven’t prevented these problems from arising in the fist place.” Beardsley said he first confronted these issues after the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Beardsley said these issues don’t threaten Canada’s security directly, but if they’re not prevented or stopped, they escalate and humanitarian crises become security threats. “We’ve got to look away from tradition,
where we examine traditional threats of states or ideologies,” he said. “In many cases the threats that we will face are no longer something that’s exclusively the domain of the military to deal with.”

Beardsley said there are three factors preventing Canadians from becoming more involved in international issues: apathy, greed and hypocrisy. “My personal feeling is that Canadians are good people who … want to help, but they are very poorly informed and in some cases it’s their own fault.”

Beardsley said Canada should be involved in promoting democracy in developing nations, but should be able to do this without violating the sovereignty of those states. “It needs to be done in a partnership form; it’s not something you impose on somebody, it’s something you give to them and work together to get the best result.”

Beardsley said he supports what Canada is doing right now in Darfur, but that it should be prepared to do more. “[A protracted conflict could] cause a regional conflict which could be disastrous, so it’s in everyone’s interest to work for a solution to the Darfur question,” he said. “It’s hard to say if we’re doing enough; as long as the situation’s bad, you can always do more.”

Brent Beardsley will be giving the keynote address at the International Development Conference Saturday night at the University Club. Registration for the conference has closed, but students wishing to attend can still e-mail to

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