Romeo Dallaire reads for Barrie students

Romeo Dallaire, the retired Canadian general who ‘shook hands with the devil’ while coming face to face with a human calamity in Rwanda, will be in Barrie on Thursday helping students understand the power of the written word.
Dallaire is scheduled to be a keynote speaker in the fourth annual L3: Writers’ Conference at Barrie North Collegiate. Hosted by the school’s iDeaology program, students and others in attendance will hear award-winning authors, including Dallaire, talk about literature, literacy and literature, with some of the country’s leading novelists, broadcasters, poets and journalists in attendance.
“This annual conference is a fantastic opportunity for our students to get hands-on lessons from successful and prolific Canadian writers,” says conference organizer and teacher Brian Adduono. “By day, the conference is Ontario’s largest high-school literary festival; by night, it is Barrie’s largest literary celebration. It’s a very exciting event.”
The retired general, and current Canadian senator, commanded the ill-fated United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNIMAR), an experience he recounted in his book, Shake Hands with the Devil: The failure of Humanity in Rwanda.
The mission was hamstrung from the beginning by orders from headquarters in New York restricting involvement in preventing what became a mass slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans, a brutality that eventually came to be called genocide.
When it began, however, Western powers were reluctant to label it that, as detailed in the book, anxious to avoid becoming embroiled in an African conflict. Part of the book’s title, The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, speaks to the decisions that abandoned a nation to its fate.
The book also recounts Dallaire’s personal descent into despair as he struggled to come to terms with the failure of the mission to prevent the genocide, dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In 2004, the book won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction. It was made into a feature film in 2007. Honours include being named an Officer of the Order of Canada (2002), Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec (2005), and the Aegis Award for Genocide Prevention from the Aegis Trust, in Great Britain.
Dallaire’s projects include efforts to eliminate the use of child soldiers, the subject of his latest book, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children.
The public is invited to attend the conference, starting at 9:30 a.m. and concluding at 9:30 p.m. after the Evening Readings session (beginning at 7 p.m.). Ken McGoogan (author, biographer and historian), George Elliott Clarke (poet, novelist and playwright), Nino Ricci (novelist and journalist), and Dr. Bruce Meyer (Barrie’s Poet Laureate), will join Dallaire for the readings.
The conference includes public readings and specialized writing seminars for students. Seminars cover a wide range of topics, including publishing, young adult literature, poetry and sports writing.
Tickets to the Evening Readings are available in advance at Page & Turners Book Store for $20 for the general public and $10 for students. Tickets are also available at the door.
For more information on the conference and for writers’ biographies, click here, or contact Adduono at 705-726-6541

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