Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire


Lieutenant-General (ret) The Honorable Roméo A. Dallaire, O.C., C.M.M.,
G.O.Q., M.S.C., C.D., L.O.M. (U.S.), B.ésS., LL.D. (Hon.), D.Sc.Mil (Hon.), D.U.

Roméo Dallaire is founder of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, a global partnership with the mission to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers. A celebrated advocate for human rights, especially in regards to child soldiers, veterans, and the prevention of mass atrocities, General Dallaire is also a respected government and UN advisor, a best-selling author, and former Canadian Senator.

Throughout his distinguished military career, General Dallaire served in staff, training, and command positions throughout North America, Europe, and Africa, rising in rank from Army Cadet in 1960 to Lieutenant-General in 1998.

Most notably, General Dallaire was appointed Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda prior to and during the 1994 genocide. General Dallaire provided the United Nations with information about the planned massacre, which ultimately took more than 800,000 lives in less than 100 days; yet, permission to intervene was denied and the UN withdrew its peacekeeping forces. General Dallaire, along with a small contingent of Ghanaian and Tunisian soldiers and military observers, disobeyed the command to withdraw and remained in Rwanda to fulfill their ethical obligation to protect those who sought refuge with the UN forces.

His courage and leadership during this mission earned him the Meritorious Service Cross, the United States Legion of Merit, the Aegis Award on Genocide Prevention, and the affection and admiration of people around the globe. His defiant dedication to humanity during that mission has been well-documented in films and books, including his own account: Shake Hands with the Devil: the Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction in 2004 and the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for political writing awarded by the Writers’ Trust of Canada. It provided the basis for an Emmy Award-winning documentary as well as a major motion picture of the same name; and, has been entered into evidence in war crimes tribunals trying the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide.

General Dallaire’s 1997 revelation that he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a direct result of his mission in Rwanda paved the way for destigmatizing this potentially-lethal Operational Stress Injury among military veterans as well as first-responders. Though it led to his being medically released from the Canadian Army in 2000, he has devoted decades of passionate leadership and advocacy to the issue on behalf of other veterans struggling with PTSD, including the publication of his bestselling memoir: Waiting for First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD.

General Dallaire was born in Denekamp, Holland, on 25 June 1946, to Canadian Army Sergeant Roméo Louis Dallaire and Catharina Vermaesen Dallaire. He was raised and educated in Canada, joining le Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean in 1964 (later assuming command of this institution as Brigadier-General in 1989), and graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from the Royal Military College in 1969. He also attended the Canadian Land Forces Command and Staff College, the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College in Virginia, and the United Kingdom Higher Command and Staff Course. General Dallaire holds honorary doctorates and fellowships from nearly three dozen universities in Canada and the United States, and memberships on many important boards and committees including the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience.

General Dallaire is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec, and a Commander of the Order of Military Merit. He is the recipient of the United Nations Association of Canada’s Pearson Peace Medal, the Arthur Kroeger College Award for Ethics in Public Affairs from Carleton University, the Laureate of Excellence from the Manitoba Health Sciences Centre, the Elie Wiesel Award from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Harvard University Humanist Award.

General Dallaire has served on UN Advisory Committees on Genocide Prevention and Peacekeeping Training, and as Special Advisor to Government Ministers on Veterans Affairs, National Defence, and War-Affected Children. He also served as a Canadian Senator from 2005 to 2014.

However, since the publication of his book,They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers, General Dallaire’s primary focus has been his work with the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, continually seeking innovative ways to assist governments worldwide to help eradicate the use of child soldiers, a mission to which he has committed the rest of his life.

Whether as military commander, humanitarian, senator or author, Roméo Dallaire has penetrated our national consciousness, often in supremely uncomfortable ways. He continues to work tirelessly to bring national and international attention to situations too-often ignored, whether the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide, the struggle that he and many other military veterans face with post-traumatic stress disorder, or the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

General Dallaire has committed the rest of his life to the prevention of the use of children as weapons of war. To this end, he has founded the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative at Dalhousie University.

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of children who have been recruited to participate in armed conflicts worldwide. Many of these girls and boys are stolen from their families, maimed, raped, drugged, used as sex slaves or otherwise abused.

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative is a global partnership committed to ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers worldwide. It focuses on three core activities: research, advocacy and security sector training, all through a lens of prevention. Its unique approach, working with military, police and peacekeeping forces is breaking new ground, and is a critical part of interrupting the cycle of recruitment of children by armed groups.

Visit the Dallaire Initiative

Fondation Roméo Dallaire

In his home province of Quebec, General Dallaire created a foundation to help orphans of the Rwandan genocide and, in parallel, to inspire young Québécois from underprivileged backgrounds to develop their leadership potential.

Founded in 2001, today the goal of the Fondation Roméo Dallaire is to build on the strengths of children's personalities and develop their potential to become influential leaders in their community. The programme supports each child over a period of five years, working with valued partners, such as schools, community health centres, and Camp Kéno: an award-winning summer camp. All of these partners play an important part in giving the best possible opportunities to youth.

Visit the Fondation

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I Learn even more about General Dallaire and his causes?

General Dallaire is the author of several books which delve deeply into the issues he cares most passionately about. You may click on the titles below to purchase these books, or visit your local library.

Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda details the General's mission in Rwanda during the horrific genocide in 1994-1995.

They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers introduces how children are used as weapons of war, and what can be done to stop it.

Waiting for First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD is the General's personal memoir of his 20-years long struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

General Dallaire is the founder of a global initiative to eradicate the use of Child Soldiers, as well as a local foundation in Quebec that supports underprivileged children.

To learn more about the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, click here

To learn more about the Fondation Roméo Dallaire of Quebec, click here

May I invite General Dallaire to speak at my event?

General Dallaire is a powerful and inspiring speaker on topics ranging from Leadership to Mental Health to Global Affairs. To inquire about General Dallaire's attendance as a speaker at your event, please contact the National Speakers' Bureau at or by phone at 1-800-360-1073.

I have another question about General Dallaire

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Photo: St Joseph's Health Care Foundation