I am privileged to have been asked to share these words with you today, and proud that they are being delivered by this courageous lady, this warrior, Marj Matchee.
Thankyou all for being here, particularly those of you who have travelled from so far away.
My message is for Mr Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.
When the Government of Canada deployed the Canadian Airborne Regiment to Somalia in 1992 in the service of the United Nations, what few Canadians know is that the members of that contingent were subjected to an unlawful experiment of the toxic antimalarial drug, mefloquine. This simple fact has been omitted from most of the history books.
Marj Matchee in a recent television interview
What is well known, and can never be denied, is that horrible crimes were committed in Somalia, which became known as “Canada’s national shame.”
In response to those crimes, the Chrétien government rightly initiated the Somalia Inquiry, uncovering much wrongdoing and resulting in the disbandment of the Canadian Airborne Regiment. But Mr Chrétien made two fatal errors which have haunted Canada to this day.
The first was to shut down the inquiry just as it began to turn its attention to the mefloquine drug experiment. Had the inquiry taken its natural course, it would have found that the toxic effects of mefloquine contributed directly to the events now known as the Somalia Affair. The reason the inquiry was shut down is well known to everyone here at this rally. Corruption. Many lives have since been lost, and countless families destroyed, because of that corruption.
The second error was to underestimate the determination of Marj Matchee, a member of Flying Dust First Nation, who has been subjected to 25 years of gross injustice by successive Canadian governments. As you can see, Marj stands here today undeterred, still fighting for the truth.
Mr Trudeau the lady delivering this speech now represents a growing Army of some of the world’s finest soldiers, from at least five democratic nations, whose resolve has been tested in places like Mogadishu, Al Amarah, Khas Uruzgan and Panjwaii. I doubt you will find those names on Instagram or Snapchat, so I humbly suggest you Google them. In those places these soldiers lived by the code of the warrior, prepared to lay down their lives in defence of the democratic principles you now claim to represent. Google those words too if you must – “warrior” and “democratic”.
Grave injustices have been done to these warriors by Canadian and other governments, for a quarter of a century. In subjecting them to unlawful drug experiments in Somalia and elsewhere. In covering up the extensive harms and crimes caused by this toxic drug. In denying these warriors proper health care, and worse, mistreating them or accusing them of malingering. In the repeated lies and denials from government officials every day since, including officials from the Trudeau government. And in the culture of impunity that has denied natural justice to our brothers and sisters for all these years.
Today we lay the shame of these injustices at your feet Mr Trudeau.
As Marj Matchee speaks here, she voices the words of an international Army that will no longer tolerate the blatant corruption which has too easily poisoned the democratic institutions we fought to protect. And we stand here together with Canada’s native veterans, including those of the the Flying Dust band, the Cree. Today with this voice, our voice, we take up this fight with the most powerful weapon of all – the truth.
First question to the new Canadian Minister for Veterans Affairs on the morning of the rally
Loud, clear and united, we now say this to you Mr Trudeau – reopen the Somalia Inquiry.
Let the truth be told. Let justice be done. Let those truly responsible for the Somalia Affair be finally held to account. Let the historical record be corrected.
And as you heed this call Mr Trudeau, as you ponder this fateful decision, know these two things: the world is watching, and history is forever. Make the right decision or carry this shame for eternity.