Who will lead the University of Winnipeg beyond 2012?
Dr. Lloyd Axworthy has transformed the University of Winnipeg from an inner-city undergraduate university into an international centre for human rights, global justice studies and global citizenry, while at the same time expanding its impact on the local community.
This is no surprise, considering Dr. Axworthy’s long career in governance from provincial to federal to international affairs.
His second term as president, however, is nearing an end.
Some have asked who will replace Dr. Axworthy when his term as president expires, should he choose not to take on a third term.
Who will have the same international recognition and respect to lead the U of W as a leader in human rights and global studies at a time when Winnipeg will be opening a major international human rights centre, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), in 2014?
Axworthy, former minister of foreign affairs, was instrumental in creating the International Criminal Court (ICC), the global treaty against anti-personnel landmines, and was UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s special envoy for Ethiopia-Eritrea, among many, many other highly important international positions.
Axworthy put Canada on the map as a “peace-loving” nation throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, before Stephen Harper began to erode our international reputation.
I have thought long and hard about who would be able to maintain and expand on Axworthy’s momentum; and my own (and plentiful) criticisms of Axworthy aside, the clear answer to me is the former Lieutenant-General and current Senator Romeo Dallaire.
Dallaire, most widely known for his role as Commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Rwanda (UNMIR) during the 1994 genocide, has since become an accomplished writer, scholar and public speaker.
His book, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda received a Governor General’s Literacy Award, and he has been awarded honorary doctorates from universities across Canada.
Dallaire, voted the 16th Greatest Canadian by the CBC, is one of the highest-decorated military figures in Canadian history, receiving the Order of Canada, National Order of Quebec, the Vimy Award and the US Legion of Merit - the highest military decoration for foreigners.
Outside of his military record, he has contributed substantially to global efforts against genocide.
Dallaire is currently sitting in the Canadian Senate as a Liberal for Quebec, and has contributed commentary to journals across the country, including most recently an insightful and honest piece supporting the global Occupy movement.
As Senator, he worked with his colleagues against the Conservative Omnibus Crime Bill (Bill C-10), has supported the Kyoto Protocol, served a motion in Senate to repatriate Omar Khadr, and voted against the abolition of the Canadian Wheat Board.
Naturally, all this cannot put existing academic departments, Senate and broader academia at risk - this is still a university.
The University of Winnipeg certainly needs mechanisms in place to ensure that the needs of students, faculty and staff are safeguarded - perhaps a Senate-appointed vice-president academic, and greater governance roles provided to faculty and students would balance the more external role of president.
We are moving into a crucial period for Winnipeg with the coming of the CMHR, and we need a leader for the U of W who is considered with the same high esteem and credibility by the international and domestic communities alike as Dr. Axworthy has been.
Lt. General Senator Romeo Dallaire is that person.
David Jacks was president of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association in 2007/2008, and is currently majoring in International Development Studies and Rhetoric, Writing and Communication.
Published in Volume 66, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 18, 2012)