Volume 94, Issue 48
Thursday, November 23, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Grad returns with book - The Lion, the fox, the eagle and Carol Off
Photo by David Kaufman
HARK - THEY'VE FOUND THE RED BARON'S WIFE! Well known journalist and Western grad, Carol Off, stopped by last night for a reading at the Central Library
By Colin Butler
She's from Winnipeg and her favourite colour is pink.
The Western grad who read from her new book The Lion, the Fox and the Eagle last night at the Central Branch of the London Public Library, Carol Off, took her love of English literature and carried it to the world of journalism.
She has a passion for storytelling in a dramatic and accurate way. "Great storytellers, from Thor in the cave to whomever in the 20th Century, are the ones we read," she says. "In this book, I tried best to tell the story of these three interesting people in extraordinary situations."
Putting her money where her mouth is, Off tells the story with clarity, accuracy, intelligence and an incisive comprehension of events. This is backed up by a charming style, which imparts to the reader a rich understanding of the affairs that transpire in her book.
The Lion, the Fox and the Eagle, takes the reader to the war zones of Rwanda, Bosnia and Yugoslavia, where three Canadians played pivotal roles in the catastrophic massacres that took place in the 1990s. The book examines those United Nations peacekeeping operations and their failure to provide adequate humanitarian relief, military support and justice to the broken countries. The aim of the book was quite simple: To stir the pot and make Canadians think about their international roles.
Off candidly explains why she wrote her book. "As the quintessential Canadian growing up in the Trudeau years, you get this idea that as Canadians, we're really good people. But then I run across things that lead me to believe that we're not good, decent folks.
"We don't do very much in the world anymore," she continues. "We sort of ride on our reputation. I thought it was time for people to know a bit more about what's really going on out there, how brutal it is, how little we understand the conflicts that we're sending our people into."
In Rwanda, Off recounts the ominous tribulation of the idealistic General Roméo Dallaire, who is the lion in her book. Dallaire was the Canadian army general charged with upholding the voice of humanity and reason amid the Rwandan genocide, only to be left helpless and stranded by the UN's inaction.
In Bosnia, Off also examines General Lewis McKenzie, who is represented as the fox and a Canadian military man in the thick of the Balkan civil war. In the shattered breakaway republic of Bosnia, he captured the imaginations of Canadians and citizens worldwide, as he and his peacekeepers opened the Sarajevo airport in order to bring food and supplies to the besieged city.
The eagle of Off's book, Canadian Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, was the chief prosecutor for war crimes in Yugoslavia. She sharply focused on finding those responsible for the murder of civilians during the war. Arbour quickly made her presence felt, letting even NATO generals know that she would be watching.
Off admits she hopes the book generates quite a bit of debate. "I think the big discussion has to be 'What are we willing to sacrifice for human rights in other countries?'" She also thinks that Canadians haven't examined their role as peacekeepers with as much scrutiny as they should.
"The Belgian soldiers who were with Roméo Dallaire got brutally murdered. Their country is still reeling from the shock and the pain and hasn't decided what to do about peacekeeping. Canada has lost more than a hundred soldiers to peacekeeping. We've never received one big massacre to make us ask the question, 'How many people are we willing to sacrifice in these wars?'"
It's a simple question with no easy answer, but one that Canadians can become closer to answering by reading this fascinating and penetrating book.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000