Do you know anyone who has fled a bomb attack? People running from neighbourhood to neighbourhood to avoid the next strike? Those who move cities in the hope of finding a hospital that is still open and capable of treating their wounds? Or those who leave their region because, either way, their city is destroyed and strewn with explosive remnants of war? And finally, those people who will never return and instead search for safety, the same safety that is out of their grasp in their home country, in another country?
You probably don't know anyone like this because Canada has never been bombed. If this were ever unfortunately the case, the whole planet would throw up their hands in horror and condemn the barbaric, unbearable and intolerable act.
According to non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch, explosive weapons were used in populated areas in more than 10 countries and territories in 2014: Syria, Iraq, Israel, Gaza, Ukraine, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, Thailand and Colombia.
In 2016, more than 45,000 people were victims of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. 32,000 were civilians, representing an average of 90 people every day.
Every day, the numbers of wounded and dead increase. The more fortunate ones, when possible, choose exile.
Every day, hospitals, schools, markets, businesses, water systems, electrical grids, and roads are affected, and very often destroyed in urban bomb attacks. And every day, the numbers of wounded and dead increase. The more fortunate ones, when possible, choose exile.
So no, you do not know these people who have fled bombings, and neither do I, you see, at least not well. But I do know those blown up by an anti-personnel mines and those who have lost arms or eyes due to cluster munitions. I know those who have lost loved ones to these weapons. I know those who, still today, live surrounded by these explosive remnants of war, insidiously waiting to tear apart their flesh and their lives.
I remember the names of those I was fortunate enough to encounter: Phongsavath, Phet Latsabout, Song Cosal, Raed Mokaled, Lynn Bradach or Luz Dari. Look them up online, and read their stories.
And recently, I have discovered the stories of Firas, Abdul, Mohamad, Dia'a, Rajab, Fteim, Sami, people who were at home, in the street or seeing friends when they became victims of bombings. Gravely wounded themselves, and some losing one or more loved ones. They all had to flee their homelands, leaving behind their homes, their jobs, their families and their friends.
In Laos today, 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, people are still regularly blown apart by explosive remnants. In Cambodia, 35 years after the Khmer Rouge regime, mine-sweeping teams are still clearing land. In Colombia, a peace agreement just last year brought an end to 50 years of civil war which has left the territory riddled with explosive remnants. And it will take decades to clear the mines and other explosive ordnances still being laid in Syria.
What good does rallying do, you might ask, seeing that every day, the slaughter continues. What can we do in the face of this horror?
In 1997, saying "no" made it possible to ban anti-personnel mines.
In 2008, saying "no" again made it possible to ban cluster munitions.
This year, in 2017, saying "no" made it possible to ban nuclear weapons.
So yes, saying "no more bombing of civilians" will not change the face of the world right away, but saying nothing never will.