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Liberal senator Romeo Dallaire steps down

Says he'll put his focus on international issues

CTV

Liberal Sen. Romeo Dallaire, a career soldier best known in Canada as former commander of the UN's ill-fated peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, is resigning - not retiring, he insists - from the upper chamber.

Dallaire's last day in the Senate will be June 17, after which he intends to focus attention on a growing portfolio of international humanitarian work, the senator told a news conference Wednesday.

The decision has nothing to do with either the shadow of scandal that has loomed over the Senate for more than a year, or with the Rwandan-born post-traumatic stress disorder that has haunted him for 20 years, he said.

Dallaire, a former lieutenant-general who retired from the Canadian Forces in 2000, was appointed to the Senate in 2005 by prime minister Paul Martin.

He made headlines in December when he fell asleep at the wheel of his car and crashed into a traffic barrier on Parliament Hill - an accident he attributed to the stress of the coming Rwandan anniversary.

Dallaire still bears the mental and emotional scars of bearing witness to the bloody genocide that erupted there in the spring of 1994.

As the world marked the tragedy's 20th anniversary last month, Dallaire complained bitterly about lessons he says have gone unheeded - including his sense that the Conservative government wants little to do with the UN.

But he insisted Wednesday that has nothing to do with his decision to leave.

Dallaire has long used his role as senator to champion the needs of military veterans, and he said Wednesday he believes the Senate continues to play a vital role within Canada.

Dallaire also recently pressed the Conservatives to build a replica of the Vimy Ridge monument known as Mother Canada in Gatineau, Que., across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill.

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