Anniversaries of U.S./NATO-Led Aggression and War
March 16, 1993

Canada's Crimes in Somalia 30 Years Ago -- In Memory of Shidane Arone

Poster for March 16, 2023 vigil on Parliament Hill, organized by students at Carleton University, shows Canadian Forces members torturing Shidane Arone. (OPIRG-Carleton)

March 16, 2023 marked the 30th anniversary of the killing of 16-year-old Somalian Shidane Arone by Canadian soldiers, members of the Airborne Regiment which was corrupted with known racist elements. The latter had been sent to Somalia as part of a "humanitarian mission." It was later revealed to be George H.W. Bush who "invited" then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to join the U.S.-led "relief mission." Political and military officials of that time subsequently revealed that Canada's actual motivation for participation was to redeem itself with a high-profile mission to remove the memory of its minor role in the Gulf War.

Horrific "trophy photos" were shown of Canadian soldiers with Shidane, who had been subjected to torture and multiple indignities, followed by yet more similar videotapes showing Airborne soldiers taking part in disturbing and racist initiation rites. These criminal and inhuman acts and the way they were dealt with by Canadian officials starkly revealed how the official racist outlook informs all the practices of Canada and its institutions.

That was 30 years ago and to date Canada refuses to carry out required modernization and renewal on any front which concerns abandoning the colonial state structures imposed by an Act of the British Imperial Parliament in 1867.

A commission was set up to inquire into the "incidents" in Somalia as the atrocities were called. Observers at the time noted that the real aim of the inquiry was to establish a "near-impossibility of finding absolute answers" for the horrific crimes. The Canadian state summoned all its assets to bury the truth of what took place in Somalia and of the racism which imbues the armed forces. The commission itself stated in its 2,000-page report that the status quo was not enough and that sweeping changes were needed "to recapture lost faith in the Canadian Armed Forces and to restore honour to Canada's traditional role as international peacekeepers."

The fact is that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien shut the hearings down at the end of 1996, before the inquiry had a chance to complete its work, stating that Canadians had lost interest in the "Somalia Affair." The Commissioners had not yet had the chance to hear critical witnesses or probe some of the most fundamental questions in the events. They did not even have time to consider the case that had alerted and outraged the Canadian people in the first place, the torture and killing of Shidane Arone.

On this occasion, we pay tribute to the memory of Shidane Arone and all those who are victims of atrocities committed by Canadian armed forces. Shidane's name was inscribed by anti-war activists on the monument in Ottawa in front of the Art Gallery, contiguous to the U.S. Embassy, which honours Canadian peacekeepers. It took years for the people in charge of the National Capital Commission's property to rub it out. This name, Shidane Arone, should be inscribed there permanently.

(TML Archives)

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 2 - March 2023

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