Special To The London Free Press (November 2001)
One of London’s newest citizens has captivated Prime Minister Jean Chrètien.
Although Londoners Jane Roy and Glen Pearson asked for the meeting in Ottawa last week to thank Chrètien for supporting their work in Sudan, their daughter, 18-month-old Abuk Roy stole the show. “The prime minister didn’t even look at me, he spent the whole time looking at Abuk,” said Jane Roy. Originally from Sudan, Abuk moved to London this September after being adopted by Roy and Pearson.
Both Roy and Pearson, who head London’s food bank, said they were pleased with the meeting. The family was accompanied by Liberal MP Joe Fontana (London-North-Centre) who visited southern Sudan last April to learn more about the effects of that country’s on-going civil war. “He put his own life on the line when he went in April,” said Pearson. “He has gained a huge amount of respect for taking that risk.” As a result of the trio’s efforts, a Parliamentary committee will travel to Sudan at the beginning of next year to gain a greater understanding of the country’s education and health needs. “It’s not only important to bring peace and aid, but to also further develop the social fabric of Sudan,” said Fontana.
The primary reason for the meeting with the prime minister was to thank him for his support of Fontana, said Pearson, and to begin the next phase of their activities. The prime minister has decided to make Africa his focus when he holds the G-8 meeting next year in Kananaskis and Pearson and Roy hope to make Sudan a priority.
“This is a big moment for Jane and I,” said Pearson. “We were in Sudan to watch 10,000 slaves freed, but we always knew that we needed to do more then just get them out of slavery.” As a result, Roy and Pearson will also meet with International Co-operation Minister Maria Minna to discuss the next phase in their work. “We are not just trying to get people out of slavery, we are trying to help them move on with their lives,” said Pearson.
They are setting up an organization called CASS — Canadian Aid for South Sudan — that will be build schools, health-care facilities and deliver other forms of assistance. CASS will also partner with organizations already active in southern Sudan, said Roy. “For many years people have seen Africa as a bottomless pit. But, in the last year, Africa itself has come together to try and solve its problems,” said Pearson. Because of this new spirit of co-operation, Pearson said he believes countries such as Canada are more willing to look for ways to help. “This is a make or break time for Sudan,” said Pearson.
Pearson and Roy are members of Canadian Aid for South Sudan and Fontana said they have had an immense effect on the government’s position on Sudan. “When someone asks me whether its possible for one or two people to make a difference I point to them,” said Fontana. “It’s amazing what two people can do when they are as concerned and dedicated as these two people are.”