Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan

Dr. Samantha Nutt - War Child Canada at Shaw

Dr. Samantha Nutt Leaving the "Nutt house" as she teasingly describes it, upon graduation from McMaster University, Dr. Samantha Nutt travelled to Somalia as part of a UNICEF team investigating maternal and child health after that county's civil war. She was never the same. "My experience in Somalia changed my life," says the founder of international advocacy and aid organization War Child Canada in 1999. "War profoundly affected my life, and I think that if I didn't get up everyday and try to do something about it in some way, that it would probably overcome me."

On another beautiful Sunday in Niagara on the Lake at the Royal George Theatre, Dr. Nutt was the fourth and concluding speaker in Shaw's lecture series. She has worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Iraq, Burundi, northern Uganda and the Thai-Burmese border. The thirty-nine-year old candidly described what she thought was a near death experience while in the Congo. Child warriors as young as ten, equipped with lightweight AK-47 guns capable of discharging 600 rounds per minute, grenade launchers and mortars, attacked a nearby building as she and others huddled in total blackness in a hotel basement, dramatically rescued at the last minute by a courageous Canadian peacekeeper.

Global Television, the National Post, Flare magazine, Chatelaine magazine and the CBC, among many other media outlets have recognized Dr. Nutt's devotion to human rights and social justice. She was recognized by Maclean's magazine as one of "12 Canadians Making a Difference" as well as Hello! Canada's "Ten Outstanding Canadian Women". Time magazine declared her as "One of Canada's Five Leading Activists" and she was honoured with the Globe and Mail's "Top 40 Under 40" award.

Dr. Nutt described Canada's abysmal record vis-à-vis selling weapons to third world countries and our minimal corresponding foreign aid, not anything to boast about by our politicians. We are sixth in total sales of weaponry behind only the five super powers in the Security Council, all armed with veto power to protect their good names. And, we do not come close to Lester Pearson's goal of a 0.7% GDP commitment to international aid, languishing at about .02%.

Dr. Nutt described the devastating effect of war on women and children to the hushed Niagara crowd as well as the loss of one of her many female friends, assassinated by the Taliban after she was elected to the provisional government in Iraq. She outlined how warfare results in states laden with rich natural resources such as the Congo with its diamonds and precious metals used in computers and cell phones.

"What can we do?" she rhetorically asks and quickly answers that we can first become informed by reading about child soldiers, areas of conflict and human rights, next, ask questions regarding our investments related to those issues and finally, donate to competent NGO's such as War Child Canada.

Dr. Samantha Nutt and husband, Dr. Eric Hoskins, are the driving force behind War Child Canada, an organization through which Canada's leading rock bands perform benefit concerts attracting hundreds of thousands of youth, who also learn about threats to peace, such as the trade in small arms and conflict diamonds.

Today, the organization sponsors eight projects in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Thailand, Colombia, Uganda, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. As a result, thousands of Canadian and American youth have become peace activists, along with a number of socially committed musicians who would not otherwise have an NGO vehicle for expressing their concern.

During her talk, Dr. Nutt frequently mentioned the work of Much Music, and Niagarans will recall St. Catharines' Jennifer Hollett, former Much Music VJ who worked in Afghanistan and in 2006, volunteered with Care Canada, touring Canadian Secondary Schools and speaking to youth about her experiences in Kenya.

Jennifer competed in many Niagara Model United Nations programs organized by the Council on World Affairs of Canada. This NGO has provided access to world issues for youth for over twenty years and is currently developing a prototype "forum" in Fort Erie, sponsored by Rotary International hopefully to be initiated in all Niagara secondary schools next year.

What Nutt and COWAC have found is that Canadian youth desperately want to be heard and empowered. They wish for opportunities to voice their concern about global issues; however, they rarely succeed, not given the opportunity by media to be recognized. Check out this websites for more information: War Child Canada at

Samantha and her husband believe that even in the most remote areas of the world, Canada is held in high regard. "Much of it is earned, some of it by chance, and we don't use it nearly enough, which is a great tragedy. Other countries see us as being able to influence the United States positively, and by working with them, to have a positive influence on the world. We haven't taken this seriously enough because when we do something, others believe we are doing it for the right reason."

Let's hope that a newly-elected American President and our P.M. both do "the right thing" when it comes to the merging of social conscience with international relations. That would make Samantha very happy.

Samantha Nutt: Damned Nations

Samantha Nutt - full show

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