DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Canada and Mandela

Canada has reasons to be proud of our long association with Nelson Mandela and the international opposition to apartheid.  Mandela even in prison came to know of this support through the BBC.  He has come to know as one who remembers his friends who supported him and his struggle over the years.  He made his first of three trips to Canada, the first being his first trip abroad just four months after his release from prison.  He came to meet Prime Minister Brian Muroney to thank him and Canada for their support. On this occasion he spoke to a joint session of  Parliament and was well received. 

Nelson Mandela and Brian Mulroney

Brian Mulroney, to his credit, (I am not one of his fans but I could forgive him a lot for his stand with Mandela and against apartheid.)  broke rank with is fellow conservative leaders at the time, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.  These good friends he talk frankly that they were on the wrong side of history by dismissing Mandela as a communist terrorist and continuing to support the fascist apartheid government of South Africa.  Mulroney also faced down the banking, business establishment in Canada, which largely supported the South African regime because of the business ties.  Mulroney was an early world leader in the struggle against apartheid when he declared at the United Nations that Canada would boycott business between Canada and South Africa.  His foreign minister at the time, John Clark did much of the heavy lifting on this, promoting the sanctions against South Africa and defending Canada's position.  Canada, and Australia took the leadership on this in the Commonwealth of Nations when Britain failed to do so, this influencing other nations to follow their lead.

The struggle for Mandela release and the condemnation of apartheid had long been a cause for many Canadians: labour unions, churches, and student groups, kept up the pressure on successive government. 
It was another conservative prime minister, John Diefenbacker,  who insisted an apartheid government has no place in the Commonwealth of Nations. As a result, South Africa was excluded in the 1960's. putting international pressure on that government.

aTwice more, Nelson Mandela came to Canada, 1998 and 2001.  He spoke once again before the Canadian parliament, now as Prime Minister of South Africa.  In 1998 he was awarded the Order of Canada and addressed a gathering of 45,000 students at the Skydome. He was treated like a rock star and no doubt left a big impression of the gathered students from the Toronto area.  In 2001, he came and was made an honorary Canadian,  a very rare honour granted by Canada.  He also visited a very interesting school in Toronto named after him.  It is in the poorer area of Regent Park. The school includes the life and values of Nelson Mandela in their curriculum.

Canada sent a significant delegation to Mandela's funeral. It included four prime minsters; Brian Mulroney, Joe Clark, Kim Campbell  and Stephen Harper two former Governor Generals:  Adrian Clarkson, and  Michaëlle Jean. Other prominent Canadians were there including Stephen Lewis, who worked so long for the UN in Africa, and Tom Mulcair, leader of the Opposition in Parliament.

I must say I am embarrassed that Stephen Harper, our current Prime Minister, was the one to praise Nelson Mandela and Canada's role in supporting him and opposing apartheid. It came off as so insincere. Stephen Harper leads a government that serves business and economic matters before all else. If he had been Prime Minister earlier he would have stood in solidarity with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in support of the South African government, if for no other reason than it was good for business. If he ever was concerned about  apartheid and the oppression of people he would be speaking up on behalf of the Palestinian people if no leading in the struggle against the apartheid system of the Israeli government. Instead he has the strongest unconditional support for the right wing Israeli government of  any current world leader. It would have been nice if he had stood aside and let Brian Mulroney take the lead to speak on Canada's behalf.

There are those Canadians who feel Canada was somewhat slighted by not being asked to have a spokesman at his funeral.  It would have been nice to have Canada recognized in proportion to it's significance in Mandela's eyes. Of course, it was not Canada's decision to make. Canada was represented at the funeral, not for our honour but to honour Nelson Mandela, who we so long supported and respected

The program below is worth listening to. It is a CBC program called Ideas. It is program about Nelson Mandela life, based on recording done over a number of years and it part of a very extensive archive in South Africa of his ideas This is the first time they have been broadcast.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela




It is good that we remember Nelson Mandela today.  His life and time among us holds many lessons for us. Central to his life was the struggle he lead against the racist apartheid government of South Africa. If you do nothing else today read Mandela's speech from the dock . You can read it here in full. The is a wonderful well crafted speech setting forth the reasons for his actions at the beginning of his trial in 1964. He guaranteed his conviction with it. He may have well doomed himself to death.  He begins by taking responsibility for his actions noting that some of which he is accused is true. The rest of the speech is setting forth is argument for breaking the law. The ANC had for decades (founded in 1912) tried to change the political system by trying to participate within it. He pointed out that the State responded with apartheid laws which permanently marginalized black South Africans. The State increasingly enforced these law with more and greater violence.  This lead to the necessity to respond with violence. The options were several but the least violent against people, sabotage was the one chosen.  Armed struggle remained a possibility. 

In these days we will hear many heartfelt tributes from individuals and government representatives. There will be some that will ring hollow. We will here from those who did not support the ANC during it's struggle. They in fact supported the apartheid government of South Africa.  Some of these countries need to apologize for their part. Of course, they will not.  I understand Barack Obama will speak at the funeral and yet the United States government considered Mandela a terrorist until recently.  Ronald Reagan called him a terrorist. It was not until only a few short years ago (2005 or 2008) that he was taken off the list. Reagan tried to stop the US from participating in the blockade of trading with South Africa. Congress to it credit over ruled him. I think we should all remember that it was an American CIA agent that informed the South Africa security forces where to find Mandela as he was secretly returning to the country after being "illegally" abroad.  How  glorious it would be if Obama began his eulogy asking for forgiveness for the United States failure to err of the side of  justice. Of course it will not happen, the powerful never feel a need to apologize.

The rogue country, Israel, remained a strong supporter of  the apartheid  government. They even gave nuclear technology to South Africa supposedly to fight against the black socialist hoards.

I have been thinking what could be done to really honour Mandela. The greatest honour would be to resolve the Palestinian situation. Israel with the support of the US and much of Europe (and Canada) has developed the apartheid system of resisting any just solution for the Palestinian.  It is time for all countries who care about justice to strongly oppose Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people.  

Another tribute to Mandela could be the release of political prisoners. The United States could begin by closing down the illegal prison of Guantanamo Bay. Perhaps, even the release of the American Taliban, and Omar Khadr.   To the extent no such gesture will be made just demonstrate to what extent the lessons from  Mandela have not been learned.

May we long remember the lessons of Nelson Mandela. The first one is that "terrorist" is not an eternal designation.  We should all be careful at who we label a terrorist. Terrorist often turn out to be honoured as freedom fighters and liberators.  This was the case with Mandela but he also became a great democrat, humanitarian and defender of human rights.