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
, 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.