Canada played an im­por­tant role in South Africa’s march to free­dom

Seaway News - - OPINION - Sultan Jessa Opin­ion

Nel­son Man­dela, the for­mer leader of in­de­pen­dent South Africa, was the first for­eign head of state to re­ceive the Or­der of Canada in 1998.

The African leader died a few days ago af­ter a long ill­ness at the age of 95.

Man­dela was also granted hon­ourary Cana­dian ci­ti­zen­ship. This is a rare hon­our shared by a hand­ful of peo­ple from around the world.

Canada and South Africa have al­ways en­joyed warm and spe­cial re­la­tions since Man­dela was freed from prison where he spent 27 years.

Less than 130 days af­ter he was freed, Man­dela was at the House of Com­mons in Ottawa.

He was laid into the cham­ber by then Prime Min­is­ter Brian Mul­roney whose lead­er­ship on the world stage against South African apartheid was rec­og­nized ad­mired by many world lead­ers.

“A his­toric mo­ment is in sight,” Man­dela said when he thanked Mul­roney and Cana­di­ans from all walks of life for sup­port­ing South Africa’s blacks. “All of us as South Africans, both black and white, must build a com­mon sense of na­tion­hood in which all ideas of vengeance and retri­bu­tion are im­per­mis­si­ble.”

It was Canada which with other coun­tries played a ma­jor role in the in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions cam­paign in the years lead­ing up to

and Man­dela’s re­lease from prison.

“A pre­cious light has gone out in the world,” Mul­roney said af­ter Man­dela’s death.

Many Cana­dian lead­ers among them the cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper also paid a glow­ing trib­ute to Man­dela.

Over the years, Man­dela and Mul­roney be­came good friends.

Since then the two coun­tries have en­joyed good re­la­tions and South Africa has never for­got­ten the role Canada played in the re­lease and im­pos­ing sanc­tions against South Africa.

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