Need to know: Nelson Mandela loved Canada

The legendary South African held former PM Brian Mulroney in high regard
South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela raises his arms as he is acknowledged by the Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and other members of Parliament in Ottawa, June 18, 1990.South African’s president says Mandela has died. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

Prime Ministers do believe in things. The guy who currently lives at 24 Sussex, Stephen Harper, believes in Israel and is widely known as one of that country’s closest and truest friends anywhere in the world. Politics may play a role in Harper’s courtship with the Jewish state, but people who know him say the affection comes from a deeply personal place. Brian Mulroney, who fought against South African apartheid and clashed with some of the powers of the world in the process, also believed in something.

Mulroney believed in Nelson Mandela. Today, as the world mourns the passing of the legendary South African, Mulroney’s role in apartheid’s demise echoes. We’re reminded of his friendship with Mandela, and the indelible impact he had on such an iconic life. “We regard you as one of our great friends because of the solid support we have received from you and Canada over the years,” Mandela once told the former PM. High praise, to be sure.

Stephen Lewis, the former Ontario NDP leader and celebrated anti-HIV/AIDS activist, also counted Mandela among his friends, by way of a bond he’d formed earlier with Graca Machel, Mandela’s wife. Writing in today’s Toronto Star, Lewis reminds readers of Mandela’s enduring curiosity about Canada, and Canadians. He constantly asked about Mulroney (“my friend Brian”), Lewis says, inquiries that were “almost to the point of an endearing obsession” with the former PM.

Because of Mulroney’s, and Canada’s, strident opposition to apartheid, Mandela addressed the Canadian parliament before any other. Mulroney, writing in this morning’s Globe and Mail, was jubilant in recollection. “Politicians are rarely so unanimously seized by the power of an occasion such as his speech to our Parliament,” he recalled. “It was one of the proudest moments of my life to escort him into that cheering chamber.”

Yesterday, as Harper and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal MP Irwin Cotler and Green Leader Elizabeth May paid tribute to Mandela’s life, the House was again mesmerized in unison.

Some things never change.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and MailMandela.
National Post
Toronto StarMandela.
Ottawa CitizenMandela.
CBC NewsMandela.
CTV NewsMandela.
National NewswatchTim Harper: Senators are engaging in a brazen scandal cover-up.


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