Friday, 6 December 2013

When Nelson Mandela Visited Montreal: When Canada Made a Difference (Are You Listening Stephen Harper?)

In June 1990, only a few months after Nelson Mandela was released from prison, he came to Canada to thank Canadians for their support in the fight against apartheid. 

This was not a simple goodwill turn: Canadians and Canadian politicians played a crucial role in pressuring the South African government to end the cruel and discriminatory system.  Two of the most influential politicos were Progressive Conservatives: John Diefenbaker who led the fight to get South Africa expelled from the Commonwealth and Brian Mulroney who was a leader in maintaining economics sanctions against the country.

Apparently Mandela was scheduled to visit Toronto and Ottawa, but not Montreal, until city officials with the help of Mulroney and company, arranged a lightning appearance on the Champs de Mars on 36 hour's notice.  Some 15,000 or more showed up to welcome him, and we were among them.  It was Lukas's idea that we go.  Then 10, he had already formed very definite ideas of what was right and who merited being considered heros.

I don't remember a lot about the event, aside from it being a beautiful late afternoon and early evening and the atmosphere was exhultant.  In retrospect it seems even more important because I can't imagine the current version of Canadian Conservatives going out on a limb for decades on a princple as initially unpopular as fighting apartheid.

Stephen Harper, are you listening? 

The tiny picture, by the way, is among the few I could find on the web.  Seems that the even was not as mediatized as it should have been.

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