Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nelson Mandela, Brian Mulroney & Canada's Anti-Apartheid Record

The eulogies and myth-making began almost immediately –– in Canada as notably as elsewhere.[1] On December 5th, the day Nelson Mandela passed away, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney published a lengthy personal reflection and tribute to Mandela in the Toronto Sun, and its message and tone was largely reflected in subsequent Canadian media coverage. Referring to Mandela’s release from a 27-year prison sentence in February 1990, Mulroney wrote: “For those of us who had played small roles in winning that day, the world was never the same.” And he went on to reminisce about the “long, bitter and sometimes seemingly impossible” battle to win Mandela’s freedom, stating that Canada “helped to lead the struggle against apartheid.” Mulroney is too adept a statesman to take all the credit. He referred to John Diefenbaker’s initiative to expel South Africa from the Commonwealth in 1961, and implied that Canada had always taken a leadership position in the anti-apartheid movement. Mulroney then went on to highlight his own role in the 1980s, at the meetings of Commonwealth leaders and elsewhere, “in building an international coalition whose ultimate objective was the liberation of Nelson Mandela and the destruction of the apartheid regime.” And, of course, he reserved the highest praise for Mandela himself, suggesting that without his rare blend of “magnanimity to opponents and generosity to all,” the history of South Africa might have been far more bloody and less democratic.[2]

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