Item 1409 - Speech by Nelson Mandela on receiving an Honorary citizenship of Canada by the Prime Minister Jean Chretien November 2001

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ZA COM MR-S-1409


Speech by Nelson Mandela on receiving an Honorary citizenship of Canada by the Prime Minister Jean Chretien November 2001


  • 2001-11-19 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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  • English

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For the greater part of my life the government of my country of birth did not regard or treat me as a citizen. In fact, the main energies of the state apparatuses of my country were directed towards stripping those like me, the majority of the population, from any vestiges of citizenship.
We mention those facts not in rancour, but in celebration of how we have progressed as a country and in the world. For here today, we are being honoured with the citizenship of another country, while our own country in the mean time has proudly taken her place amongst the democracies of the world.

It is in moments like these that, in spite of all the hardships and problems the world continues to encounter and endure, we have our faith in human solidarity and universal friendship reaffirmed and rekindled.

We thank the government and people of Canada for this singular honour. We have difficulty in finding the words to describe the depth of our appreciation. To be made an honorary citizen of this great country is for us a

gesture so evocatively loaded with signals of friendship and solidarity, that we are moved beyond words. We can merely say: thank you.

We are deeply humbled and we accept this honour on behalf of the people of South Africa and, if we may be so presumptuous, the people of Canada. Over a very long period the people of our two countries had been bound together by ties of solidarity in the struggle against apartheid. And latterly those bonds had translated into a partnership for development. The honour Canada today bestows upon me symbolically consolidates and affirms those historic bonds of friendship.

It had not always been universally the case that our liberation struggle had received the approval and unreserved support of governments in our fight against minority racial rule. Canada counts amongst those countries that had always unequivocally, even before the international tide had turned against the apartheid regime, been on the side of the struggle for non-racialism and democracy in South Africa.

In preparing for democracy during the period of negotiations in our country we could always turn to Canada for models of democratic governance and for assistance in those preparations. It is for that reason that our institutions of democracy carry so many marks of the Canadian model and assistance.

Your respect for diversity within your own society and your tolerant and civilised manner of dealing with the challenges of difference and diversity had always been an inspiration. So has been your proud national sense of independence in world affairs even while you live next to the most powerful neighbour in the world. For these and other reasons, South Africans always held, and continue to hold, Canada and Canadians in the highest esteem.

It can also not escape us that this high honour is being bestowed by a leading country of the industrialised North on a citizen of Africa. This coming together of different parts of the world in gestures and demonstrations of friendship are the positive aspects of globalisation that we need to emphasise and work for with ever greater commitment. And we thank the government and people of Canada for making the point, through the decision to make this award, that we are one humanity in spite of differences of origin, background, history or geographical location.

We have hopes that this will be the century in which Africa rediscovers its central role in world affairs and that will witness the regeneration of the continent to play its role in improving the lot of humankind. There is amongst the current generation of African leaders talk about and concerted work towards an African Renaissance. For too long have our continent and its people languished in the margins of world affairs, and suffered from neglect and under-development.

The remarkable feature about this quest for regeneration is that African leaders and the African people are taking primary responsibility for their future. While the negative legacy of colonialism cannot be denied, the leaders of the continent are squarely facing up to our own contribution to the unfortunate fate our people are suffering in too many parts of the continent.

Hence the concentration on the establishment of institutions and conventions of good governance and respect for human rights; the development of sound economic and fiscal policies; and the management, resolution and prevention of violent and destructive conflicts.

A comprehensive new programme for African development has been worked out by African leaders. A key feature thereof is that it requires a genuine partnership between Africa and countries of the developed North.

We are aware that Canada has committed itself to this partnership for the regeneration of our continent, and also for that reason this day - cementing symbolically and ceremonially the bond between Canada and an African country - is of such moving importance to us.

We have, as may be known, given a considerable amount of our time and energy over the last two years to assist with the search for peace in Burundi, small African country in the troubled Great Lakes Region. It is a source of great satisfaction and hope for the future that considerable progress had been made towards peace in that country that has suffered so much under conflict and war. A transitional government of national unity had recently been installed, hopefully laying the foundations for lasting peace.

These are clear signs that the quest for the regeneration of Africa is assertively under way. Many problems and obstacles remain and much work remains to be done. We are confident, though, that with the partnership of countries like Canada, there can only be success on this road.

The recovery of Africa, and of other parts of the developing world, is a matter of importance not only for those countries but for the entire world. As long as any part of our world languishes in conditions of severe poverty, deprivation and suffering the common security of all of us is compromised and under threat. An awareness of that global interconnectedness and responsibility had always been a feature of Canadian political and public life. And this makes it such a special honour for us to be awarded honorary citizenship of this great country.

Allow me to express my appreciation to Prime Minister Jean Chretien for the many acts of friendship towards my country, our continent and me. When we required assistance and support, whether materially or politically, he has never been found wanting. Today also celebrates that concrete and individual expression of friendship amongst peoples of the world.

We conclude by paying our respects to all the people and institutions of Canada that were involved in making this day possible. You have honoured me beyond anything that I might have deserved.

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: From hard drive ; Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation Prof J Gerwel. Accessioned on 02/02/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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