House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vote.


Rural DevelopmentOral Question Period

June 12th, 2001 / 2:55 p.m.


Murray Calder Liberal Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Secretary of State for Rural Development. Yesterday the secretary of state attended a conference in Thunder Bay with community futures development corporations.

As a rural member I am very interested in the outcome of that conference yesterday. Could the secretary of state tell us of any new initiatives that were announced?

Rural DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario


Andy Mitchell LiberalSecretary of State (Rural Development)(Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to meet with the community futures organizations from across Ontario and to celebrate with them their work with small business in creating wealth and creating jobs.

To that end we are undertaking a number of new initiatives, including a pilot project to increase their lending limit from $125,000 to $500,000, a new common identifier so that businesses will be better able to access community futures and, in order that community futures across the country can learn from best practices, we are establishing a national network of community futures.

On behalf of the Minister of Industry and the secretaries of state responsible for the regional development agencies, I am pleased to announce $600,000 to that end.

Canadian Wheat BoardOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural Resources recently stated that the solution to the agricultural income crisis was that farmers must diversify. However, for years he has steadfastly refused to end the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board which is an impediment to diversification. In one breath he tells farmers to diversify and in another refuses to remove the impediment to diversification.

The minister should either stop speaking out of both sides of his mouth or end the punitive monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board. Which will it be?

Canadian Wheat BoardOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan


Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, in fact the Canadian Wheat Board works very hard with farmers and others to encourage diversification and value added.

I think the hon. gentleman's criticism is a little bit off base. He is speaking as if the Canadian Wheat Board were the worst abomination in Canadian public life. According to his good friends, that position is already occupied.

Air TransportOral Question Period

3 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, airline pilots are falling asleep in the cockpit, thus endangering the safety of their passengers, because Canadian rules governing the number of hours pilots can spend at the controls are among the least restrictive in the world.

Is the minister waiting for a disaster to happen before taking steps to ensure that in the calculation of the maximum number of hours pilots may work a distinction is made between time at the controls and overall duty time as is done in other countries, including the United States?

Air TransportOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario


David Collenette LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I have to remind the hon. member that Canada's safety standards in aviation are unparalleled in the world. We run the safest aviation system and that is recognized by other countries in the world.

I would caution my friend to not get the wrong impression from one set of newspaper articles which interviewed a number of people. Who knows what the agenda is?

Airline travel in this country is safe. Pilots do their job. I would ask the hon. member to look at the facts and not at the rhetoric in this case.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Adrian Severin, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3 p.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham, ON

, seconded by the hon. members for Windsor West, Medicine Hat, Laurier—Sainte-Marie, Winnipeg—Transcona and Calgary Centre, moved:

That this House, recognizing the great moral leadership provided by Nelson Mandela to South Africa and to all humanity, agree that he be declared an honorary citizen of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I rise with a sense of both pride and humility, pride to be part of this process but also humility because I think the more one learns about Nelson Mandela the more one realizes that one is not worthy to so much as gather up the crumbs from under his table.

In defence of such admittedly extravagant language, if I had to defend it in a sentence I would say that he forgave his tormentors. Who in this House, in this country and on this planet would do likewise? He forgave his tormentors and those of his people.

With respect to the hon. member for Calgary West, talking about going from one extreme to another, all I would say is that I believe Mr. Mandela himself would agree that in a democracy everyone has the right to his or her opinion, however off the wall that opinion might be.

In our time I know of three leaders who were sent to prison and whose causes inspired the world.

There was Mahatma Gandhi, who was assassinated before being able to reach his goal of democracy. There was Martin Luther King, who reminded his mighty nation that there were two classes of Americans, separate and unequal. He too was assassinated. And then there was, and still is, Nelson Mandela, who led the people of South Africa on a long march to freedom.

At that time, while many other countries were indifferent, Canada, and all political parties in Canada, beginning with the Progressive Conservative Party of John George Diefenbaker, supported Mr. Mandela.

Only once before in our history have we honoured a foreigner with our own citizenship, and that was Raoul Wallenberg, the great Swede who saved the lives of 100,000 Jews during World War II.

Now, in his sunset years, Mr. Mandela's long trek has only one more objective outstanding, and that is the children of Africa who he will help through his Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, to help give to them what we in this country take for granted: food, medicine and education.

It is my fervent hope that when Nelson Mandela comes to Canada in the fall, hordes of children from across the country will meet him and greet him and we will have a huge fundraising event to raise money for his children's fund.

As a Canadian, I am very proud that Canada will be the first nation in the world to grant this honour to Mr. Mandela.

Mr. Speaker, I commend to you, citizen Nelson Mandela.

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:05 p.m.

Windsor West Ontario


Herb Gray LiberalDeputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to second my colleague's motion to grant honorary Canadian citizenship to an extraordinary figure in the history of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela.

Yes, it is a true honour to rise in this House today to second the motion of my colleague to make Nelson Mandela, an historical figure of the 20th century, an honorary citizen of Canada.

Why are we taking this extraordinary step to honour this great man, a step taken only once before to honour Raoul Wallenberg? This is because Canada has stood with Nelson Mandela and the causes of freedom, justice and equality to which he has devoted his life. In return, South Africa, Canada and the entire world have been given something very special through that life.

When he visited Ottawa in 1990, Nelson Mandela had just been released from 27 years of unjustified imprisonment by a system that oppressed its people because of their colour, because of their origin, and denied them justice, equality and freedom.

He accepted an invitation to speak to a joint session of the House and the Senate, seeking our support as Canadians in his struggle against apartheid and for the ending of the odious apartheid regime in his country.

In that year I was the leader of the opposition and I had the honour of meeting and talking with Mr. Mandela privately. On that occasion, in his presence I could sense his determination to build a country based on freedom and equality for all its people, regardless of colour or origin, in the spirit not of revenge but of reconciliation and forgiveness. That was in 1990.

In 1998 we again had the pleasure of welcoming Nelson Mandela, then president of a fully democratic South Africa, to Ottawa. It was during this visit that we again bestowed upon him the honour of a rare joint address to both of our Houses of Parliament. At that time he was hopeful for the future yet cautious and very grateful for the support given to his nation by Canada. He stated:

We are all too aware of the great deal that remains to be done. What is important is that we are united as a nation as never before and determined to succeed, and that we have friends like Canada who are working with us as partners.

I also heard Mr. Mandela in Pretoria on the occasion of the inauguration of his successor, Thabo Mbeki. What struck me during that visit was the gratitude of South Africans of all walks of life and origins toward Mr. Mandela as father of their new South African state based on freedom and equality for all.

I would like to think that Canada is also grateful to Nelson Mandela for his role in history, for opposing injustice and for striving to right an enormous wrong and thus setting an example for the rest of the world.

As he said at his own trial by the apartheid regime for opposing its prejudiced laws in 1964:

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination, I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But if needs be, it is an idea for which I am prepared to die.

Fortunately for us and for the world and South Africa, it was and is an ideal which he lived for and achieved.

I want to conclude by quoting our Prime Minister, who said about Nelson Mandela:

...he is a living symbol of the two historic movements that have defined the 20th century: equality and democracy..few people in our time—or any century—have so symbolized the spirit of freedom that lives within every human being.

It is for these reasons that at the start of the 21st century the House should honour Nelson Mandela unanimously by voting in favour of the motion now before us. In doing so we confirm the values that we as Canadians hold dear: values of inclusiveness, equality, justice and freedom, values which provide the foundations for the fabric of our great country.

In doing this we show this parliament is worthy of honour by honouring a great man of this 21st century and every century, Nelson Mandela.

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I look upon this opportunity to represent my party in support of this motion as a distinct honour.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Mandela on a couple of occasions. I acknowledge and thank the member for Markham for originating this overture to this esteemed gentleman.

In July 1991, I was part of an eight member international delegation of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to South Africa, partly to acknowledge Mr. Mandela's release from his 27 year detention in prison and partly to observe and share thoughts with representatives and parliamentarians to South Africa's return to full democracy.

In that context, our delegation members had the honour of meeting Mr. Mandela as he welcomed the first official visit of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in 30 years to South Africa after a hiatus from 1961 to 1991.

The CPA delegation leader at the time was the Hon. Clive Griffiths, president of the legislative council of western Australia. In his remarks at official ceremonies acknowledging this new beginning for South Africa, a ceremony which also included remarks by Mr. Mandela, Mr. Griffiths quoted Thomas Jefferson in his remarks, saying that compromise was all three of the main principles of politics.

He further stated that apartheid may have delayed but failed to destroy the destiny of South Africa to choose its system of government and that what we were bearing witness to was a transition from a racial oligarchy to a colourblind democracy. In these remarks, Clive Griffiths was really acknowledging Nelson Mandela as we are today.

We are practising compromise, tolerance and virtue, as did Dr. Mandela, who emerged from his 27 years of imprisonment without vindictiveness and in a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.

With his positive forgive and forget attitude, Nelson Mandela surely delivered his people and country from further racial strife after suffering a lifetime of apartheid. This serenity is what we are honouring here today.

In Mr. Mandela's remarks following Mr. Griffiths' introduction, I observed a sense of peace in Mr. Mandela's heart and soul. There was no room for recriminations of the past, nor should there be today. The virtue of peace that Mr. Mandela bestowed on his country as it made the transition is a virtue we all should emulate. To give credence to this virtue, the House has moved to confer honorary Canadian citizenship on Mr. Mandela. What a dignified and fitting manner in which to emulate the peace of this Nobel peace prize recipient.

As I watched and listened to Mr. Mandela on that July day in 1991, I was naturally moved. Not only was I a personal witness to an historic world event and occasion, I was witness to the testimony of a man who had been through the terrors of apartheid, imprisonment and reprisal. He stood there at that moment devoid of any vengeance. What a testimony to the human spirit and faith.

I call on my colleagues, in Mr. Mandela's spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation, not only to honour this indomitable gentleman but to honour this institution and this country with his citizenship in it.

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:15 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are few true heroes in this world. When one comes along, he is readily recognized. Nelson Mandela is one such hero.

He came out of prison after 27 years, strong, firm in his convictions, a modest man, close to his people. He is an example of courage and determination, but also of wisdom and intelligence. He became president of South Africa at a time when violence could have exploded at any moment.

His autobiography provides us with a better understanding of the greatness of this man, the liberator of his people, who forgave those who had imprisoned him and oppressed his people.

We who are elected by the people know what they expect of us under far easier circumstances that pale in comparison with those faced by President Mandela. Mandela's true successes are easily seen.

He represents humanity's hope for a better world. If our children, today's youth, can hope in the future, it is because they have in Nelson Mandela a tangible and contemporary example. It is that hope, and that commitment, to which we pay tribute today.

It is comforting to think that our civilization is still capable of generating men and women of this calibre. While those of us in the western world like to think that we are in the forefront of the great emancipators, it is stimulating to realize that an African, Nelson Mandela, sets us an example and shows us the way in this long march toward freedom.

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:20 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to support the resolution to grant Nelson Mandela honorary Canadian citizenship.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak briefly on the motion before the House. I think it can be said that for most members, and I would have thought all members, of the House of Commons the occasion on which Nelson Mandela addressed us in this Chamber would have been one of the absolute highlights of our parliamentary careers. I know I speak personally when I say that will always remain so for me.

His message to us on that occasion and his wonderful autobiographical account, A Long Walk to Freedom , both remind us why Nelson Mandela, through his words and deeds, has been embraced by the whole world as a symbol of courage, hope and reconciliation.

I will quote briefly from words of a South African journalist and broadcaster who put together a wonderful little pocketbook of the words of Nelson Mandela. In 1998 she wrote:

—Nelson Mandela is the world's role model. A towering figure of strength and forgiveness, he has been able to do the almost impossible: unite the bitterly divided people of the country of his birth. In doing so, he has been taken to the heart of both the mighty and the dispossessed the world over.

On a political note, I do not think I was the only member who was shocked and saddened by the refusal of one of our colleagues to enter into that very spirit of tolerance, of reconciliation and of peace, and endorse the resolution to make Nelson Mandela an honorary citizen of Canada.

This is an occasion for us to call up the spirit and inspiration of Nelson Mandela, and to remind ourselves that for Nelson Mandela the struggle is never won and that one must always go on reaching out for greater understanding of all of our fellow citizens.

In that spirit, I hope all members of the House, including those who were not prepared to come up front immediately, will understand the importance of rewarding honorary citizenship to Nelson Mandela and be moved by that same spirit today.

On a very personal note, I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that one of the absolute high moments of my adult life was the very brief conversation that I was privileged to have with Nelson Mandela when your predecessor invited us into his chamber to do that. On that occasion I had the opportunity to ask Nelson Mandela a question that I am sure had been put to him thousands of times. I asked him how it was possible, after 27 years of wrongful imprisonment, for him to be able to emerge without rancour, bitterness and without being bent on revenge.

His answer was simple. He said “We had a nation to build, we had much work to do”.

Let us always be infused by that speaker. Let us do honour to the contribution made by Nelson Mandela, but let us also honour this place and this nation today, with one voice and in that spirit of unity and reconciliation, by endorsing the call for Nelson Mandela to be made an honorary citizen of Canada.

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud and happy to support, along with my colleagues in the House, the motion of the member for Markham to make Nelson Mandela an honorary citizen of Canada.

This motion is intended to recognize his extraordinary efforts and leadership in his quest for democracy for South Africa and respect for the rights and freedoms of all.

I will never forget my first meeting with Mr. Mandela in Lusaka, Zambia, only a week after his release. I was at the time the first member of a western government—

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:25 p.m.

An hon. member

That is not the right country.

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

It is the right country. As I said, it was in Lusaka, Zambia. I know my geography and history, perhaps even better than the Canadian Alliance.

It was in Lusaka, Zambia, where Mr. Mandela had his first meeting in exile with the members of the African National Congress. It was not possible for them to meet in South Africa. It was one of the elements of the apartheid regime.

What struck me most was his behaviour. He was not bitter. He was not full of vengeance. He was full of hope.

On February 11, 1990, the unforgettable day of his release from prison, Mr. Mandela could have, with one flick of his wrist or one misstated word, triggered a revolution and his country would have been in flames. He did not. He did the opposite.

What I will always remember is that he recognized that the most turbulent element of that society at the time were the young people who had fought at his side and on his behalf, who had forgone their formation and their training to be supporters of his while he was in prison. His words to them were to put the past behind them and to build immediately for the future.

He spoke at the Soweto rally two days after his release, and I think it is well for this House to remember those words. Mr. Mandela said to the young of his country:

It has been the policy of the ANC that though the school and the entire education system is a site of struggle, the actual process of learning must take place in the schools. I want to add my voice, therefore, to the call made at the beginning of the year that all students must return to school and learn. We must continue our struggle for People's Education within the school system and utilise its resources to achieve our goals.

In other words, he was saying that the young people of that country should not reject the system that had rejected them. What they should do instead is embrace that system, improve it and move it forward into the future.

None of us who met Nelson Mandela can help escape personal reactions. I have to say to the House that the single, most dramatic incident in my political life was precisely in that meeting in Lusaka when he came out to meet the African National Congress in exile. I was there because Canada had chaired the commonwealth committee on Foreign Ministers on Southern Africa and I was the chair of that committee.

I recall that a question was put to Mr. Mandela that invited him to be highly critical of the Afrikaner who had imprisoned him for all those years. His answer was “we have to understand how difficult this is for them”.

I was overwhelmed by the generosity of a man able to come out of prison and out of the conditions he had endured, who could speak for generosity and understanding of the other side. Yet it was precisely that capacity that made it possible for people who, for reasons of colour, of hatred, of ignorance, had been on other sides in South Africa, to come together in that extraordinary rainbow coalition to try to establish a nation that could thrive into the future. It goes without saying that in that tolerance and in that generosity there are extraordinary lessons for us in this diverse but much easier country than South Africa.

Nelson Mandela acknowledged Canada's efforts to end apartheid. When he spoke in these Chambers on June 18, 1990, he said of former prime minister Brian Mulroney:

We have been greatly strengthened by your personal involvement in the struggle against apartheid and tyranny, and the leadership you provided within the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the Group of Seven and the Francophonie Summits.

Our efforts however pale in comparison to those of Nelson Mandela. We should all be proud to have Nelson Mandela declared an honorary citizen of this free country, Canada.

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, as my colleagues know, I was born in the African country of Tanzania and am therefore no stranger to life in a society where there are racial strains and tensions.

Thankfully we are free to debate the granting of honorary Canadian citizenship to one of the great figures in recent history in a Chamber where there are no racial strains or tensions.

I for one have been very grateful to be accepted in Canadian society as a member of a visible minority. It is particularly validating that I have been chosen by thousands of people to be their representative in the House of Commons.

Not only is Nelson Mandela an international symbol of resistance to prejudice and injustice, he is also a symbol for peace and forgiveness because, following his release from prison when he became the president of South Africa, he made the country's transition from apartheid to democratic qualities a peaceful one. Here was a man who was hounded by police for 10 years and then imprisoned for 27 years as he struggled on behalf of the non-white majority for freedom from apartheid.

He was banned from all public activity, as the forces arrayed against him used everything under the laws they had written to maintain apartheid. A lesser mortal would have emerged from this ordeal either a broken man or a bitter man intent on revenge against his oppressors. However Nelson Mandela was not a lesser mortal. He preached peace and reconciliation and in the end was jointly awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.

I can attest, as one coming from Africa, that Africa has suffered tremendous racial discrimination. Discrimination robs one of his dignities. It should not have a place in any civilized society. Mr. Mandela fought for human dignity.

We are a society growing increasingly comfortable with the idea of a cultural mosaic. We all are free to practise our religion, maintain our cultural identity and live side by side with people born on the other side of the planet. Canada is recognized in the world community as a peaceful place where we can pursue our dreams both individually and collectively. We not only have two official languages, but all the languages of the world are spoken in our homes, shops and neighbourhoods. We too are an example of tolerance, forbearance and peaceful co-operation.

The issue for me is not the qualification and achievements of Mr. Nelson Mandela, but rather the lack of process by which parliament grants honorary Canadian citizenship. It seems to me that such an honour should be not granted without a debate.

In the future I would suggest establishment of an all party committee that would first set up the ground rules for why and how honorary Canadian citizenship should be granted. Once this has been accomplished, the committee would meet when required to consider qualification for such status and to discuss and ponder the qualifications of nominees, and whether a particular individual should be accorded such an honour. It is my belief that all members of parliament would be proud to serve on such a committee.

The committee would then bring forward its recommendations to confer honorary citizenship in the House of Commons. Once conferred, it would be clear to one and all that the status of honorary Canadian citizenship had been granted with the blessing of every Canadian from every corner of the nation.

Just last week I attended the ceremony to honour Raoul Wallenberg, a hero who saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust during World War II and who died in a Soviet labour camp. It is lamentable that so few Canadians know the history and the heroism of Raoul Wallenberg. Had his honorary citizenship been subject to parliamentary discussion and decision as I suggest, perhaps millions more Canadians would know and honour the memory of Raoul Wallenberg today.

Today we are talking about informing Canadians about the great achievements of Mr. Mandela. If we are going to honour our world's heroes, let us do it out in the sunshine so all Canadians can share in the tribute and knowledge.

I would like to conclude by saying that Nelson Mandela has already taken his place among the world's historic figures. He is as deserving of praise and high honours as any individual who has ever graced the pages of our history books.

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:35 p.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am particularly pleased, as the Bloc Quebecois critic for citizenship and immigration, to speak today to Motion No. 379 tabled by the member for Markham to award honorary Canadian citizenship to a great hero of democracy, Nelson Mandela.

To date, only one person has been given this honour: Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of people from Nazi death camps during the second world war.

I cannot ignore the symbolism of this motion a few hours before passage at third reading of Bill C-11, an act respecting immigration to Canada and the granting of refugee protection to persons who are displaced, persecuted or in danger.

Nelson Mandela is an example for those who lead the fight for democracy in the world.

In 1944, he joined the African National Congress, the ANC. In 1948, the National Party won the election in South Africa. Its platform was unequivocal “The Black man in his place”. From then on, the policy of apartheid got tougher and introduced one of the most racist and undemocratic regimes in modern history.

Nelson Mandela was once asked when he decided to fight for freedom. He replied:

I cannot say exactly when I became politically active, when I knew that I would spend my life fighting for freedom. Being an African in South Africa means that we are politically active from the moment we are born, whether we know it or not. African children are born in hospitals reserved for Africans; they go home in buses reserved for Africans; they live in neighbourhoods reserved for Africans and they go to schools reserved for Africans, that is if they go at all. When they grow up, they can only get jobs that are reserved for Africans, rent houses in townships reserved for Africans, travel in trains reserved for Africans—

—I never had a defining moment, a revelation, a moment of truth. It was the accumulation of thousands of insults, humiliations and forgotten moments that led me to revolt, that gave me the desire to fight a regime that held my people captive.

In June 1955, the ANC adopted the charter of freedom which, in addition to criticizing apartheid, proposed the creation of a democratic and non-racial South Africa. At the end of that same year, Nelson Mandela was arrested for high treason, an offence punishable by death. He and 91 other ANC members were put on trial, a trial that was to end with their acquittal in 1961.

In June 1961, the ANC decided to take up arms to fight apartheid by setting up an organization known as the “spear of the nation” and led by Nelson Mandela.

In August 1963, Nelson Mandela was again arrested and charged with treason, conspiracy and sabotage. He was to come out of prison only 27 years later.

In 1991, Nelson Mandela became president of the ANC. His negotiations with the president of South Africa ended the racist system of apartheid. In South Africa's first free election in 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected president, a position he held until 1999.

By making him an honorary citizen, parliament is paying tribute to the exceptional contribution this man has made to democracy and, through him, to the rightful struggle of those throughout the world who are fighting for democracy and equality.

However how can we ignore the paradox of Motion No. 379 and Bill C-11? Tomorrow, the act respecting immigration to Canada will make a future Nelson Mandela an undesirable citizen in Canada. If Bill C-11 had been in effect 40 years ago and Nelson Mandela had sought asylum in Canada, as a member of an organization for the subversion by force of any government, to use the wording of clause 34, he would have been inadmissible. He would have been sent back to South Africa and accordingly to prison.

On behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I thank the member for Markham for his initiative. Democracy and the equality of all citizens are the paramount values in our society, but democracy is all the more precious for being fragile. We are all responsible for keeping it alive. Many have given their lives for this ideal. Charles de Montesquieu, an 18th century philosopher, wrote “To love democracy is to love equality”.

Nelson Mandela will remain one of the strongest symbols of democracy in the 20th century. May his life be an inspiration for our democracy.

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:40 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a very great honour for me to take part in this historic debate today. I would like to thank the hon. member for Markham for his leadership in introducing this motion.

Last week, I had the honour of seconding the motion when it was made but unfortunately not passed.

It is a great honour to be here today to join with the leader of my party in paying tribute to an extraordinary citizen, not just a citizen of South Africa, but a citizen of the world and hopefully soon to be an honorary citizen of Canada. Canada would indeed be the first nation to recognize Nelson Mandela as an honorary citizen. I think it is appropriate that we take that historic step.

I am proud that my colleagues in the New Democratic Party in this and previous parliaments, and indeed before the founding of the NDP in the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, worked tirelessly along with people in the church movement, the labour movement, social movements and in many other movements in solidarity with the struggle against apartheid.

I would also like to acknowledge the contribution made by the former prime minister, Prime Minister Mulroney, as well as Prime Minister Diefenbaker, in helping to free Nelson Mandela.

I recall, as I am sure all members who witnessed it would, watching television on the 11th of February in 1990 as Nelson Mandela took those historic steps out of prison. I also had the privilege, along with the Deputy Prime Minister and others, of meeting Nelson Mandela when he came to Canada later that year. He has dedicated his life to justice and to ending the scourge of racism and institutionalized racism. His biography A Long Walk to Freedom tells his incredible story.

I had the privilege in 1994 of joining in the official Canadian delegation to witness the first free and democratic elections in South Africa. What an extraordinary experience it was. I was with the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore.

I will never forget one occasion as we witnessed the voting in a small village outside East London. A young man came up to the voting station with an elderly woman in a wheelbarrow. He indicated that he had been pushing this woman, his mother, for many kilometres. They had come down from the mountains. I asked him what drove him to take this incredible step. She pulled out a rumpled piece of paper, and it was a photograph of Nelson Mandela. She said “I've waited my whole life to vote for this man”.

That is the kind of inspiration that he provided not only to his own people but to people around the world. Indeed, last August my partner Max and I had the privilege of travelling to South Africa and visiting the prison just outside Cape Town on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 long years. We saw the rock quarry where he was forced to break rocks and we saw his tiny prison cell.

We had the opportunity to meet with some of his fellow prisoners. What an incredible story they had to tell, a story of courage and of vision. What an inspiration to people around the world, that spirit of reconciliation, the spirit of forgiveness and healing, as my leader said, after 27 years.

Last week Nelson Mandela was described by the member for Calgary West and indeed by the House leader for the official opposition as a communist and a terrorist. As for communists, Nelson Mandela himself has acknowledged that the South African Communist Party played an extraordinary role in the struggle against apartheid as indeed did the government and people of Cuba and Fidel Castro, so we take no lessons on that at all.

In closing, I would also like to point out the irony to which my hon. colleague from the Bloc Quebecois referred, that there are provisions in Bill C-11 which would have kept Nelson Mandela out of Canada. This is unacceptable.

In closing, I want to say again on behalf of all of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party what an honour it is to recognize this outstanding citizen of South Africa, of the world and, hopefully soon, of Canada with the highest honour our country can bestow, the honorary citizenship of Canada.

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak on this motion today. It was very much an honour for me to be one of the seconders of the motion and it is certainly an honour to support it. I compliment the member for Markham for bringing it forward.

It is interesting to listen to all the members. Many of us here have met Nelson Mandela. It seems that we all remember that first meeting very clearly. I am one of those very fortunate people who has met Nelson Mandela and I remember exactly the day that I met him. I remember the circumstances. He had just been released from 27 years in prison. He came to Canada at Canada's invitation to speak to all of us in a joint session of the House of Commons and the Senate to encourage us to support his opposition to apartheid and to support democracy in his country.

At the time I met him it struck me that this man had just come out of jail after 27 years. I was 45 at the time and would have been 17 when he went into jail. I thought of all the things that I experienced in that time between the age of 17 and the age of 45 years, and I thought of all of that part of his life that he missed while he was breaking rocks in the prison on Robben Island.

It was an incredible experience. We met him at the airport and he treated us like the heroes. He treated us with the respect. It was an awesome experience which I will never forget. He exuded confidence. He came across as the most humble person and he treated us like the honourable people, when it should have been the reverse. It was truly an experience. As we can see, every person here who has met Nelson Mandela will never forget that visit.

During that visit Mr. Mandela went to Toronto, where tens of thousands of Canadians went out in the streets to meet him, just to say hi, show respect to him and listen to his words. He was given a hero's welcome in Toronto. Here in the House he addressed a joint session of the Commons and the Senate, an honour usually reserved for heads of state, and of course at that time he was not a head of state. He would be later on, but in 1990 he was not, having just come out of prison. Apartheid was still in place. Even with all the things he was put through, in the House he showed the same humility and urged us to continue the battle to help him eliminate apartheid in his country.

He had an outstanding career, a career of outstanding accomplishments.

One of the members who spoke before me referred to courage and vision and those are good words to describe Nelson Mandela. He was and is a man of courage and vision, which has certainly led to his stature and reputation around the world as one of the world's citizens who has set an example for all of us.

Nelson Mandela has done an incredible job of creating firsts. He established the first black law firm in South Africa. He was the first democratically elected president of South Africa. He was one of the very first student activists in South Africa. From the time he was a very young person he was outspoken and committed and a very effective activist, so effective that he was even expelled from school, which started a long and interesting career in activism for him. Nelson Mandela has received 50 international university honorary degrees as well as being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Nelson Mandela raises the bar for all of us. He raises the bar for all humanity. We totally support this motion and we will welcome Mr. Mandela as an honorary citizen of Canada.

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:50 p.m.


Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and pleasure for me to join in this debate and support the motion.

As one involved in the anti-apartheid movement for 20 years and who served as Canadian counsel for Nelson Mandela, I would like to pay tribute to the historical contribution of Nelson Mandela to Canadians and people the world over. The conferral of this honorary citizenship will have enduring resonance and inspiration as Raoul Wallenberg has had in being our first honorary citizen.

I would like to briefly summarize what I mean by this historic resonance and inspiration that this conferral of honorary citizenship will have.

First, Nelson Mandela is the metaphor and message of the struggle for human rights and human dignity in our time. If apartheid was the ultimate assault on human rights and human dignity, if South Africa was the first post-World War II, post-Nazi country to institutionalize racism as a matter of law and to seek to do so under the cover of being a western democracy, then Nelson Mandela's struggle was the ultimate in the struggle for human rights and for human dignity and against racism and against bigotry.

Second, Nelson Mandela is the metaphor and message of the long march toward freedom, of the struggle for equality, of the struggle for democracy. The three great struggles of the 20th century are symbolized and anchored in his personal struggle in South Africa.

Third, Nelson Mandela is a metaphor for nation building, for building a rainbow coalition, for taking diverse peoples, even antagonistic peoples, races and identities, and welding them into a rainbow coalition for nation building.

Fourth, he is a metaphor for hope, how one person could endure 27 years in a South African prison and emerge not only to preside over the dismantling of apartheid but to become president of South Africa and to build that nation. I do not know of any other example in the 20th century that can serve as such a source of inspiration and hope, particularly for the young people of our time, those who are imbued with cynicism, those who believe that this kind of inspiration does not exist any more.

Fifth, he is a metaphor, as in his Soweto speech, of education as a linchpin for peace, of education as a precondition to a culture of peace and against a culture of contempt.

Sixth, he is a metaphor for tolerance, for healing, for reconciliation.

If one looks at the entire historical record, what we have is a person who is one of the great humanitarians of the 20th century and whose contribution to the struggle for human rights, for democracy, for peace and for equality will endure and inspire all in this country and the world beyond.

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:50 p.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to the order adopted the other day, it is my duty to put the question to the House. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members


Nelson MandelaPrivate Members' Business

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

(Motion agreed to)

Presence In GalleryPrivate Members' Business

3:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Dr. Frene Ginwala, Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa.