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Speech in Senate Chamber: Senator Cools moves a motion for the conferral of honourary Canadian citizenship on Nelson Mandela.

Hon. Anne C. Cools, pursuant to notice of June 12, 2001, 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.

She said: Honourable senators, this exact resolution was adopted in the Commons two days ago, on June 12. It had been moved by John McCallum, the member for Markham. This resolution is not my initiative. In point of fact, John McCallum asked me on his behalf to move his very same motion here so that we could have a state of affairs where both Houses agreed and both Houses concurred. Obviously, I am pleased to assist Mr. McCallum.

I have just been informed, honourable senators, that the High Commissioner from South Africa is present with us today and sitting in the gallery. I thought that this fact should be noted on the record. I am told his name is His Excellency Mr. André Jaquet.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Cools: Honourable senators, I shall be very brief because I know many senators wish to speak to this resolution today, and I also know that it is the wish of the chamber to vote on it, to pass its judgment and opinion on it.

Honourable senators, Mr. Nelson Mandela needs no introduction to anyone here. In point of fact, his greatness needs very little explanation because Mr. Mandela has touched the entire world because of his own personhood and his own personal existence.

Honourable senators, this man is a phenomenon. In point of fact, Mr. Mandela himself by his own personhood, averted civil and political catastrophe in South Africa, and allowed, by his very existence, a transformation of South Africa to a universal franchise, electorally based democracy, without carnage.

Honourable senators, on July 6, 1994, I spoke in this chamber. I was one of those Canadians who went as a United Nations observer to observe the South African election. At that time, I recorded a fair amount of the more interesting aspects of the history between Canada and South Africa. For example, I spoke about Mr. Diefenbaker's profound interest in the question of South Africa. I had also spoken at the time about the unique relationship and the expectation that was held at the turn of the century that the Boers in South Africa would find resolutions to their problems in pretty much the same fashion as the French Canadians had been accommodated in Canada.

On July 6, 1994, I made this particular statement and I should like to repeat it. I said in my speech:

This stupendous event —

— obviously the elections —

— in South Africa was made possible by the social and political collapse of the U.S.S.R. and the personal and political character of two men, Mr. Frederik Willem de Klerk and Mr. Nelson Mandela. I think that this South African election is the single most impressive political event of the decade, possibly the century. It is certainly an enormous testimony to human endurance, to political will, and to political skill.

I believed that then, and I still believe that now. Only God will ever know what was truly averted.

Honourable senators, I wish to close by adding an anecdote now that I am aware that the high commissioner is with us. Historically there are some very unique and interesting relationships between South Africa and Canada. As senators know, South Africa and Canada were two of the gems, so to speak, of the dominion of Britain abroad. What I am referring to here is the particularly cordial relationship that existed between our own then Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and the then Prime Minister of South Africa General Smuts, who in particular issues at the various Imperial conferences were able to give each other support.

This is an anecdote, and it should be looked into at some point in time, but I was told that the current residence of the High Commissioner from South Africa to Canada was personally chosen and identified by Mr. William Lyon Mackenzie King. It was an interest of Mr. Mackenzie King to know the architecture of Ottawa. Apparently, he had wanted a certain kind of residence for the Government of General Smuts.

Having said that, honourable senators, I shall yield the floor to senators whom I know are eager to speak.

The remainder of this day's Senate Debates available here.