Canadian politicians react to death of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela (Reuters)Former South African President Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95 after a long battle with a serious lung infection.

Current South African President Jacob Zuma made the announcement at approximately 4:50 p.m. (EST) on Thursday.

"Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss," Zuma said, according to CTV News.

"His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, his compassion and his humanity earned him their love."

Mandela, the father of the anti-apartheid movement, served as that country's president between 1994 and 1999.

[ Related: Nelson Mandela’s death felt in Canada, his ‘home away from home’ ]

As explained by Yahoo! Canada's Matthew Coutts, Mandela had some connections to Canada as well.

Mandela’s loss is felt here in Canada, as well – a country he once called his “home away from home.” In 1990, he chose to mark his release from prison by visiting Canada. He was named a Companion to the Order of Canada and later made an honourary Canadian citizen.

Canada celebrates its role in supporting Mandela's mission to bring constitutional democracy to South Africa where, before his successful election in 1994, only apartheid existed.

Tributes from Canadian politicians — both past and present — have been pouring-in.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a tribute to Mandela in the House of Commons and released this statement to media.

"With the death of Nelson Mandela, the world has lost one of its great moral leaders and statesmen. Mr. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years by the former Government of South Africa, for his part in the struggle that would ultimately end the system of apartheid.

"Despite his long years of captivity, Mr. Mandela left prison with a heart closed to calls for a settling of scores. Instead, he was filled by a longing for truth and reconciliation, and for an understanding between all peoples.

"He demonstrated that the only path forward for the nation was to reject the appeal of bitterness. His forbearance was legendary: his magnanimity spared all South Africans incalculable suffering.

"Nelson Mandela’s enduring legacy for his country, and the world, is the example he set through his own ‘long walk to freedom.’ With grace and humility, he modelled how peoples can transform their own times and in doing so, their own lives.

"On behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, Laureen and I extend our condolences to Mr. Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, his entire family and all citizens of South Africa. Canada, a nation that granted Mr. Mandela honorary citizenship in 2001, mourns with you and the entire world today."

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair shared his thoughts in a statement posted to the party's website.

It is a rare individual whose reputation for wisdom transcends time. Nelson Mandela, who died today at the age of 95, is one of them. New Democrats join others around the world in mourning the loss of this exceptional man.

Mr. Mandela devoted his life to fighting against injustice and defending, educating and caring for his people. An honourary Canadian citizen, he was a source of inspiration for all – from the most humble and impoverished to the world’s most powerful.

For 50 years, Mr. Mandela fought apartheid and racism. He guided South Africa towards racial equality and democracy, at the risk of his life, and at the price of his freedom. He is rightly considered the father of modern South Africa.

His country’s first black president, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nelson Mandela is an extraordinary example of indomitable courage and faith.

The light that he brought to the world will continue to shine long after him.

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
– Nelson Mandela, Inauguration speech, May 10, 1994.

And Justin Trudeau said this in a Liberal party statement:

“It is with great sorrow that Canadians and people around the world learn of Nelson Mandela’s death. Today we all say a personal farewell to a man whose life has offered hope and inspiration to millions.

“The admiration and accolades Nelson Mandela is receiving from every corner of the world are a testament to his struggles and sacrifice. Truly a citizen of the world, Nelson Mandela’s contribution to world freedom is simply unparalleled, and he will forever occupy a place in the hearts, minds and imaginations of people across the globe.

“On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our Parliamentary Caucus, Sophie and I extend our deepest sympathies to Graça Machel, the entire Mandela family and all South Africans at this very sad time.”

Former Liberal MP and Yahoo Canada News contributor David Kilgour said that Mandela's death is a big loss.

"Nelson Mandela was probably the greatest leader Africa, North America or any continent produced during the later 20th century," Kilgour told Yahoo in an email exchange.

"On every level, including the vitally important one of democratic inclusion of fellow citizens, he appears to have had no equal. The world will miss his inspiration terribly. "

[ Related: The quotable Nelson Mandela ]

CBC News spoke with Brian Mulroney, who was a participant in the international community negotiations to end apartheid and was prime minister of Canada when Mandela was released from prison.

"It's an enormous loss. Nelson Mandela was unique in the sense in that he was a genuine icon and one of the very very few in the world," the former Tory prime minister said.

"The fact that President Mandela came out of jail and asked to speak first to the Parliament of Canada was a great tribute to the strength of Canadians and their solidarity in supporting him throughout."

And finally, a touching tribute from a perhaps unlikely source -- Assembly of First Nations' National Chief Shawn Atleo:

"Mr. Mandela was and is an inspiration to people around the world and will continue to be a model of courage and leadership. He proved time and again that the spirit of a true leader cannot be broken, and that with conviction and unshakeable belief in justice and fairness one can achieve change.

"First Nations saw in Mr. Mandela a kindred spirit, a crusader for Indigenous rights and human rights who believed in reconciliation and the basic dignity and value of every human life. Part of a family of hereditary Chiefs, Mr. Mandela was given the name Madiba by the Thembu people in honour of an 18th century Chief and a clear recognition of the connection among all Indigenous peoples and the tremendous leadership they have brought to the world.

"Driving the change you want to see in the world is a theme that resonates with First Nation peoples across Canada as we advance efforts to give life to our rights. As Indigenous peoples, many First Nations feel a special connection to Mr. Mandela’s lifelong efforts and achievements, and First Nations have honoured him on many occasions."

Mandela will receive a state funeral expected to take place in his home village on a date yet to be determined.

Stephen Harper is expected to attend.

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