Nelson Mandela left his mark on Ottawa

As the political hub of Canada, Ottawa sees its fair share of visits by foreign dignitaries. Nelson Mandela was no different.

Addressed Parliament, unveiled plaque during visits

South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela is acknowledged by then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and other members of Parliament in Ottawa, June 18, 1990. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

As the political hub of Canada, Ottawa sees its fair share of visits by foreign dignitaries.

Nelson Mandela was no different.

The former South African leader, who died Thursday after a lengthy illness, visited Canada’s capital a number of times.

Just four months after he was released from prison, Mandela made his first trip to Canada in 1990, becoming the last foreign dignitary who isn’t a head of state to address Parliament.

Mandela returned to Canada in 1998 as president of the Republic of South Africa, again speaking to Parliament and unveiling a plaque at the Canadian Human Rights monument near Ottawa’s City Hall.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela waves during a ceremony in Gatineau, Quebec, where he was presented with an honourary Canadian citizenship Monday, November 19, 2001. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

“Canada is an important presence in much of what we have achieved, and in what we are building,” he said to Parliament, according to the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights website.

“In drawing up our new democratic constitution we drew deeply on Canadian experience.”

In 2001, Mandela made another visit when he become an honourary Canadian citizen, the first living person to receive that honour.

“He gave me strength that if you put your mind into doing anything, big or small, you can do it,” said Grace Cele, who met Mandela during one of his visits.

“What I’m going to remember most is when he said he hates domination of any kind, black or white, no one should think they’re over and above anyone.”

Book of condolence at South African High Commission

In Ottawa, as in other cities across the world, Mandela’s death coincided with preview screenings of biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom on Thursday.

The CBC’s Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco said many he spoke to that night were on the verge of tears.

“I’m a teacher, a mother of five, my husband is black,” said Nancy Lendore.

”I think Mandela has been a bright light in the world for all of us.”

Rachel Exeter was at a special screening of a new Mandela biopic Thursday night. (CBC)

”(To) forgive people who did him so much wrong, if we all could be like that then I think the world might be a better place,” said Rachel Exeter.

A book of condolence will be set up at the South African High Commission at 15 Sussex Drive in Ottawa from 12 p.m to 4 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. next week.

Mandela’s funeral is planned for Sunday, Dec. 15 in Johannesburg. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he will be in attendance.

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