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Premier Pays Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Archived Statement

Premier Pays Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Office of the Premier

Premier Kathleen Wynne made the following statement to the Legislative Assembly today to honour the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela:

"Mr. Speaker, there are some people whose contributions to humanity transcend borders and so when they die, the loss touches us all.

I am honoured today to join with all parties of the legislature to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela.

There are few individuals who have done more to inspire the world, and like everyone in this room, I was deeply saddened to learn of his death last week.

As a student of history and a huge believer in the power of the human spirit, I know his life will continue to serve as a beacon for change, throughout South Africa, here in Ontario, and around the world.

It is difficult to find new ways to talk about this man, or the things he meant to us, individually.

But I find myself returning again and again to the fact that he spent 27 years locked away in prison.

This punishment - as unjust and inhumane as it was - did not break him.

It is a testament to his spirit - to the human spirit - that he did not allow himself to be taken over by anger.

And so he was able to make that long walk to freedom with his heart empty of hate and his mind free of bitterness or resentment.

As he said afterward, he understood that you cannot drink poison and expect it to kill your enemies.

And so, after these trials, this imprisonment, he went on to do more good than any one man or woman could dare to imagine.

The first democratically elected president in South Africa. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. A face, a voice, a force and a story that made people believe that the world could be good.

He famously said that "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

And so it is no surprise that his visits here often focused on our schools, and the students and teachers he met there.

In June 1990, on his first visit to Canada, he addressed a large number of students from across the GTA at Central Tech.

In 1998, more than 45,000 students and their teachers filled what was then known as the Skydome to hear him tell the story of his life and describe the South African struggle for freedom and justice.

And during his last visit to Canada, on November 17, 2001, he was present for the official naming of Nelson Mandela Park Public School, which was rechristened in his honour.

Last Thursday, parents and teachers from this school were already scheduled to attend the North American premiere of a film about Mandela's life, and when he died that same evening and news of his death spread, the event turned into a very special tribute.

Many of the students who were there that night described Nelson Mandela as a man who never gave up.

It was his resilience, his determination and commitment to justice that inspired them.

That is what the world expects from its leaders.

And so I was struck, Mr. Speaker, by a comment made by the Principal of Nelson Mandela Park Public School, Mr. Jason Kandankery.

He said, "In these times of political upheaval and political leaders who unfortunately far too often lack integrity, we bear the name of the man who was all about integrity."

And so I stand today, Mr. Speaker, because Nelson Mandela's legacy of fairness should serve as a challenge to us all.

Ontario is truly a beacon of acceptance, tolerance, opportunity and equality in the world, and we will work together to ensure it remains worthy of a school that bears his name.

In 2001, he told students here in Toronto that they were future leaders, and that violence and hatred had no place in a free and democratic society.

At that time, the school began a tradition that exists to this day.

Each school day begins with the reading of a quote by Mr. Mandela that reflects his philosophy and reminds the students what they can hope to accomplish.

And so Mr. Speaker, I would like to conclude by bringing this tradition to this chamber, today.

"It always seems impossible," Nelson Mandela once said. "Until it is done."

The world is better for his presence, and on behalf of the people of Ontario, we mourn his loss.

Thank you."