Mandela follows Wallenberg’s steps

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Honorary Member of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, presented former South African President Nelson Mandela with an honorary Canadian citizenship on November 19, 2001. Mandela said: ”We are deeply humbled and we accept this honor on behalf of the people of South Africa.” Mandela praised Canada for its anti-apartheid stance as well as its diversity and ”independence in world affairs.” In presenting the honor, Chretien told Mandela that Canada is working to build closer ties to Africa. He also said it was an honor for Canada that Mandela joins the Canadian family. Chretien presented Mandela with a Canadian flag, taken from the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

As he arrived at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec -where the citizenship was conferred- Mandela and his wife, Graca Machel, were greeted by Prime Minister Jean Chretien and his wife, Aline.

‘This award has been given to one of the Heroes of the 20th century. Mandela, like Wallenberg, fights for the rigths and dignity of persecuted people and against discrimination’, stressed Baruch Tenembaum, founder of the Wallenberg Foundation, in New York.

The motion to bestow an honorary Canadian citizenship on Mandela passed in Canada’s Parliament in June. Mandela is the second person to receive an honorary Canadian citizenship. In 1985, Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat kidnapped on January 1945 by the Soviet Army after saving thousands of Jews from the Nazis during the Second World War, received an honorary Canadian citizenship. The fate of Wallenberg is still unknown.

Mandela, 83, became South Africa’s first black president after spending 27 years in Robben Island prison for his fight against apartheid. Mandela, still weak from prostate-cancer treatment, appeared to have more than enough energy for his hectic four-day trip to Canada. On Saturday, Mandela began the day by having a school named after him in Toronto. Park Public School in Regent Park is now named Nelson Mandela Park Public School. Later that day, Mandela and his wife were both presented with honorary degrees from Ryerson Polytechnic University.

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation is based in New York and has branches in Buenos Aires and Jerusalem.