Address by President Nelson Mandela at the State Dinner hosted by the Canadian Governor General

25 September 1998

Governor General;
Your Excellencies
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you, Your Excellency, for your kind words and your warm welcome. Let me say at the outset that we have been overwhelmed by the hospitality accorded us since our arrival.

I am told that Ottawa is one of the coldest capital cities in the world. But from our experience one would never know that. The people of this city have warmed our hearts with their welcome and made us feel that we were at home away from home.

Indeed, for many South Africans Canada was a second home when their own country denied them their basic human rights. For me too, this is a return to a country and a city that received me not long after my release from prison.

How much has changed in the intervening eight years. Today we can thank you for having maintained your support for the forces of democracy at a critical time in a transition whose outcome was never guaranteed.

And to that we add our thanks for over sixty million dollars given to help kickstart projects launched under our Reconstruction and Development Programme.

The Canadian International Development Agency has been generous with us even in times of limited resources, and we sincerely appreciate the strength of your commitment to our own goals. It was important that we should lose no time in starting to bring improvements in our people's lives so that their freedom should gain concrete content.

Canada's assistance is felt in almost every sphere, to an extent that we feel you to be a true partner in the transformation of our country.

With your help we have a new constitution that guarantees rights and freedoms for all our people and respect for all our diverse communities. We have new codes of ethics to promote good governance.

With your help millions have gained access to things which most Canadians may take for granted, such as clean water, housing and electricity, but which have been only a dream to the majority of South Africans.

Your invitation to us to pay this visit to your country has special meaning for us. It gives us a chance to strengthen a relationship that has meant so much in the past, and which will allow us together to meet the even greater challenges of development that lie in the future.

That is why we are accompanied by Government Ministers concerned with areas of high priority for us: the economy; the justice system; and health-care.

Our confidence in the future of our relationship is strengthened by the award with which you have tonight, through me, paid tribute to the people of South Africa for their achievements.

I will cherish the title of Honorary Companion of Order of Canada, knowing that it is the highest decoration of your country. I am moved by the fact that it is the first time that a foreign leader has received this honour. I humbly accept it as an expression of the deep bonds between the Canadian and South African peoples, based on our shared commitment to common values.

We are proud to have worked with Canada to help make the world a safer place, and in particular to rid it of the scourge of landmines which have sown such cruel and indiscriminate suffering, especially in some of the countries of Southern Africa.

We think, this evening, of how much in our histories binds us, as former colonies and now sovereign members of the community of free nations, and in particular of the Commonwealth.

In this spirit, I would like in conclusion to say that South Africa is committed to working with Canada, through the Commonwealth and all the other fora to which we both belong, to help promote peace, stability, human rights and prosperity throughout the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

I ask you to join me in a toast to Her Majesty the Queen, the Head of our Commonwealth, to her representative in Canada, His Excellency the Governor-General; and to the flourishing of relations between the peoples of Canada and South Africa.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation