1990: Nelson Mandela addresses Canadian Parliament

Check out the CBC’s Digital Archive video of Mandela’s address to parliament in 1990 at


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s life began in a tiny village in South Africa, which he describes as “removed from the world of great events.” It was the start of a life that would not only take part in great events, but help shape them. His extraordinary life has led him from being branded a terrorist in his own country and a 27-year imprisonment to taking office as South Africa’s first democratically elected president and becoming an international symbol of peace and social justice. The CBC Digital Archives brings you a look back at the remarkable life of Nelson Mandela.

After 27 years in prison, the world’s most famous political prisoner is free.  Nelson Mandela, vice president of the African National Congress, is released  from prison on February 11, 1990 and plunges into an international campaign to  end apartheid in his native South Africa. Four months later, Mandela travels to  Canada and delivers a speech at a joint session of Parliament.

Mandela  begins by pointing out the irony that he cannot address Parliament in his own  country. He thanks Canada for offering a fleeting taste of freedom he hopes his  own people will soon enjoy. Canada is imposing sanctions against South Africa’s  white minority government, and for many Mandela is a symbol of the international  struggle against racism.

Nelson Mandela is the first foreign citizen  invited to address the Canadian Parliament in 40 years who is neither a head of  parliament nor a head of state.

Author: Tim Lavery

Aim High Salmon Arm It matters

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