Montreal honours Nelson Mandela

About 100 people descended on St. James United Church to celebrate the life of Nelson Mendala last night, including NDP MP Tyrone Benskin.
Photo: Andrew Brennan

Members of Montreal's Union United Church still remember the visit of Nelson Mandela to their congregation, but with the anti-apartheid leader now laid to rest congregation members say they wanted to celebrate Mandela's life.

"I think it's important for everybody to take a moment and celebrate this extraordinary man and the lessons he taught us," said Tyrone Benskin, NDP MP for Jeanne-Le Ber, who was at the commemorative service.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre was also on hand to pay his respects to the late anti-apartheid leader. He toldCJAD news he believes Mandela was able to embody "true peace" by turning the other cheek to his captors following his release from prison in 1990 for opposing the two-tiered racial apartheid system in South Africa. He says even at Mandela's funeral he has seen others follow Mandela's example.

"I was impressed during the celebrations in South Africa when I saw Obama shaking hands with Castro, it looked like Madiba said lets all shake hands."

Mandela's former lawyer Irwin Cotler was also there. The Mount Royal MP had been in South Africa as part of the Canadian delegation attending the Mandela memorial.

"It's been a very intensive week but a very moving and memorable. Certainly being there at a historic moment and bearing witness and celebrating Nelson Mandela's life and great contributions," he said.

Mandela visited Montreal only months after his release from prison in 1990.

He came to a service at the Union United Church and was joined by an overflow crowd of parishioners.

The church on Delisle St., is currently under renovation. The service Sunday was instead housed at St. James United Church.

Mandela was laid to rest Sunday near his childhood home, in the village of Qunu. He was 95 years old.

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