Canada celebrates Nelson Mandela Day as Nobel laureate makes health progress

TORONTO – Canadians are set to honour Nelson Mandela International Day as the ex-South African president’s daughter says he has made “dramatic progress” in his health.

The UN-recognized celebration of Mandela’s life coincides with his 95th birthday and comes as Zindzi Mandela says her father is gaining “energy and strength” and may be going home “any time soon.”

South African High Commissioner to Canada Membathisis Mdladlana says he is “over the moon” and “so thrilled.”

“We’ve been thinking that Mandela won’t reach 95 and here we are. God is good, God is great.”

Mandela has been in the hospital since June 8 and recent court documents filed by his family stated he was on life support and near death.

Mandela has made three visits to Canada, and during the latest in 2001 he received honorary citizenship.

His first Canadian visit was to Toronto, Montreal and Iqaluit in 1990 mere months after being released from a South African prison where he had been jailed 27 years for his fight against apartheid.

Toronto’s Honouring Mandela Committee is hosting a community celebration Thursday at the Nelson Mandela Park Public School to honour the Nobel Prize winner. Mandela himself attended a ceremony there in 2001, when the school was named in his honour.

“Nelson Mandela is recognized as a man who has inspired the students of Canada, the young people of Canada,” said Lloyd McKell, vice-chairman of the committee.

“He’s an honorary citizen of Canada and we feel that it’s really important for us to pay tribute to this man on the occasion of Nelson Mandela International Day.”

The celebration runs from 1 to 6 p.m. and will feature live music as well as family activities.

A 60-second livestream applause ceremony orchestrated from South Africa will be conducted at 1:45 p.m. after the singing of the country’s national anthem and will coincide with similar rounds of applause in cities such as Boston, Los Angeles and Madrid, McKell said.

The family will certainly be aware of the celebration in Toronto, he said. “This will be very positive for them knowing that our country Canada is joining countries around the world in paying tribute to the former president of their country.”

The committee will also be joining the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s callsfor people to devote at least 67 minutes to volunteering “in whatever small way they can” in their communities or schools to reflect the 67 years that Mandela “has spent in active pursuit of democracy in his country,” McKell said.

Mdladlana, who will be speaking at the Toronto event, says staff from the embassy in Ottawa will be donating their time to an addiction and rehabilitation centre in Ottawa.

Meanwhile, the expatriate group South African Rainbow Nation Association is doing their 67 minutes of service at the Ottawa Mission making sandwiches, he said.

“We’ve got about 20 coming along to the mission tomorrow,” said group spokesman Ken Winchiu.

Reginold Ncamane, consul political of the South African High Commission in Toronto, said the commission there will be volunteering time to charity.

Meanwhile, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said in a statement that Mandela’s legacy of serving humanity “will forever inspire us.”

“This year’s Mandela Day will take on a special meaning as the world sends best wishes and prayers for his recovery and release from hospital,” May wrote.

“Now more than ever, we appreciate his immeasurable contribution to the world.”

A planned tribute at Ontario’s legislature has been rescheduled for Aug. 4 because of expected rain.

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