July 18 is known around the world as Nelson Mandela Day; this would have been his 103rd birthday. On this day, we remember a man who not only believed in, but also dedicated his life to democracy and equality for everyone. He stood for forgiveness and love and recognized that the road to justice is often filled with challenges that test the human spirit.
“Mandela has had a profound and immeasurable impact on the world,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “When you realize that, despite having spent 27 years of his life as a political prisoner, he continued to show kindness and love – especially towards those who treated him unkindly – you begin to understand why.”
This day also serves as a reminder to us all of the role that we can play in making the world a better place. Mandela dedicated his life to public service as a human rights lawyer, a freedom fighter and an international peacemaker. He played an important role in ending the apartheid system in South Africa and became the country’s first democratically-elected president in 1994. He was also the first Black head of state in South Africa’s history.
For decades, OPSEU/SEFPO has stood in solidarity with the struggle for freedom in South Africa – with the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) and as one of the earliest supporters of the African National Congress back when solidarity and action were needed most.
Mandela’s legacy lives on as we continue our work to dismantle existing systems, which are rooted in white supremacy; to build a more equitable society for racialized communities and to reconcile with Indigenous communities. Words acknowledging the wrongs of the past are no longer enough. We must support collective action to bring about meaningful and long-lasting change – it’s what we can all do to work towards Mandela’s vision of a truly fair and just society.
“Imagine if we all rise collectively to the challenge,” said Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer. “There are thousands of minutes in a week and if we used just 67 of those minutes to give back, our small actions could lead to great outcomes.”
These 67 minutes represent the 67 years Mandela gave his life in service to humanity.
“Today is an occasion for all of us to reflect on the legacy of this great humanitarian and leader,” said Elizabeth Ha, Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Provincial Human Rights Committee (PHRC). “It is also a call to action for us all to further the cause of social justice and maintaining the dignity and respect that all human beings must be treated with.”
The United Nations has recognized the period from 2019 to 2028 as the Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace. This declaration salutes Nelson Mandela for his humility, forgiveness and compassion, while acknowledging his contribution to the struggle for democracy and the promotion of peace throughout the world.
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