Montrealers honour, remember, and react to loss of Mandela
Published Friday, December 6, 2013 8:36AM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 6, 2013 6:24PM EST
The loss of Nelson Mandela on Dec. 5 has been felt across all corners of the globe, with the city of Montreal being no exception.
Word of the former South African President’s passing has sparked memories of the leader and his impact to vividly to return to Montrealers.
Frank Chalk, director of Montreal’s Institute of Genocide and Human Rights recalls when thousands gathered behind City Hall to hear Mandela speak during his North-American tour, following his release from prison.
“The fact that decency triumphed through him, is what caused it to be so electric,” he said.
Even before he’d 'met' Nelson Mandela, local Reverend Darryl Gray says he had felt his presence. “It was, I call it a push of gravity, you could feel the pressure coming towards you,” recalled Gray, Senior Pastor of Montreal’s Imani Family Church.
Mayor of Montreal at the time of his visit, Jean Dore, remembers meeting Mandela. He described him as humble, incredibly wise, and with a quiet and understated power about him.
“In my view he is the most extraordinary figure in the 20th century, politically speaking,” Dore said. “There is no equivalent worldwide.”
Dore noted that Mandela possessed great charm and dignity.
"He was smiling, naturally but when he wasn't speaking to people, he was reserved in a way. But that only gave him more clout," said Dore.
Juno award-winner and Montrealer Lorraine Klaasen performed for Mandela in Toronto.
Growing-up in South Africa during apartheid, she's witnessed Mandela's impact first-hand.
“He really fought for the freedoms of South Africa, but he also set the pattern for how to treat people, it is the decent dignity of how you ought to treat people,” she said.
In Quebec City, the province’s premier expressed admiration for Mandela.
“Some women and some men are able to move forward their societies and make a better world. Nelson Mandela was one of those men,” said premier Pauline Marois.
Mandela was also honoured with a standing ovation at the Bell Centre prior to the Montreal Canadiens’ game against the Boston Bruins on Thursday evening.