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No Mountain Was Too High for Mandela

12/06/2013 12:45 EST | Updated 02/05/2014 05:59 EST

The man who vanquished the evil of apartheid in South Africa was also an honourary citizen of Canada. In truth, he was a formidable citizen of the whole world. His death yesterday triggered a global sense of loss and grief.

Nelson Mandela's life spanned 95 amazing years, including 27 in brutal imprisonment. He emerged from jail in 1990, not filed with rancour and malice, but exuding love, hope and reconciliation. He became his country's first black and most beloved president.

A human metaphor for courage and perseverance, Mandela devoted his life to the struggle for freedom, equality, democracy and human dignity. And he never gave up. His example was a model for world leaders and individual citizens alike.

Mandela spoke often about the mountains we all have to climb in life. It can be hard and exhausting, and once you reach the summit, he would say, you look over the top and what do you see? Yet another mountain. But you must keep going.

And he always did.

It was my great privilege to meet him on two of his visits to Canada, and again later in my work as Canada's Finance Minister at the G-8 and G-20. We sought his wisdom. We were enriched by his humility and grace.

During one remarkable Canadian trip, Mandela was walking up Parliament Hill to deliver a speech in our House of Commons. By complete chance, he encountered a group of Metis from Saskatchewan. They too were headed up the Hill, to sit in the gallery to hear his remarks.

As a spontaneous gesture of affection from a group in Canada who had felt the sting of discrimination and disadvantage, one of the Metis took off his traditional sash and presented it to the South African icon. A short while later, Mandela honoured the Metis Nation by wearing that sash in the Canadian Parliament while he delivered his speech. He knew how much that would mean.

Nelson Mandela was a beacon of goodness in his own country. And his life illuminated the whole world. He has gone to his rest, but his example will shine through generations. He changed things for the better. Millions are grateful for the hope he inspired.

NELSON MANDELA IN CANADA