NEWS
12/18/2011 07:50 EST | Updated 02/17/2012 05:12 EST

Vaclav Havel Dead: Canada Wowed During 1999 Speech To Parliament

OTTAWA - Vaclav Havel's defiance of Communism became a source of inspiration to people around the world and Canadians were not immune to the electric personality of the dissident playwright and former president of the Czech Republic, who died Sunday at the age of 75.

Havel brought hundreds of Canada's political leaders to their feet in a standing ovation during a stirring speech to Parliament in 1999, where he talked about democracy, human rights and the war in Kosovo and made an idealistic prediction of the world in the future.

"The idol of state sovereignty must inevitably dissolve in a world that connects people — regardless of borders — through millions of links of integration ranging from trade, finance and property, up to information; links that impart a variety of universal notions and cultural patterns," Havel said during his speech to a packed gallery that frequently interrupted him with applause.

"Furthermore, it is a world in which danger to some has an immediate bearing on all; in which ... our fates are merged together into one single destiny."

Havel also touched on human rights, saying "human liberties constitute a higher value than state sovereignty.''

"The provisions that protect the unique human being should take precedence over the provisions that protect the state,'' said the man who went from prisoner to president in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell.

The speech prompted a tribute from then prime minister Jean Chretien, who noted Havel's personal journey and that of his country "speak to how far the cause of freedom and human rights have come in Europe.''

Havel's achievements prompted Canadian officials to invest him as a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2004.

"Vaclav Havel has exemplified the principles that Canadians hold in the highest regard," says a notation on the Governor-General's website. "His advocacy of peaceful resistance and his perseverance were inspirational."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined the tributes in a statement issued Sunday, saying Havel will be remembered as one of the great statesmen of the 20th century.

"The world owes a great debt to Vaclav Havel," Harper said in the statement.

"In helping to free his own people he helped spread freedom across an entire continent, and showed us all that even an evil dictatorship can be no match for the power of the human spirit."

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