33rd Parliament, 2nd Session

L023 - Fri 30 May 1986 / Ven 30 mai 1986


The House met at 2 p.m.


Mr. Speaker: The House will now adjourn during pleasure.


Mr. Speaker: On this most historic day, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all our guests to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. It is indeed an honour to receive such a distinguished guest as Bishop Desmond Tutu to this House. I would also like to extend special greetings to his daughter, Ms. M'Pho Tutu and Marshall Opie.

With us today, we also have Franklin Williams, president of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, and Bernice Powell, a director with the fund. Accompanying the official party are Mr. and Mrs. Harry Belafonte.

Before I ask our guest to address this assembly, I know that the Premier (Mr. Peterson), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Grossman) and the leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Rae) would also like to say a word of welcome to the bishop and his family.

Hon. Mr. Peterson: Your Grace, it is with a very deep sense of honour that I welcome you and the members of your official party to the Legislature of Ontario this afternoon.

Here in Ontario, we represent nine million Ontarians, and I can assure you each one of them shares the pride we all feel this afternoon in welcoming you.

It has been 34 years since the Legislature of this province has been addressed by a visitor from outside Canada. Your visit today is unique, sir, but it is no more unique than the role you play, the role of the conscience for our times. Your sense of commitment commands the respect of all people of Ontario, of all races, creeds and political philosophy. We admire your commitment to justice, and we are inspired by your efforts to pursue peace.

You have accepted a rare mission: where there is despair, to raise hope; where there is oppression, to bring dignity; and where there is violence, to seek peace.

This may come as a surprise to you, sir, but my friends across the aisle and I do not always agree on every matter. However, there is no dispute on this point: you have given much hope to all those who seek justice.

In this province, we have sought to contribute to that cause with acts of symbolism but of substance as well, and I can assure you, sir, our commitment will not diminish.

Finally, Your Grace, if I may add a personal comment, you provide leadership on one of the most troubling issues of our times. It would be very easy to let that great responsibility become an onerous burden, but I have watched you many times on television, and I am inspired by your ability to wear that weight with charm, with cheer and even with humour.

Before today, we had not met, but I have seen you consistently demonstrate that there is no issue in this world that is so grave to prevent people from smiling at each other, because smiling at each other is a step towards loving each other.

I welcome you warmly, sir.

Mr. Grossman: Your Grace, for all of us in this chamber as well as for those tens of thousands who will watch us today, it is a very great honour to be participating in some small way.

When we see you, meet you and talk with you, we cross paths with history. History, of course, offers only opportunities to people. It truly calls no one; it offers opportunity. It is the very few who have the courage and the determination to step into that opportunity, to take their people forward against enormous odds and in sometimes very frightening circumstances.

I say to our guest that when he comes here today he inspires us. He puts the things we debate in this House and in our communities in some real perspective. To those of us who in some small way have experienced here in Canada a modest degree of prejudice from time to time and have looked upon that as an enormous mountain, your presence, your fight and your success make those mountains seem much smaller to us and make your mountain so much more important and significant to everyone.

There are few who truly have the combination that we find in our guest today: the commitment to lead, the courage to take significant risks, the strength to fight and, I suppose, the incredible faith that allows him to mount that fight against prejudice and intolerance and to conquer it with an unswerving determination to do so in a peaceful way.

You are here, I say to the bishop, not among silent supporters in this province, not among people who wish to be spectators. In this province, perhaps uniquely, we have people who care, who have looked forward to your visit and who have sought many ways in which they can participate, be they large or small. The hearts, commitment and caring of every resident of this province are with you.

I say to the bishop, on behalf of the party that has had an opportunity to contribute in some small way, the party that brought us the first bill of rights in this country and first Human Rights Code, we welcome you. We welcome you in the knowledge that it is not only all of South Africa that is currently on trial and being tested but also all of civilized humanity that is now being tested. In this jurisdiction, we will not in any way fail that test.

We wish you well and welcome you.

2:10 p.m.

Mr. Rae: Your Grace, it was a great American Democrat, Adlai Stevenson, who upon addressing a similar gathering and hearing such introductions was moved to say, "Flattery is okay so long as you do not inhale."

I want to start by quoting to Your Grace the words of one of the great Christian consciences of our time, who wrote more than 30 years ago: "Prophecy is a function of the church, for it will always be the duty of the church to proclaim that this world is God's world.... Sin is not and never can be a purely personal matter. The problem of evil affects the whole human race. The sin of racial pride: the evil of the doctrine of apartheid, these are things which must be condemned by the church, and their consequences clearly and unmistakably proclaimed. That is prophecy. It is also politics."

These are the words of a special hero of mine, Trevor Huddleston, whose work as an Anglican priest fighting apartheid inspired South Africa and the world more than 30 years ago. I know, sir, that Trevor Huddleston has a special place in your heart and that you have taken on the prophetic role, not only in South Africa but also for you and the church throughout the world, with a passion and a courage that has inspired us all. It has moved the world not as a cold prophetic power, but because it draws its strength from the power of love; not a love that is weak or sentimental, but a love that condemns racial domination and apartheid because they stop people from being able to express their hearts and minds as brothers and sisters in the world and because they stop black people and white people from being able to love one another just because we are all people.

Your presence among us is an honour. I think you can gather that from the sense of pride, the sense of occasion that has taken hold of this assembly. It is also more than just an honour; it is a unique chance for all of us to renew our commitment to a multiracial world and, most important today, to a multiracial South Africa and to fight the scourge of racism with all the love, anger and deeds at our command.

Mr. Speaker: It is a great privilege for me today, as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, to introduce our very special guest, the Right Reverend Desmond Tutu, Bishop of Johannesburg. Your Grace, I will now ask you to please honour this assembly with your address.

Bishop Tutu: Mr. Speaker, honourable members of this distinguished Legislative Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, it is a very great honour and a very great privilege for me to address such an august gathering. Thank you very much for the wonderfully warm words of welcome and the tremendous welcome both in weather and from the people of this great province of this great country.

English is a very odd language. When I was a student at King's College, London, I used to sit next to a fellow South African, a white South African, who had an Afrikaans surname but was English-speaking. One day one of our professors, perfectly correctly, discussing one thing or another, said "and the nigger in the woodpile." I had not heard what he was referring to; so I turned to my South African friend and asked, "What did he say'?" He said, "He means you." I could have said, "I am very deeply thrilled," but it would be odd, given my complexion, to say I was tickled pink.

It is a very odd state of affairs that in the land of my birth I could not be addressing a similar gathering; and the honour that is done me, I know, is done in a representative capacity. You are saying you want to demonstrate your solidarity with those who are victims of one of the most vicious systems the world has known, and I have often added, since Moses's time.

You are saying: "Bishop Tutu, we want to ask you to be a conduit to the people of South Africa, all the people of South Africa, black and white. Make them aware that the world cares, the world is concerned, the world would like to be part of the process of bringing to birth a new South Africa; that the world cares not just for black people, the world cares for all people."

I receive this outstanding honour in that representative capacity, and it gives me the opportunity of saying thank you very much to all of you for that concern and that caring, for that upholding of those who are going through a traumatic experience as they learn painfully, in a cautioning kind of way, that ultimately you can be human only together, that you can survive only together, that you can be free only together.

2:20 p.m.

I want to thank the United Way and all those involved in the Toronto Arts Against Apartheid Festival. They are tremendous people.

Sometimes you get the notion that people try to inject the notion into your heart that what you do is insignificant; it cannot make a difference. Let me disabuse you of that notion. When people see a colossal problem, they wonder whether they can do anything to make a difference. They need to keep remembering what they are told about how to eat an elephant: one piece at a time. What you do where you are counts and makes a difference, if only to those who have their noses rubbed daily in the dust, to know that the world cares.

We have a crazy country, a beautiful country, a country with enormous potential for being the greatest country, God's own country, with apologies to Canada. They do tell some stories there which feature a character called van der Merwe, who is something like Paddy in Irish stories. He got a little upset that Russia and the United States were the ones that were getting all the kudos for their space programs, so he announced that South Africa was going to launch a spacecraft to the sun, no less. When people said, "Oh, van der Merwe, before your craft lands on the sun, it will have been burnt to cinders," he said: "You do not think we South Africans are stupid. We will launch it at night."

Sometimes when you look at what is happening in our country, what is unfolding -- a drama that is reaching what appears is going to be a bloody denouement -- you wonder. I started by saying I could not address a similar legislative assembly at home. Anyone looking on would say: "But that is extraordinary. Here is someone who is a bishop in the church of God, whom some have thought sufficiently responsible perhaps to become the archbishop of his own denomination, 54 years of age, a Nobel laureate. In the land of his birth, he cannot vote, and an 18-year-old, because he or she is white or, more recently, so-called coloured or Indian, can vote. There must be something strange."

Many have sought to change that situation in our country using conventional methods, non-violent methods. All along the line, our people, seeking to protest against the politics of exclusion, have been met with the intransigence and the violence of apartheid. In Sharpeville in 1960, 69 of our people were shot in the back while running away from the police after protesting peacefully against the pass laws.

In 1976, our children were singing in the streets and in 1984 they were protesting a constitution which mentions 73 per cent of the population of South Africa in one sentence. We are mentioned in one sentence of a constitution which some said was a step in the right direction: "All matters relating to blacks will be dealt with by the state president by decree."

Since 1984, our people protesting against this have been killed wantonly. More than 1,500 have died. Our country is sliding into a morass of bloodshed and chaos. The Commonwealth, in what I believe to be a very responsible act, sought to be part of the process of helping South Africa to move from an unjust dispensation to a more equitable one and sent this group called the Eminent Persons. I want to pay a very warm tribute to Archbishop Edward Scott, who has been a member of that group seeking painfully to bring South Africans together so they could sit together and work out a solution for that country.

Are we crazy? When this group was in the country, at a delicate stage in the process, South Africa launched an attack on its neighbouring countries. Some of us have said there is no hope now that we will move to a negotiated settlement except it be by pressure exerted on the South African government. The international community should intervene.

I stand here appealing to people of conscience. Help us. Please help us. Our country is burning. Our children are dying. An I I-year-old was kept in jail for five months in solitary confinement because he had thrown a stone in protest against being treated as less than what God intended for him. It is a country that some have said is a last bastion against communism. I can only say that if you are looking for the best recruiter for communism, then it would be the South African government.

If people are concerned for the fate of white South Africans, the best way of ensuring that white South Africans survive is to be part of the process of dismantling apartheid.

2:30 p.m.

I speak with a heavy heart. I love that country and its people passionately and I do not like to see it destroyed. I speak on behalf of people among the white community, which has some tremendous people, who by rights ought to be saying, "We cannot oppose a system that provides us with such substantial privileges," and yet they are. However, South African whites are not demons. They are ordinary people, many of them scared people. Would you not be if you were outnumbered five to one? The best way of ensuring that they survive is to be part of a process that will ensure the destruction of this monster that dehumanizes both the victim and the perpetrator, and perhaps dehumanizes the perpetrator even more.

Would you not say something has happened to the humanity of a man who, when told of the death of a fellow human being when Steve Biko was battered to death, as the then so-called Minister of Justice was told, could say it left him cold? Would you not say something has happened to the humanity of someone who could say on the death of a fellow human being that it leaves him cold?

My concern ultimately is not for the freedom and the liberation of black people; my concern is for the liberation of white people. As long as we are unfree, to that extent will all white people remain unfree. I have no doubt at all that we are going to be free. We are going to be free because this is God's intention for all of us in South Africa.

I invite you to be part of God's glorious enterprise to set free all of His people, black and white, in South Africa, to be part of this enterprise that will transfigure the uglinesses, the hatreds, the animosities, the anxieties and the suspicions, that will transfigure all this into compassion, caring, loving, laughter, joy and sharing, to be part of God's intention for all His people so that we will see the kingdoms of this world being transfigured into the kingdom of our God and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever. Amen.

Mr. Speaker: The Premier now will offer a few words of appreciation on behalf of all us here assembled.

Hon. Mr. Peterson: Your Grace, I know I speak for all members of this assembly, all people gathered in this chamber today and all Ontarians when I say thank you for sharing with us your words today. Let me assure you on their behalf that your words will not scatter with the wind; they will stay with all of us for all seasons.

I was moved when you talked about the individual responsibility that every person personally shares. The history books are filled with the stories of individuals who have changed the course of history. My guess is that when history is recorded, sir, yours will be highly ensconced in this important fight for all humanity.

I will not try to match your eloquence, but will say personally what a great pleasure it is to have you and to listen to you. I would like to share with this House the words of a poet, who I am sure is familiar to you, Pascal Gwala, in his poem Beyond Dreams.

Crazy is the world of living dreams,

And dreams we have to burn into hopes;

Hopes we have to bend into reality;

It's where freedom lies.

Your Grace, on behalf of the people of Ontario, thank you for sharing your wisdom on where the path to freedom lies.

Mr. Speaker: This House will now come to order.

Pursuant to the order of the House of Monday, May 12, 1986, this House stands adjourned until two of the clock next Monday afternoon.

The House adjourned at 2:37 p.m.