Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for December 16, 2013

Seeing Mandela was one of former Yukon chief’s lifetime highlights

As the world continues to reflect on the life of Nelson Mandela, Bob Charlie is remembering his encounter with the former leader of South Africa.

By Stephanie Waddell on December 16, 2013 at 3:44 pm


Photo by Vince Fedoroff

REMEMBERING A MILESTONE MEETING – Bob Charlie, seen last week, said he was impressed by the late Nelson Mandelasʼ absence of animosity toward those who had jailed him or kept him in prison.

As the world continues to reflect on the life of Nelson Mandela, Bob Charlie is remembering his encounter with the former leader of South Africa.

In his fight against the apartheid system in that country, Mandela spent 26 years in prison before being released in 1990 and going on to become South Africa’s first black president in 1994.

In an interview last week, Charlie, a former Champagne and Aishihik First Nations chief, recalled that in the late 1990s, he was part of a delegation of northern First Nations leaders who attended a UN conference on Persistent Organic Pollutants in Johannesburg.

The conference organizers arranged an audience with Mandela for the First Nation leaders. They were taken to Mandela’s home, where he kept his office.

Given one question among them all to ask, Charlie was selected to bring it forward after they had discussed what question would be posed.

He asked Mandela how to make self-government work.

Mandela told the leaders he couldn’t say what would work best for the northern First Nations because he wasn’t familiar with their local issues.

However, he stressed the importance for anyone in a leadership role to be aware of minorities and consider them when making decisions.

Charlie noted that has been good advice that has served him well in a number of roles, including his current position as a resolution health support worker with the Council of Yukon First Nations.

He noted Mandela’s legacy continues throughout Canada in the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

That body focuses on acknowledging the injustices of the residential school system and helping those who were part of the system to heal. It’s inspired by the truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa.

The South African version had powers to subpoena people and give amnesty for criminal acts, which the Canadian commission does not. The public hearing system which allows victims to speak has been part of both commissions’ work.

As Charlie noted, it shows the influence Mandela has had on the nation.

Charlie said he was also taken with Mandela’s approach, which showed no bitterness nor animosity to those who had jailed him or kept him in prison.

Meeting Mandela was “definitely one of the highlights of my life,” Charlie said.

A number of Yukoners have taken issue with Premier Darrell Pasloski attending Mandela’s funeral last week.

Charlie said he didn’t want to comment on that, preferring instead to focus on Mandela’s contribution not only to his own country, but around the world.

Charlie noted he was pleased to have Mandela also sign a copy of his book Long Walk to Freedom.

CommentsAdd a comment

Brice Carruthers

Dec 16, 2013 at 4:41 pm

They would have been better off sending Bob Charlie instead of the The Paz to South Africa.  However, we all know that Premier Pasloski’s junket to South Africa at taxpayers’ expense had little to do with honouring Mandela and more to do with rubbing shoulders with Stephen Harper and three other former Prime Ministers on a 15-hour flight.

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