Thousands of people were in awe of Archbishop Desmond Tutu on his visit to Toronto in 1986.

More than 35 years ago, with South Africa under apartheid, Archbishop Desmond Tutu challenged Ontario to get more involved and help save his country from the “swamp of bloodshed and chaos.”

It was a landmark speech in 1986, the first time in 34 years that a foreign dignitary addressed a special session of the Legislature, moving some to tears, according to an article in the Toronto Star.

“I am here appealing to people of conscience. Help us. Please help us. Our country is burning. Our children are dying, ”Tutu pleaded.

Tutu, who died Sunday at age 90, won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the front lines, fighting nonviolently for the freedom of black South Africans.

And on his visit to Toronto in late May 1986, he invited Ontarians to help him join him in the fight against apartheid.

After addressing MPPs, thousands of people attended a fundraiser where he was joined by celebrities like Salome Bey and Harry Belafonte, the highlight of the “Toronto Arts Against Apartheid Festival”.

The week-long event culminated in a “Rally Against Apartheid” in Queen’s Park, with a turnout of more than 10,000 spellbound by Tutu’s words.

Tutu’s work fighting for the freedom of the oppressed was an inspiration to people around the world. His activism had a profound impact and is still felt in Canada today.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement following news of his death.

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the world’s leading human rights activists and the strongest moral voice in the world,” Trudeau said.

“Throughout an extraordinary life, Archbishop Tutu used his vision of interconnectedness, equality and forgiveness to advocate for a better and more peaceful world. While he was best known for his non-violent opposition to apartheid in South Africa and his work to heal divisions as the ‘Rainbow Nation’ moved towards democracy, his actions resonated everywhere, especially among oppressed peoples and his struggle for freedom and equality “.

Prime Minister Doug Ford also paid tribute to Tutu in a tweet.

“Today, the world lost a true champion and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Desmond Tutu. His work to fight inequality, both in South Africa and around the world, has helped improve the lives of many people. My condolences to his family for his loss. ”

Tutu’s name lives on today in Toronto on a waterfront street, Bishop Tutu Boulevard, near Bathurst Street and Lake Shore Boulevard West, named after him in 1985.


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