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Rev. Mpho Tutu-Van Furth, daughter of Desmond Tutu, with Senator Murray sinclair, left, and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen at the University of West Indies annual award gala in Toronto on Saturday.  (NICHOLAS KEUNG / TORONTO STAR)


They bonded naturally because of their peoples’ shared experience of mistreatment and racism since the days of colonialism and both were tasked with the toughest job: to seek facts and reconciliation.


Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the first black archbishop of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, was the unflinching social justice activist who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after the end of the notorious apartheid regime in 1994.


Sen. Murray Sinclair, the first aboriginal judge to be appointed in Manitoba, served as the chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, documenting the history and legacy of Canada’s residential school system that affected the lives of thousands of indigenous women and men.


On Saturday, both were honoured at the University of the West Indies’ annual Toronto gala for the contributions to social change, an event at the Ritz Carlton Hotel attended by 500 guests.


Although Tutu, now 85, was not able to come to the city to receive the award, he and Sinclair, from separate corners of the world, both talked about the countries’ lessons on righting the historical wrong.

“There are common elements in seeking the truth and addressing ways to reconcile. It can be achieved,” said Sinclair, who met Tutu years ago when he last visited Toronto. “Education is key to reconciliation. Survivors and perpetrators need the opportunity to engage with each other.”


In an unrelated meeting with federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould in Johannesburg, Tutu shared his own experience and said it would be up to young people to drive the change.


“He actually talked about how it was the young people of South Africa — he was a lot younger, obviously, back in the days before 1994 — and it is the young people that will create the change in society,” said Wilson-Raybould, who was on an official tour in South Africa.


“It is the same way in our country, too,” she said Saturday. “In order to move beyond that, we need to ensure that the vast majority of Canadians understand that history (of residential schools) and are willing to step up and create the solutions to move past it.”


Tutu’s daughter, Rev. Mpho Tutu-Van Furth, who received the Luminary Award on her father’s behalf, said the anti-apartheid leader was in good health and honoured to continue his strong ties with Canada.


“He has this particular fondness for Canada since the 1980s at the height of the apartheid regime. Canada’s support was incredible and the welcome was amazing,” said Tutu-Van Furth, who was pleased to stand beside Sinclair, whom she met in 2015 during a visit to Canada on a truth and reconciliation conference.


“We have a lot to learn from each other. I hope that we have on both sides the humility to listen and learn, and to offer support wherever we can. The process of finding truth and achieving reconciliation is lengthy. It’s not an easy process but we can offer encouragement.”


Other honorees of this year’s awards included neurosurgeon Dr. Renn Holness, businesswoman and retired diplomat Kay McConney, entrepreneur and philanthropist Wayne Purboo, cardiologist and community activist Dr. Vivian Rambihar, Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch and GraceKennedy Limited, one of the Caribbean’s largest food and finance companies.


Article by:By NICHOLAS KEUNGImmigration reporter


With files from The Canadian Press