... TWO CANADIANS WHO HELPED FIGHT APARTHEID“You have won many friends not only for yourself, but also for Canada.”
CBC Canada 2017 / February 3
John and Alena Schram leaf through a book that has come to mean the world to them. The dedication has deep personal significance. (Courtesy of Alena and John Schram)
The first story in this series comes from retired diplomats Alena and John Schram of Amherst Island, Ont.
FEW CANADIANS ARE AWARE of how Canada helped bring about the collapse of a morally repugnant system. They should be.
In 1988, my husband John and I were posted to the small team at the Canadian embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, with the following mandate: to test the outer bounds of acceptable diplomatic activity in support of South Africans working to bring down apartheid.
Alena Schram (right) poses with Cyril Ramaphosa, Secretary General of the African National Congress in 1992. (Courtesy of Alena and John Schram)
MUCH MORE THAN A MEMENTOIt was at the last of our farewell parties, as we reluctantly prepared to leave for Ottawa, that Gill Marcus — then the African National Congress's chief spokesperson — stepped forward with a gift: a large and weighty coffee table book. I looked at it warily, wondering how we'd manage to jam it into our bulging hand luggage.
Alena Schram has taught in international schools and written columns and articles for Canadian and overseas newspapers and magazines as well as for international NGOs and UN agencies. She is the author of The Opinionated Old Cow: Ruminations from the Field.
After 36 fulfilling and exciting years in Canada's Foreign Service, John Schram retired to share his experience with students at Carleton. He also lectures at Queen's University, where he is a senior fellow with the Centre for International and Defence Policy.