This article explores the debates in Canada over the call for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against apartheid South Africa, and demonstrates how the African National Congress (ANC) became a significant reference point for both supporters and critics of the anti-apartheid movement. Through close engagement with Canadian civil society, the ANC built its status as the exclusive voice of South Africans, a position that allowed it to influence the movement’s demands, including its support for armed struggle. Friends of South Africa, unable or unwilling to defend apartheid itself, instead focused their efforts on demonizing and delegitimizing the ANC as terrorists and agents of the Soviet Union—but this failed to significantly damage the reputation of the ANC or weaken the call for boycotts. This article is based on extensive new archival research from sources including the Canadian Mission of the ANC and the Canadian-South African Society (an affiliate of the South Africa Foundation).

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