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Alberta's Premier Alison Redford is a former lawyer who worked on improving human rights in Africa alongside Nelson Mandela, who died on Dec. 5, 2013, at the age of 95.BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

Alberta Premier Alison Redford, a former lawyer who worked on improving human rights in Africa alongside Mr. Mandela, called the leader a "friend."

"Nelson Mandela was a towering icon, a giant of a man and an enormously inspiring individual who courageously spent his life fighting racism, oppression, and injustice. He used his days walking this earth to bring freedom, equality and human rights to his people, his country and to the world," Ms. Redford said in a statement issued shortly after Mr. Mandela's death was announced.

"I will always cherish the opportunity I had to work alongside him in the 1990s as part of a team that was steering South Africa out of apartheid, rebuilding its legal system, and leading to its first all-race elections that resulted in Mandela becoming President. I will always remember him as a dignified and kind man with a sparkle in his eye."

Ms. Redford's work in Africa in the 1990s focused on human rights litigation, education programs and policy reform, according to her government biography. She served as a technical adviser on constitutional and legal issues in Africa for the European Union, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and both the Canadian and Australian governments.

"[Mr. Mandela] taught me that the best advice comes from people who have been working in the trenches, and that leaders have to sacrifice.

"I remember his wisdom, his optimism and his patience. He knew that no matter what he had accomplished that there was always another challenge ahead of him and another hill to climb, and that his work was never done until he breathed his last breath.

"Now his work on this earth is complete, and it is a far better place because of him. Rest in peace, Madiba, my friend. And thank you."