Backgrounder: Honourary citizenship bestowed upon his Highness the Aga Khan - 2010-05-28
On June 19, 2009, on the advice of the Government of Canada, the House of Commons voted to bestow Honourary Canadian Citizenship upon His Highness the Aga Khan in recognition of His Highness’s leadership as a champion of development, pluralism and tolerance around the world and of his remarkable leadership as Imam of the worldwide Shia Ismaili Muslim community.
The Aga Khan is the spiritual head of the world's 15 million Ismaili Muslims. Ismailis make up the world's second largest Shia grouping and are spread throughout 25 countries. Ismailis now number roughly 70,000 in Canada. Most Canadian Ismaili Muslims arrived in this country after being forced out of Uganda by its former ruler Idi Amin in the 1970s.
Honourary citizenship is an extraordinary recognition that is above and beyond the established system of honours, such as the Order of Canada. It is a political decision conferred upon a recipient by joint resolution of the Houses in Parliament.
Only four other people have been granted honourary Canadian citizenship:
* Aung San Suu Kyi, imprisoned Burmese democracy advocate and Nobel laureate (2007).
* Tenzin Gyatso, the current and 14th Dalai Lama (2006).
* Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid activist and former President of South Africa (2001).
* Raoul Wallenberg, Swedish diplomat
noted for his actions during the Holocaust (1985, granted posthumously).