H.H. The Aga Khan and Begum Salimah arrive in Canada - 1978-11-12
Sunday November 12, 1978, is the day that will go down in the annals of Canadian Ismaili history. Our beloved Hazar Imam, Noor Mowlana Shah Karim Al-Huseini arrived in Ottawa for the start of his first-ever Holy visit to Canada accompanied by Begum Salimah.
On their arrival at Ottawa airport, Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah were greeted by Canadian Government officials, several members of the Ottawa diplomatic corps and various Ismaili leaders. Mowlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah then left for Lake Harrington in an official government car accompanied by Mr. R. Noyes Roberts, Chief Protocol Officer, to join Prime Minister Trudeau at his Government cottage as his guests.
The following morning, Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah arrived at the Didar Hall located in the famous Chateau Laurier Hotel to meet the Ottawa Jamat. All religious ceremonies were completed by Hazar Imam during the course of the morning while Begum Salimah went on a private sight-seeing and shopping expedition. Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah then joined Prime Minister Trudeau at his official residence on 24 Sussex Drive for a luncheon.
In the afternoon, Hazar Imam was interviewed by the CTV television network for its nationally televised program 'Canada AM'. This interview was telecast the following morning (Tuesday November 14) and was watched by thousands of proud Canadian Ismailis and a large Canadian audience (interview reprinted elsewhere in this magazine). While Hazar Imam was being interviewed, Begum Salimah hosted a tea party at the Chateau Laurier Hotel for the wives of several local dignitaries.
Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah left for the airport in the late afternoon, via the scenic route alond the Rideau Canal, to depart for Vancouver and the start of the visit to Western Canada. Before embarking on his aircraft, Hazar Imam complimented Amaldari Madat Shariff (Ottawa District Chairman) for the excellent manner in which the Ottawa Jamat organized his visit to the nation's capital.
MONTREAL November 18 & 19, 1978
Mowlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah arrived in Montreal, from Winnipeg on Saturday November 18, 1978 at 9:00pm. Because of the freezing temperatures and gusty winds on an otherwise clear night, arrangements were made to bring the aircraft inside the hanger.
Mowlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah were welcomed by Amaldari Mohamedali Lalani, the President of the Regional Council for Eastern Canada, Amaldari Mirjehan Janmohamed, the Montreal District Committee Chairman and members of his committee. From the airport, Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah proceeded to their residence at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel where they were greeted by a beautiful flower arrangement for which they complimented the Montreal District Committee.
On the following morning, at 8:45am, Hazar Imam arrived at the Didar Hall where 1800 Ismailis were gathered for Imam-e-Zaman's Didar. Begum Salimah arrived at the Hall at 10:00am and was received by Mowlana Hazar Imam. Hazar Imam made Firmans to the Jamat both in English and French and he was presented with a 700 year old antique Islamic vase as a gift from his Montreal Jamat.
After the marriage ceremonies were completed, Begum Salimah left the Didar Hall for a tour of Montreal General Hospital and Montreal Children's Hospital. At Montreal General Hospital, she was received at the entrance by the Hospital's Executive Director, Dr. Harvey Barkun and Mrs. Barkun and was later introduced to all senior hospital staff members. After completing the tour of both hospitals, Begum Salimah left for the airport where she was later joined by Mowlana Hazar Imam for their departure to Toronto at 1:15pm.
TORONTO Day 1 - Sunday November 19, 1978
Mowlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah arrived in Toronto for the last stop of their Canadian tour on the afternoon of Sunday November 19. They were greeted at the airport by the Government of Ontario's Protocol Services Co-ordinator, Mrs. Valerie Fountain, and by various Ismaili leaders. From the airport, Mowlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah proceeded to their rooms at the Toronto Harbour Castle Hilton.
In the evening, Mowlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah arrived at the Didar Hall in the mammoth International Centre where an estimated 15,000 Ismailis were gathered for Imam-e-Zaman's Didar. Begum Salimah left the Didar Hall for the hotel after the marriage ceremonies were completed. Hazar Imam performed several religious ceremonies until late night.
Day 2 - Monday November 20, 1978
On Monday morning, Hazar Imam arrived at the Didar Hall to continue with the religious ceremonies until the late afternoon. Begum Salimah visited and toured Overlea Boulevard Secondary School in the morning. (See report and pictures on school visit).
A grand banquet was held in the Metropolitan Grand Ballroom of the Harbour Castle Hilton in honour of Mowlanza Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah on Monday night. The banquet was attended by Government leaders and politicians, leading businessmen, members of the dimplomatic corps, court justices, religious leaders, heads of various academic institutions and several other important public figures.
Speeches were made by the Lieutenant-Govenor of Ontario, the Hon. Mrs. Pauline McGibbon, the Federal Minister for Multiculturism, the Hon. Norm Cafik, the Ontario Provincial Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Hon. Tom Wells and Acting Mayor of Toronto Mr. Fred Beavis, in which they congratulated the Ismaili community for their adaptation to Canadian life and praised Mowlana Hazar Imam for his leadership.
Mowlana Hazar Imam, in his speech, expressed his deep and lasting debt to Canada for accepting 6000 Ismaili refugees from Uganda after they were expelled by President Amin in 1972. He said that he was happy to see his Canadian Ismailis established so well in a short period of time, with many of them already in business. (The complete text of Hazar Imam's speech is printed eslewhere in this magazine).
The banquet was a very successful affair and Mowlana Hazar Imam congratulated all the people responsible for its organization when he addressed the Jamat at the Didar Hall on the following morning.
Day 3 - Tuesday November 21, 1978
At 7:15 in the morning, Hazar Imam was interviewed by the Globe and Mail, one of the three leading daily newpaper's in Toronto. (interview reprinted in this magazine)
After the interview, Mowlana Hazar Imam paid a courtesy call on Ontario's Premier, the Hon. William Davis, in his office at Queen's Park. Mowlana Hazar Imam and the Premier discussed matters of mutual interest for over an hour after which Hazar Imam left for the Didar Hall for another long day of religious ceremonies which he continued to perform until the early hours of the next morning.
On the morning of the same day, Begum Salimah went on a tour of the Toronto General Hospital and the Toronto Sick Children's Hospital (see report and pictures on hospital tours).
Begum Salimah and Mrs. Kathleen Davis, wife of the Premier of Ontario, the Hon. William Davis, found that they had a lot of things in common; most notably - very busy husbands!
The two ladies had a private luncheon together with Mrs. Audrey Wells, wife of Ontario's Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Mrs. Valerie Fountain from the Protocol Office, and Mrs. Helen Anderson secretary to Premier Davis. The Ismaili community was represented by Amaldaribanu Mrs. Roshan Hemani, Mrs. Gulshan Kassamali and Mrs. Zinat Ahmed from the National and Regional Councils.
The group met in the softy-hued Prime Minister's suite at the Sutton Place Hotel, Toronto. Talking about her impressions of Canadian Ismaili women, Begum Salimah said she thought that they adjusted very well to their new environment.
The distinguished women found that their lunch had been too short! They had enjoyed chatting about how their husband's work affect their lives, their children and the various systems of education existing in their respective countries. Hazar Imam's children receive their formal education at home.
Begum Salimah was especially delighted with Canada's telephone system - she could be connected to Paris every day to speak to her children, Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussein, quickly and efficiently.
She said she had heard a lot about Canada's beautiful fall seasons, particularly in Ontario and Quebec and would certainly like to be accompanied by her children on her next trip to Canada.
Wednesday November 22, 1978
On the final day of His historic visit to Canada, Mowlana Hazar Imam visited the Didar Hall at 9:00am at which time He made His farewell Firman to the Jamat gathered there.
After giving His Holy Didar to His Canadian Jamats, Imam-e-Zaman Noor Mowlana Shah Karim Al-Huseini Hazar Imam and Her Highness Begum Salimah flew out from Toronto International Airport to conclude their memorable visit.
It was a wonderful opportunity for Canadian Jamats, a ten day period which they will cherish in their hearts for the rest of their lives. The visit was highly successful and Imam-e-Zaman assured His Canadian spiritual children that His next visit to Canada will be much sooner, to which all Ismailis in Canada say a very big AMEN!!