Wednesday, June 8, 2005

The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Hon. the Speaker pro tempore in the chair.



The Aga Khan

Congratulations on Being Awarded the Companion of the Order of Canada

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, this week Canada has hosted His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the forty-ninth hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

His Highness the Aga Khan is well known to many in Canada as a champion of international development through the Aga Khan Development Network, which he launched in 1967. His work is well known, not only by his followers but also by many Canadians involved in the work to promote peace in the world and eliminate poverty and suffering.

To those of us in the Ismaili community, he is known as Hazar Imam ? the present Imam ? and has guided us as our spiritual leader through his example of peace, understanding and compassion since he succeeded his grandfather, Sultan Mohammed Shah in 1957 at the age of 20. The Aga Khan is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, through his daughter Fatima, and her husband Ali, the first Shia Imam.

On Monday, June 6, I had the honour to attend a private ceremony at Rideau Hall where Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, presented His Highness the Aga Khan with the insignia of Companion of the Order of Canada.

As honourable senators know, the Order of Canada is our country's highest non-military honour. It is a great honour for any Canadian to be named as a companion, the order's highest designation. It is awarded to those demonstrating the highest commitment to Canada and humanity.

For a non-Canadian to be awarded the honorary appointment of Companion of the Order of Canada is an extremely rare tribute. His Highness the Aga Khan joins with only four others who were not citizens at the time of their investiture: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother; the former President of the Czech Republic, Vāclav Havel; former United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali; and, former South African President and honorary Canadian citizen, Nelson Mandela.

Her Excellency the Governor General noted that His Highness personifies cherished Canadian values, when she said the following:

His Highness the Aga Khan has devoted his life to protecting the environment and alleviating human suffering due to poverty.

Honourable senators, I am making this statement today as a very proud Canadian. This week, my spiritual leader has become an honorary Canadian, and I know that all my honourable colleagues will join me in welcoming him and recognizing his contribution to Canada and the world.

The Global Centre for Pluralism

Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I wish to associate myself with the remarks just made by Senator Jaffer, and I, too, was honoured to be present when His Highness the Aga Khan announced the creation of a landmark initiative for promoting diversity and peace, the Global Centre for Pluralism to be built next to the delegation of the Saudi Arabian embassy on Sussex Drive in Ottawa. Construction is expected to start later this year.

The Global Centre for Pluralism will be a non-denominational, not-for-profit, non-governmental research and education institution. The centre will promote pluralistic values and practices in culturally diverse societies worldwide to ensure that every individual has the opportunity to realize his or her full potential as a citizen, irrespective of cultural, ethnic or religious differences.

In his remarks on Monday, His Highness said he selected Canada as home to his new Global Centre for Pluralism because our country's experience with pluralism is a global asset which must be shared for the benefit of the world. He also referred to Canada's leadership among Western countries and the seriousness and respect it accords to the world of Islam and other world religions.

Honourable senators, this new centre will complement the work contained in the recent report of the Conference Board of Canada entitled, "Business Critical: Maximizing the Talents of Visible Minorities ? An Employer's Guide," which proved that when it comes to promoting pluralism and diversity, Canada can be a leader.

This recent announcement by the leader of world peace, His Highness the Aga Khan, will help break down barriers that keep our nation from becoming a truly pluralistic country.

This centre is another example of His Highness the Aga Khan's extraordinary legacy of promoting peace and diversity.