Prime Minister Harper Bestows His Highness the Aga Khan With Honorary Canadian Citizenship at Foundation Ceremony for Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park
“Now You are a Canadian,” Prime Minister tells Aga Khan – CBC
“I have always felt at home in Canada, but never more so than today,” says Aga Khan – Globe and Mail
(Please click above image or Daylife.com photos of the Foundation to view full-size photos of the thumbnails shown here. Daylife also has links to some of the Aga Khan Museum artefacts currently on display in a Berlin museum).
Close to a thousand people watched in person as His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled the commemorative plaque for three landmark initiatives by the Ismaili Imam in Toronto’s Don Mills Region. Joining to watch this event via a live telecast were thousands of Ismailis from Toronto and the surrounding areas who gathered at the Direct Energy Centre close to the city’s downtown core.
“The atmosphere at the centre was charged as if Mawlana Hazar Imam was amidst us,” said one Toronto resident. “The organization was superb,” she added. Many more Ismailis spanning the breadth of this vast country – from British Columbia to Quebec – were expected to watch a delayed telecast later in the evening. Some cities like Ottawa experienced technical problems and the telecast was delayed for some hours. It is expected to be repeated on Saturday, May 29th.
The foundation ceremony for the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their park took place in a specially erected tent structure on a warm sunny afternoon in one of Canada’s most diverse districts – that of Don Mills. During the ceremony, the Prime Minister bestowed upon His Highness the Aga Khan the honorary Citizenship of Canada following last June’s unanimous vote in the Canadian Parliament confirming the distinction on His Highness. At that time the Prime Minister had described the Citizenship as a recognition of the Ismaili Imam’s leadership in promoting “development, pluralism and tolerance around the world and of his remarkable leadership as Imam of the worldwide Ismaili community.”
The Aga Khan thus becomes only the fifth person in Canadian History to be given this distinction – the others being Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg (posthumously in 1985); former South Africa president and Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela (2001); the Dalai Lama (2006); and pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi (2007), a Nobel laureate who has spent most of the last 20 years under house arrest in her native Myanmar.
The entire crowd cheered and applauded as Stephen Harper officially presented the framed Citizenship certificate to His Highness, after saying in his speech:
“It is therefore my great honour and pleasure, on behalf of the Government and people of Canada, to formally present you today with Honourary Canadian Citizenship. Welcome to our home and native land, your Highness. It is, now and forever your home, your Highness, your home as well.”
The Aga Khan said he felt profoundly honoured by the gracious gesture of his new honorary citizenship. In the opening statement of the speech the Ismaili Imam noted:
“Let me begin by expressing my profound appreciation for the great honour which this country has paid to me today by extending this generous gift of Honorary Canadian Citizenship.
“I have been deeply moved by your gracious gesture — which I also regard as a tribute to the institution of the Ismaili Imamat, which I represent. It is a significant recognition of the values which our community of faith shares with the people of Canada.”
“You could feel the energy in the room with so many hundreds of Ismailis present in the room, and feel their pride,” observed CBC reporter, Laurie Graham, who was attending the function.
by Navyn Naran
a graceful tent
with light and peace;
everyone seated,expectant, joyous,
and then pindrop silence.
their Prince had arrived.the Light of our hearts
the Prince of Generosity
and Compassion and Love
for His Jamat
tirelessly Envisioning, Fashioning
His work and murids.
hard working individuals,
time, knowledge, resources
all over the world;
ambassadors, individual souls;
and unimagined Greatness Unfolds
in His Guidance and Expectation and Love.
it is a Day of Grace, of Love immeasurable
of Light permeating all
in the presence of Noorani familyand friends.
our Prince has arrived.
Translation of the Quranic Verses from Sura 30 (Al-Room, The Romans) that were recited at the ceremony.
[30:22] Among His proofs are the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors. In these, there are signs for the knowledgeable.
[30:23] Among His proofs is your sleeping during the night or the day, and your working in pursuit of His provisions. In this, there are sufficient proofs for people who can hear.
[30:24] Among His proofs is that He shows you the lightning as a source of fear, as well as hope, then He sends down from the sky water to revive a land that has been dead. In these, there are sufficient proofs for people who understand.
[30:25] Among His proofs is that the heaven and the earth are standing at His disposal. Finally, when He calls you out of the earth, one call, you will immediately come out.
[30:26] To Him belongs everyone in the heavens and the earth; all are subservient to Him.
[30:27] And He is the One who initiates the creation, then repeats it; this is even easier for Him. To Him belongs the most sublime similitude, in the heavens and the earth, and He is the Almighty, Most Wise.
TORONTO CITY CONCILLOR REFLECTS ON THE FOUNDATION CEREMONY
A Message by John Parker
Toronto City Councillor, Ward 26 – Don Valley West
May 28 marked an important milestone in an exciting project in Ward 26 that will create a new landmark in Toronto of international significance.
On that day the Prime Minister of Canada joined the Aga Khan and several hundred invited guests at the Foundation Ceremony marking the start of construction work on the $300 million Aga Khan Centre at the corner of Eglinton and the Don Valley Parkway.
The project features three significant components: The Aga Khan museum, the Ismaili Centre, and a large, beautiful, park and garden for public use and enjoyment. The site could not be more prominent: The hillside site clearly visible from miles to the south and west of one of the busiest intersections in Toronto. The Ismaili Centre will be a gathering place for spiritual and intellectual discourse. The museum will gather, preserve, and display art and artefacts of Muslim civilization and heritage. Together they will advance the Ismailis’ moderate outlook and respect for the search for knowledge and beauty.
The Prime Minister put it clearly: “Canada is honoured to have been chosen as the site for these important institutions. They will serve to promote pluralism, peace, and tolerance through greater understanding of Islam.”
He went on to say, quite correctly, that the project “will be a stunning addition to Canada’s growing architecture. It will be a grand destination and will be a magnet to visitors from Canada and around the world and will promote pluralism, peace, and knowledge.”
The Aga Khan echoed the Prime Minister’s comments, saying, “It will help people understand and embrace the power of human diversity…. It will have a strong education aspect.”
The Aga Khan is the leader of the world’s approximately 15 million Ismailis. His passion for his own work and for his people worldwide is to promote peace and understanding. In a world where I believe our biggest human problem is ignorance and suspicion, the initiative represented by the Aga Khan Centre is a welcome step in the right direction for all of us, whatever our faith or background.
Canada is home to about 70,000 Ismailis, many of whom live in Ward 26. For that reason alone it is entirely fitting that this great landmark project be located here. But the Prime Minister gave a more compelling reason: Commenting on the writings of the Aga Khan, the Prime Minister said, “If I may say, sir, you sound like a Canadian. And in fact, you are.”
Then he surprised everyone in the audience by delivering to His Highness a certificate confirming the unanimous declaration of Canada’s Parliament conferring on him honorary Canadian citizenship. This act added the Aga Khan to a list of only four others – Holocaust hero Raoul Wallenberg, Burmese democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela – to be so honoured.
“I have always felt at home in Canada”, said His Highness, “But never more than this moment.”
The occasion was a special one for me too. As city councillor for ward that includes the project site, I have worked closely with the project team and city staff in working through the plans and processes involved in granting approval for this particular development. This has commanded a significant part of my attention during my term as Ward 26 representative at City Hall. I have been privileged to see the personal attention that His Highness has given to the project, and the sense of high minded purpose that the project team takes to each element of the design and function of the development.
I was honoured to hear His Highness mention my name specifically in his public remarks. Even more flattering was the opportunity to meet with him informally after the event and learn what a close eye he had been keeping on my involvement in the project. He was able to tell me about things that I had done that I had already forgotten! He could not have been more gracious, and I could not have been more impressed with the sincerity of his kind remarks.
He said he hoped I would continue to be helpful as the project entered its construction phase and continued onward in the future. (As if there was the remotest possibility that I would want to be anything but!) He gave me a warm hug when I assured him that being able to contribute to the successful completion of this project is greatest honour I could hope for.
And in a written response to Simerg’s question if he had anything to add to the message, the Councillor said:
“Last Friday’s ceremony included prominent guests from around the world. One was the architect who designed the magnificent landscaping elements, and his wife. They live in Lebanon, and as such faced a serious challenge in getting a visa allowing entry to Canada on short notice. Melissa Bhagat in Minister Kenney’s Toronto office took the matter in hand, and made all necessary arrangements in short order so that all problems were overcome. Give her – and the minister – a gold star.”
Editor’s Note: The Councillor’s message has been published with his kind consent.