On Thursday, February 27, we welcomed His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan to the Parliament of Canada, where he delivered a historic address to the joint session of Parliament, making him the third non-sitting head of state and the first faith leader to be afforded this honour.
As a proud Ismaili Muslim, this was a particularly special day for me and for my community. His Highness’s visit was not only a reflection of the strong relationship shared between the Government of Canada and the Ismaili Imamat, but also a reminder of the importance we must all place on values such as pluralism, diversity, inclusiveness and tolerance, which truly define us as Canadians.
As members of Parliament, senators, distinguished guests and thousands of others watching at home listened intently, our hearts filled with pride as we heard His Highness speak of Canada in such high regard. In his address he stated:
The sad fact behind so much instability in our world today is that governments seem to be inadequate to these challenges. A much happier fact is that in the global effort to change this picture, Canada is an exemplary leader.
Although I’m very proud to be the only Canadian Ismaili parliamentarian and to call myself a Canadian, and I will always be eternally grateful to have been welcomed to Canada some 40 years ago, when my own country of Uganda had abandoned me, I believe that there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done for Canada to truly live up to His Highness’s vision.
As I’m sure you are aware, there are many places in the world that are currently facing political hardship and which desperately require our assistance. I believe that the way we, as a country, respond to the current crisis in the Ukraine, as well as the crisis in Syria, will act as an opportunity for Canada to further promote values of tolerance, justice, pluralism and mutual respect, which, as His Highness pointed out, are inherently a part of the Canadian identity.
I would like to conclude by borrowing from His Highness’s wise words which continue to guide me in my work:
As you build your lives for yourselves and others, you will come to rest upon certain principles. Central to my life has been a verse in the Holy Quran, which addresses itself to the whole of humanity.
It says, “O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women.” I know of no more beautiful expression about the unity of our human race, born indeed from a single soul.