Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 43

Tuesday, October 31, 2006
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Global Centre for Pluralism

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, last week, His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shi’a Imami Ismaili Muslims, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed a funding agreement for the Global Centre for Pluralism.

His Highness the Aga Khan set out the reason why the partnership between Canada and the Aga Khan Development Network is so important. He stated:

The successful collaboration is deeply rooted in a remarkable convergence of values — our strong mutual dedication to the concept and practice of pluralism… for pluralism, in essence, is a deliberate set of choices that a society must make if it is to avoid costly conflict and harness the power of diversity in solving problems.

He continued by stating:

It will not surprise you that I am fascinated by Canada’s experience as a successful pluralistic society. My active engagement with Canada began in the 1970s when many Ismailies found a welcoming refuge here in Canada from East African ethnic strife. Since that time, the Ismaili community has planted deep roots here, become self-sufficient and can now make its own contributions to Canada’s pluralistic model. That model, in turn, is one which can help to teach and inspire the entire world.

Indeed, our agreement itself exemplifies pluralism at work. It brings together people, ideas and resources from different continents and cultures, from religions and secular traditions, and from the public and the private sectors. And it continues in that spirit today …

Our hope and expectation is that the Global Centre for Pluralism will become a vital source in our world for research, learning and dialogue, engaging Canadians from all walks of life and joining hands with a widening array of partners.

The Aga Khan further stated:

I am grateful that the Government of Canada has contributed so generously to its material and intellectual resources. Making available the Old War Museum is a particularly generous and symbolic gesture. Our own commitment is to invest in this building so it becomes a worthy testimony to Canada’s global leadership in the cause of peace.

He then went on to speak about the clash of civilizations:

Those who talk about an inevitable “clash of civilizations” can point today to an accumulating array of symptoms that sometimes seems to reflect their diagnosis. I believe, however, that this diagnosis is wrong — that its symptoms are more dramatic than they are representative — and that these symptoms are rooted in human ignorance rather than human character.

The problem of ignorance is a problem that can be addressed. Perhaps it can even be ameliorated — but only if we go to work on our educational tasks with sustained energy, creativity and intelligence.

Honourable senators, today I am able to be a member of this auspicious chamber with all of you because we in Canada believe in pluralism. With the help of the new Global Centre for Pluralism, we will be able to export our Canadian vision of pluralism to the rest of the world.