Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 57

Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The Honourable Donald H. Oliver, Speaker pro tempore


Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on the importance of embracing difference. On Friday, October 15, I had the privilege of attending the tenth annual LaFontaine-Baldwin Symposium. This event was founded by our former Governor General, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, and is co-chaired by Mr. John Ralston Saul.

This year, the symposium attendees warmly welcomed His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan who delivered an inspiring speech on the topic of pluralism. In his lecture, His Highness spoke about the Global Centre for Pluralism, which has been established in partnership with the Government of Canada. He explained that this centre is one of the first institutions dedicated to tackling the question of diversity and pluralism in our world.

The Aga Khan went on to state that Canada was a natural home for this institution, given that Canada is particularly well versed in the importance of embracing difference and has an international reputation of perceiving diversity as a strength rather than a weakness.

Honourable senators, throughout my life in Canada, I have learned that it does not matter if someone is black or white; if they speak English, Italian or Punjabi; or if they worship in a church, mosque or synagogue. Being different does not hinder the ability to flourish in Canada.

I have never been more proud to be a Canadian than last Friday evening. I was especially inspired after hearing the Aga Khan state:

What the Canadian experience suggests to me is that identity itself can be pluralistic. Honouring one’s own identity need not mean rejecting others. One can embrace an ethnic or religious heritage, while also sharing a sense of national or regional pride.

As a woman of Indian origin, Ismaili Muslim faith, who was born and raised in Africa and who sought refuge in Canada, I have found great comfort in these wise words. Regardless of my complex identity, I have not only been granted the honour of identifying myself as a Canadian, but I have also been given the privilege of rising before all honourable senators today and representing my community and my province of British Columbia.

Honourable senators, the Aga Khan in his speech indicated:

Pluralism is a process and not a product. It is a mentality, a way of looking at a diverse and changing world.

It is important for Canadians to acknowledge that although being home to the Global Centre for Pluralism is a source of great pride, it also brings great responsibility. We now have an obligation to show the rest of the world that embracing difference can help foster a better life for all.

I congratulate the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson and Mr. John Ralston Saul for making this year’s symposium a great success. However, most important, I congratulate all Canadians for showcasing to the world that, as the Aga Khan said in his speech, “diversity has the capacity to inspire.”