Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 42

Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan

Congratulations on Seventy-Fifth Birthday

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, yesterday Ismaili Muslims around the world celebrated the seventy-fifth birthday of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan. The Aga Khan is the devoted spiritual leader and forty-ninth imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

As a proud Ismaili Muslim, every morning I wake up knowing that I am a beneficiary of the Aga Khan’s infinite knowledge, wisdom and guidance.

When my family and my community were exiled from Uganda, when we lost everything and feared for our lives, the Aga Khan protected us. He helped us rebuild our entire lives and seek refuge in this great country, Canada.

When I was a young woman and I faced societal pressures that told me that women could only be nurses and teachers and not lawyers or doctors, the Aga Khan taught me that your gender did not define who you are or which profession to pursue. He emphasized the importance of educating girls, and he continues to ensure that young girls around the world are afforded the same opportunities as young boys.

Honourable senators, the truth is that we are all beneficiaries of the Aga Khan’s philanthropy. In 1967, the Aga Khan founded the Aga Khan Foundation, which is one of the largest private development agencies in the world. The Aga Khan Foundation and the other development agencies that operate in close conjunction provide long-term solutions to poverty, hunger, illiteracy and other problems that are plaguing the developing world.

In addition, they also have mandates that include the environment, education, culture, architecture, micro-finance and rural development.

Traditionally, one receives gifts on one’s birthday.

Honourable senators, the greatest gift that we can offer His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan is to renew our commitment to building a pluralistic society, one that is based on the values of justice, equality and tolerance. Together we must work to improve not only our own lives but also the lives of those who are the most vulnerable in society.

The Aga Khan has often described his vision of a world where difference is not seen as weakness but instead as a powerful force for good.

Honourable senators, I want to live in that world. The Aga Khan has given us all so much. Let us continue to work to make his vision a reality.