1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 166

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Global Centre for Pluralism

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, last Thursday Senator Segal and I heard former United Nations Secretary- General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan deliver the Global Centre for Pluralism’s second annual pluralism lecture at the Delegation of Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa.

The Global Centre for Pluralism is a place for dialogue about the foundations and benefits of inclusive citizenship. Its mission is to advance respect for diversity as a new global ethic and to inspire leadership for pluralism through knowledge exchange. The idea for the centre originated in the 1990s when His Highness the Aga Khan asked Canadian leaders to explain the success of Canada’s approach to diversity. In 2006, His Highness the Aga Khan and the Government of Canada formed a partnership to launch the Global Centre for Pluralism, a private not-for-profit institution founded in Canada with a global mission to serve the world.

In his remarks last Thursday, His Highness the Aga Khan said:

… pluralism requires constant dialogue, a readiness to compromise, and an understanding that pluralism is not an end in itself, but a continuous process.

The Global Centre for Pluralism… was inspired in part by Canada’s experience as a highly diverse society. We want the Centre to be a place where we can all learn from one another about the challenges of diversity — and where we can share the lessons of successful pluralism.

And on evenings like this, we also help realize the Centre’s potential as a destination for dialogue, a place where we can exchange ideas with true champions of global pluralism, like Kofi Annan.

During his lecture, Kofi Annan argued:

… whatever our background, what unites us is far greater than what divides us…. We have to learn from each other, making our different traditions and cultures a source of harmony and strength, not discord and weakness.

Kofi Annan also reflected on the need to recognize the complexity and unique nature of each society.

“The mix of policies and institutions required to manage relations between indigenous communities and a majority of long-established incomers is not the same as that required to integrate and protect ‘new’ minorities who have only recently arrived.” Solutions must be tailored for the unique situation of every single society. “This is where the role of the Centre will be invaluable.”

Honourable senators, the Global Centre for Pluralism’s work in fostering leadership for pluralism stands as a remarkable testament to our own unique and imperfect society. As His Highness the Aga Khan pointed out in his remarks, that story, and the relationship between Canada’s indigenous peoples, English and French citizens, and new Canadians continues to evolve because pluralism is not an end in itself, but a continuous process. By continuing to learn and grow into a more accepting, caring and compassionate society, we model for societies worldwide that diversity and peace are forces for the common good.

I hope honourable senators will join me in recognizing and thanking the Global Centre for Pluralism and the His Highness the Aga Khan for their valuable contributions as facilitators of pluralism leadership in Canada and around the world.