PRIME Minister Stephen Harper on Friday joined the Aga Khan at the official opening of the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum, situated in the Don Mills area of Toronto, Ontario. He was joined by Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.
While at the Ismaili Centre, Harper toured the complex which incorporates spaces for social and cultural gatherings, intellectual engagement and reflection, as well as spiritual contemplation.
He then visited the Aga Khan Museum, which also held its inaugural ceremony on the same day. The museum’s collection, which includes art and artefacts from the permanent collection of the Aga Khan and members of his family, is dedicated to presenting an overview of the artistic, intellectual and scientific contributions that Muslim civilizations have made to world heritage.
Across Canada, Canadian Ismailis joined together at mosques and gathering places to watch a livestream of the events with their communities.
* The Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the world’s 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims.
* There are more than 100,000 Shia Ismaili Muslims in Canada.
* Since taking on his role as Imam in 1957, the Aga Khan has been deeply engaged in improving the quality of life of the most vulnerable populations, while emphasizing the need to uphold human dignity as well as respect for tolerance and pluralism.
* The first Canadian Ismaili Centre was opened in Burnaby, B.C., in 1985.
* There are currently six Ismaili Centres globally, including the Centre in Toronto. The network of Ismaili Centres reflects and illustrates, through design and function, the Ismaili community’s intellectual and spiritual understanding of Islam, its social conscience and its tolerant attitude.
* The Aga Khan was formally granted honorary citizenship in May 2010 during an official visit to Canada. During that visit, Harper and the Aga Khan took part in the Foundation Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Aga Khan Museum and Park.
* The museum is the first in North America dedicated exclusively to the arts and artefacts of the Islamic world.
* On February 27, 2014, the Aga Khan became the first faith leader to address the Joint Session of Canada’s Parliament.
* The Aga Khan attended the Prime Minister’s Saving Every Woman Every Child Summit, where he made a keynote address.
“It is once more an honour to welcome His Highness the Aga Khan to Canada. Our country has a deep and longstanding partnership with the Imamat, as evidenced by his decision to establish the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. This partnership stems from our shared commitment to pluralism, civil society, human dignity, and peace and understanding,” said Harper.
“I encourage Canadians from coast to coast to coast as well as international visitors to tour these architectural marvels. I am certain that the Centre and Museum will help to promote spirituality and deepen religious and cultural understanding and respect in Canada.”
PREMIER Christy Clark issued the following statement:
“I want to congratulate Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Aga Khan on the opening of the Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Conference Centre in Toronto. This new centre was built with the hard work of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of international organizations and social enterprises overseen by His Highness.
“B.C. has a strong Ismaili community, with the Ismaili Centre in Burnaby being the first such centre to be built in Canada. We want to take this opportunity to celebrate with B.C.’s Ismaili community and to show our support for the role these centres play in promoting friendship and diversity and enhancing relationships among faith communities, governments and civil society.
“I invite His Highness to visit British Columbia on his next trip to Canada to see the many contributions of B.C.’s Ismaili community and to help strengthen relationships between the AKDN, B.C. Ismailis and B.C. organizations that promote diversity, knowledge and inclusiveness.
“On behalf of all British Columbians, I want to join the Ismaili community in offering my congratulations on the opening of the new Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Conference Centre in Ontario and I look forward to a future visit from His Highness to British Columbia.”