Today, over 100,000 Canadian-Ismailis around the country join millions around the world to celebrate His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee.
On July 11, 1957, at the age of 20, Prince Karim Aga Khan succeeded his late grandfather as 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, becoming the spiritual leader of the community’s now 15 million followers across 25 countries around the world.
The Aga Khan’s relationship with Canada is one that dates back to the 1970s, when Ugandan dictator Idi Amin began forcing South Asians out of the country, many of whom were Ismailis. Longtime friends with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the Aga Khan asked Canada to open its doors and become a home for the community, and thousands of East Africans came across as refugees.
Since then, Ismailis have created communities and businesses in Canada, as well as being elected and appointed into various levels of government, including Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Don Valley East MP Yasmin Ratansi, Parkdale-High Park MP Arif Virani, and Senator Mobina Jaffer.
The Aga Khan has also opened two of the world’s six Ismaili Centres in Canada, beginning with Vancouver in 1982 and Toronto in 2014, which are spaces for social and cultural gatherings, like citizenship ceremonies, and prayer. His Aga Khan Development Network charitable arm in Canada, Aga Khan Foundation Canada, sees many events in cities around the country to support projects dedicated to increasing the quality of live in developing countries in Africa and Asia.
Today, the 80-year-old Harvard grad celebrates his 60-year anniversary as spiritual leader, and festivities are expected to last for an entire year, including the launch of new projects as well as new social, cultural, and economic development plans.
“Since becoming Imam in 1957, the Aga Khan has used his role to advance global humanitarian causes, helping to support sustainable development and poverty reduction projects and enhance civil society and education around the world,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said of his “mentor and friend.”
“His spirit of cooperation also led the Aga Khan to establish, in 2006, the Global Centre for Pluralism, in partnership with the Government of Canada, and to choose Ottawa as its headquarters. In recognition of his commitment to diversity and pluralism and his many humanitarian efforts on behalf of people around the world, the Government of Canada made His Highness an honorary Canadian citizen in 2009.”
“On this day, I invite all Canadians to reflect on the Aga Khan’s example as he continues to inspire us to show compassion towards all those less fortunate than ourselves. To all Ismaili Canadians celebrating the Diamond Jubilee, I wish all of you Khushali Mubarak!”