I recently heard the Aga Khan on CBC radio talking about the values Canadians have with regard to diversity and how that is something that we can export to the world. As he is quoted as saying: “The challenge of diversity is now a global challenge – and how we address it will have global consequences… We must go beyond the simple word “democracy” if we are to build a framework for effective pluralism.”
The Aga Kahn is also behind the Global Centre for Pluralism in the old War Museum in Ottawa. I had never heard of the Global Centre for Pluralism, even though it was originally founded in 2007. It seems an important concept and place to know about. How’s this for a mission: “Advancing respect for diversity as a new global ethic and foundation for inclusive citizenship is the mission of the Global Centre for Pluralism.”
The Aga Khan has had close ties with Canada going back four decades, when thousands of Asian refugees from Uganda, including many Ismailis, were welcomed to Canada. The idea for the Global Centre in Ottawa dates back to the 1990s when the Aga Khan began asking Canadian leaders to explain the success of Canada’s approach to diversity. The launching of the Centre came from the Aga Khan’s sense that there was yet no institution dedicated to the question of diversity in our world, and that Canada’s national experience made it a natural home for this venture.
In 2007, the Centre opened, using a $40 million endowment jointly created by the Government of Canada and His Highness the Aga Khan.
The Centre today is a clearinghouse and magnet for the ideas of inclusion, diversity and pluralism. For example, on the Global Centre for Pluralism’s Facebook page – they pointed out a recent article by out-going Governor-General, David Johnston. In the article, Johnston reflects on his time in office, and what he learned including this quote pulled from the article: “I believe Canada’s opportunity lies in its ability to show the world how pluralism is a viable path to lasting peace and prosperity.”
These values are what attracted me to be part of the first Host Refugee program in Alberta in the early 1990s. These are the same values that underpin the work I do as a mediator (along with kindness). Diversity, individuality, pluralism – are a key part of what we can share with the world. That and our well-known propensity to “politeness.” Kindness and pluralism.
A new story to promote!
Let’s sell that, Canada!