Toronto, Canada, 14-16 October 2010 - His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, delivered the prestigious 10th Annual LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture, at the invitation of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), which was founded by the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson in 2005 as her legacy project. The ICC is co-chaired by Clarkson and John Ralston Saul.
Speaking on the lessons of Canadian pluralism, His Highness noted: "As societies come to think in pluralistic ways, I believe they can learn another lesson from the Canadian experience, the importance of resisting both assimilation and homogenization -the subordination and dilution of minority cultures on the one hand, or an attempt to create some new, transcendent blend of identities, on the other."
He went on to explain: "What the Canadian experience suggests to me is that identity itself can be pluralistic. Honoring one’s own identity need not mean rejecting others. One can embrace an ethnic or religious heritage, while also sharing a sense of national or regional pride. To cite a timely example, I believe one can live creatively and purposefully as both a devoted Muslim and a committed European."
Describing the challenges of pluralism, His Highness commented: "I believe that the challenge of pluralism is never completely met. Pluralism is a process and not a product. It is a mentality, a way of looking at a diverse and changing world. A pluralistic environment is a kaleidoscope that history shakes every day... As we think about pluralism, we should be open to the fact that there may be a variety of "best practices," a "diversity of diversities," and a "pluralism of pluralisms.""