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  • Prime Minister of Canada The Right Honorable Stephen Harper addresses the audience during the signing ceremony for the Global Centre for Pluralism.
    AKDN / Gary Otte
Signing of the funding agreement for the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you Minister Oda for your kind introduction.

And thank you Rahim for all your work in making this day possible.

Your Highness, honoured guests and colleagues, I extend a warm Canadian welcome on this important occasion.

This day has been a long time coming.

On behalf of Canada’s New Government, it gives me great pleasure to announce Canada’s partnership with His Highness, the Aga Khan, in creating the Global Centre for Pluralism.

In addition to making a substantial financial contribution to the centre’s endowment fund, the government also intends to conclude a lease agreement making the former home of the Canadian War Museum the world headquarters for the centre.

In a way, I suppose, we are beating swords into ploughshares.

This fine national heritage building is on historic Sussex Drive.

Its neighbours include the embassies of several of the world’s most important countries, the Prime Minister’s and Governor General’s residences, our magnificent National Art Gallery, The Royal Canadian Mint, and most appropriately, the soon-to-be-completed delegation of The Ismaili Imamat.

I think I can speak for all the neighbours in welcoming the Global Centre for Pluralism to our neighbourhood.

Just as I can speak for all Canadians in welcoming the centre to our country.

We are honoured that His Highness, leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims, and one of the world's best known philanthropists, has chosen Canada as the home of this global institution.

Honoured, but not surprised.

The Aga Khan once described Canada as “the most successful pluralist society on the face of our globe.”

Canadians wear that label with pride, Your Highness. Pluralism is not merely an ambition or ideal for Canadians.

We actually walk the talk.

Pluralism is the principle that binds our diverse peoples together.

It is essential to our civil society and economic strength.

It evolved out of our foundational values: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Generations of immigrants from all over the world have found peace and prosperity here.

They have found equality of opportunity, appreciation for differences and openness to change.

They have found a country in which where you’re going and what you’ve done matters more than where you’re from or who you know.

A country where people from every conceivable cultural background have bonded together to create one of the most diverse, harmonious and successful societies on earth.

Most of the world's nations are, like Canada, composed of diverse ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious populations.

But too many are ruled by regimes which achieve political hegemony by fostering division and strife among their different communities.

They play favourites, rewarding some groups and ignoring or punishing others.

Their policies fuel domestic instability and conflict. Taken to the extreme, this can lead to civil war or even genocide.

Successful pluralist societies foster the equal participation of all people in political, economic, educational and socio-cultural life.

Pluralism allows individuals to retain their cultural, linguistic and religious heritage within a framework of shared citizenship.

It starts at the grassroots level, with healthy families and healthy neighbourhoods.

Children of different cultural backgrounds strike up friendships on playgrounds and sports fields, and their parents build relationships through community groups and business associations.

Preserving the ethno-cultural traditions that so enrich our society is the right of all individuals in the context of their families, religious congregations and cultural associations, and does not, in and of itself, detract in any way from our shared Canadian citizenship.

Hosting the Global Centre for Pluralism can only complement our efforts to advance the values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and make them the common destiny of all people everywhere.

I believe very strongly that Canada has much to share with other countries in their efforts to achieve and preserve harmony among diverse cultural groups.

This institution will serve the global community as an international centre of excellence for the study, practice and teaching of pluralism.

It will export the successful models of pluralism to other countries.

Canada's decision to support this new institution builds on the productive collaboration that Canada and the Aga Khan Development Network have enjoyed for over two decades.

We are working together on projects around the world, including in Afghanistan, where Canada is funding community-based, integrated rural development in four provinces.

The Global Centre for Pluralism will only deepen and enrich this partnership there and around the world.

And now it is my great honour to offer the podium to one of the world’s great philanthropists, a man who has dedicated his life to the promotion of peace, and who is a beacon of hope and good will toward all humanity. His Highness the Aga Khan.