Ottawa, 16 May 2017 — Mawlana Hazar Imam and His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada officially opened the new international headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism today.
The heritage building at 330 Sussex Drive that now houses the Centre was built over a century ago. It once held the archives of the Dominion of Canada, and later served as the Canadian War Museum. The building has been beautifully restored to its new purpose as the home of the Global Centre for Pluralism.
In the 150th anniversary year of Canadian confederation, “the past still speaks to us in this place,” noted Mawlana Hazar Imam. The renewed building, he said, connects “a new garden in the forecourt — a tranquil space for contemplating the past and thinking about the future” — with the magnificent and symbolic Ottawa River visible on the other side.
“Throughout the history of Canada, the Ottawa River has been a meeting place for diverse peoples, originally the First Nations, and then the British and the French, and more recently Canadians from many different backgrounds,” recounted Hazar Imam. “It symbolises the spirit of connection. And the spirit of connection, of course, is at the very heart of the Global Centre for Pluralism.”
Governor General David Johnston spoke glowingly of the mission of the Global Centre for Pluralism, and expressed gratitude to Mawlana Hazar Imam for establishing it in Canada’s capital city and “strengthening Canada’s commitment to a leadership of this issue for the world.”
The Governor General of Canada underscored the urgency of pluralism, saying that it is “critical for the long term peace and prosperity of societies worldwide.” Its success, he said, depends on developing a compelling narrative about the value of diversity.
“Pluralism will succeed if we’re able to tell the most convincing story,” said the Governor General. “Here in Canada, when we look around for this pluralism story, and listen for it, we begin to realise that in fact it isn’t a new story that we need, but a very old one that continues to unfold.”
Princess Zahra and Prince Aly Muhammad attended the event, along with a distinguished audience of more than 200. The gathering took place under a marquee erected in the gardens in front of the building. The Government of Canada was represented by the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage. John McNee, Secretary General of the Global Centre for Pluralism and its Board of Directors were also present.
Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Governor General unveiled a plaque commemorating the occasion. Earlier in the day, the two had toured the building and had an opportunity to meet privately.
The Global Centre for Pluralism is a public-private partnership between the Ismaili Imamat and the Government of Canada. The Centre’s work includes conducting research into how countries have changed their approaches to diversity, hosting seminars with global communities of experts and practitioners to deepen understanding of pluralism and its applications, and creating educational tools to help teach the values underpinning pluralism.
The Centre’s Annual Pluralism Lecture, now in its sixth year, features international leaders who have dedicated their lives to advancing respect for diversity, and a newly established, bi-annual Global Pluralism Award celebrates extraordinary examples of pluralism in action.