Completion of Aga Khan Park creates a new place of connection in Toronto

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne performed the inauguration of the Aga Khan Park, in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam on 25 May 2015 in Toronto.

Toronto, 25 May 2015 — The Aga Khan Park was inaugurated by the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam. During the ceremony they unveiled a ceremonial plaque to mark the occasion.

Encompassing the Ismaili Centre, Toronto and the Aga Khan Museum, the greenspace features a formal chahar-bagh (four part) garden of reflecting pools, soft gravel and serviceberry trees. It draws together the two buildings, creating a new cultural hub in the city.

Despite persistent forecasts of clouds and rain, the ceremony took place under sunny blue skies. Guests were serenaded by musicians playing instruments from various parts of the world, as they gathered under a vast tent erected on the park’s grounds.

Greeting the gathering with a Ya Ali Madad, Premier Wynne said that she was honoured at being invited to open the park. “I have been very much looking forward to this event,” she told the audience.

She had visited the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre earlier this year, she said, and “was just amazed by the space, and what it means for Ontario’s vibrant Ismaili Shia Muslim community.”

“I’m in awe again today at the beauty of this park,” remarked the Premier. “It will benefit all of the communities in the surrounding area, and in the city, and in the province.”

In his remarks, Mawlana Hazar Imam spoke about the purpose of parks and their place in the urban and social fabric. He anchored the Aga Khan Park firmly in the tradition of the Islamic garden, “a central symbol of a spiritual ideal — a place where human creativity and Divine majesty are fused, where the ingenuity of humanity and the beauty of nature are productively connected.”

He described the park as a place of connection — not only with a historic ideal, nor simply as providing a physical connection between the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum. It also connects Toronto with a network of parks built or restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in other parts of world, “from Cairo to Zanzibar, from Delhi to Kabul, from Dushanbe in Tajikistan to Bamako in Mali,” and with future gardens to be built in Burnaby and Edmonton. As places of gathering, Hazar Imam suggested, parks connect people across time, geography and diversity.

“Sadly, there are too many moments when differing identities lead to worlds of fierce belligerence,” noted Mawlana Hazar Imam. “At such moments, it becomes even more important that we reaffirm the human capacity to connect across lines of division.”

The ceremony was attended by Prince Amyn and Prince Hussain along with members of government and Jamati leaders. Other guests included the Park’s landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic, former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson, and Sonja Bata, whose family previously owned part of the land upon which the Park is now situated.

Mawlana Hazar Imam thanked those who contributed to making the Aga Khan Park a reality. Much was learnt in this process, he said, including the capacity of people of different backgrounds to come together in common purpose and accomplish something magnificent.

“I hope this park will contribute to strengthening Toronto’s already vibrant pluralism,” said Hazar Imam, “showcasing to the world Canada’s rich example of pluralism in action.”