In an historic joint ceremony in Vancouver, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU) each conferred Mawlana Hazar Imam with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in recognition of his lifelong service to humanity.

The Honourable Premier John Horgan and Honourable Lieutenant-Governor Janet Austin of British Columbia were among the various dignitaries to applaud Mawlana Hazar Imam’s numerous contributions in helping to alleviate poverty, improve health and education, and enhance the quality of life of individuals and communities around the world.

Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin lauded the Ismaili community in Canada. “Led by His Highness,” she remarked, “the Ismaili community in Canada has become an exemplar of success in building inclusive communities. And this has manifest itself in so many ways: In a focus on the elimination of poverty, in an emphasis on education and knowledge, in a deeply held commitment to community service and to volunteerism, and in a belief of the value of pluralism and diversity, and in the conscious development of community partnerships and collaborations such as I have been privileged to enjoy in my previous professional and volunteer work.”

UBC President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Santa Ono, stated in his remarks that the University’s vision is “Inspiring people, ideas and actions for a better world.” He continued, “Who, in that regard, could be a better exemplar than His Highness the Aga Khan?”

“Renowned for the good works of the AKDN, the Aga Khan has demurred when people call him a philanthropist,” Ono noted. “He says, rather, that his mandate requires that he use the office of the Ismaili Imamat, which he inherited, to improve the quality of life for the world’s most vulnerable. He presents his work not as an act of generosity but as the exercise of his responsibility. If we all took the same view in our own lives, it would be a better world.”

Professor Andrew Petter, SFU President and Vice-Chancellor, elaborated on the close partnership between Canada and the Ismaili Imamat, highlighting their shared values, and a common dedication to advancement and progress. “We at SFU have committed ourselves to marshaling university resources to build social capital and promote community betterment, a goal that has been evident in the Aga Khan’s priorities for more than half a century.”

Petter went on to remark: “This is a leader who has much to teach us about truth and reconciliation… in celebrating the alignment of our values, it is clear that His Highness the Aga Khan is richly deserving of the honours we bestow today.”

Acknowledging him as the first-ever recipient of the jointly-conferred awards, both university presidents expressed gratitude to Mawlana Hazar Imam for his exemplary international commitment, and support for programmes at UBC and SFU aimed at improving educational opportunities and advancing the well-being of society globally.

Following the ceremony, during a reception held to celebrate the occasion, President Ono revealed that in discussions a few minutes prior, Mawlana Hazar Imam challenged the SFU and UBC presidents to build on this precedent, and to continue collaborating together and to work with the two universities of AKDN, to serve others and work in areas of common interest.

Earlier in the ceremony, the Ismaili Youth Choir led the audience in singing the National Anthem O Canada. The event also included a performance of Sun on Water by UBC’s School of Music and SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts.

Today’s ceremony marked the culmination of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to Canada which began on 16 October with the inauguration of the Aga Khan Garden, Alberta in the presence of Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Lois Mitchell, and Premier of Alberta Rachel Notley. During the visit, Hazar Imam also spent time in Calgary, where he was conferred a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, from the University of Calgary, in recognition of his exceptional service to humanity.