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Speech by
The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney
Prime Minister of Canada

At the Opening of
The Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre Burnaby
Friday, 23 August 1985

Your Highnesses, Mr Premier, Members of the Cabinet, Members of the House of Commons, Ambassadors, Distinguished Guests and Friends,

Your Highness, as you spoke a moment ago, I couldn't help but looking at the crowd, make a small note to myself on the back of the programme, because I thought I got, as you spoke here today, a small glimpse of Canada and what this country is all about. Because surely, Your Highness, only here could you have a French speaking Prime Minister of Irish origin from Quebec opening an Ismaili Centre in British Columbia, designed by an architect of Italian Catholic origin. And I think, Your Highness, that that says it better than perhaps statistics or anything else, what Canada is all about in the sense of tolerance and dignity, and I know that I speak on behalf of everyone here and all Canadians in extending to you, Your Highness, and to your party the warmest welcome here today, and to tell you and your people how proud we are that you have chosen Canada.

I thank you in a special way for inviting me to share this important day with you. I know how much satisfaction you must all be taking in the accomplishment of such an important cultural and religious task. This building, I toured it a little earlier, makes our senses dance to the music of visual art, a great tribute to the architect and an art which tests not just our appreciation of form and light, but of the intellectual and spiritual messages revealed in the marble, sandstone and glass, brought to this beautiful city from so far away.

I have come to pay tribute, on behalf of the people of Canada, to the religion which inspired this building, to its people, and to His Highness the Aga Khan, and to the many other members of the Ismaili community whose generosity has given life to this beautiful religious centre. Our philosophy, our values are reflected in this architecture, a building such as this is a compliment to Vancouver, to our nation and to our civilisation, and today – and I know I speak on behalf of representatives of all political parties whom I see here today, from all walks of life, when I tell the leadership of the community and you, Sir, that today we gather together to celebrate the opening of a building marked by subtlety and grace and we do so with pride and affection.

Those Canadians who are not Ismailis can, I suppose, never completely share your history, however we can and we do share the most important values of your faith. Your religion has found a home in Canada, a land that has been a refuge for all of us over the years because we are all children of immigrants. We have found a refuge from mistrust and hatred and violence for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing countries less fortunate. The tolerance and honesty and generosity which are such an important part of your faith are all essential elements in that unique blend of cultures, languages and religions and histories which we know as Canada. And as Canadians, we must all continue to take what is civilised and ennobling and exciting from every culture that thrives in the rich soil of our freedom, and must forever leave behind that which is ugly or violent.

La tolerance, l'honnêteté et Ia génrosité, ces elements si important de votre foi sont aussi partie intégrante de l'extraordinaire mosaique des cultures, des langues et des religions, des patrimoines qui constitue le Canada. En tant que canadiens, nous devons continuer d'emprunter à toutes les cultures qui s'épanouissent librement chez nous ce qu'elles offrent de civilisé, d'enrichissant et d'enthousiasman et bannir à tout jamais tout ce qui est de violence et de laideur.

The old and changeless values of love and understanding of tolerance and brotherhood, the values which breathe life into every major religion, are welcome in Canada, and the old and sometimes equally changeless passions of hatred and intolerance that we see elsewhere are not. As victims of racial and religious intolerance, Ismailis recognise the need of many new Canadians for a fresh beginning in a free and peaceful land.

You have recognised and responded well to the call that Canada makes on all of her new citizens. Not a call, never a call to give up old cultures, but a call always to bury historic enmities, to preserve our society, a uniquely civilised, I think, and prosperous and peaceful land. All Canadians, new or old, must rejoice in the energy of our differences and turn our backs on old hatreds and old misunderstandings. Our embrace of civilised diversity is our strength and our protection from the savage winds of violence which afflict so many parts of the world. Winds which have indeed buffeted the Ismaili community throughout the world on many occasions, but never, I trust, in Canada.

We derive our strength, our energy and our freedom as Canadians from our diversity, and while you may remain separate from other Canadians in the specifics of your faith, you are joined intimately with us in your love of peace and your appreciation of what a jewel we have in this gentle, civilised and mature country. Like any gem, Canada at times shows a rough edge, occasionally at election time, Your Excellency, but its beauty and value are evidence when we hold our country up to the light of human experience.

Ismailis are a very important and positive part of that human experience. Nine hundred years ago, long before Canada began its magnificent process of nation building, your community was building universities and seats of culture in places far away from here. Today, in Canada and throughout the world, through the industry of individual Ismailis and the assistance of the Aga Khan Foundation for which we salute you, you are building religious centres, hospitals and schools and sharing your energy and your industry and your vision with all of us. Your religious centre stands today as a proud and a noble symbol of your commitment to the beauty and eternal values of all human religion, based on love and respect and hope, and of Canada's commitment to the effervescent variety of life.

Thank you, Your Highness, for permitting me and for permitting all Canadians to share this important moment with you. We wish you well. On behalf of the people of Canada, we wish you peace and we wish you God speed.