Speech at a BANQUET in Canada - 1992-08-19
Mr. Deputy Premier, Your Excellencies, Ministers, Your Honours, Your Worships, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is indeed a pleasure for me to be back in Canada, this great and hospitable country.
Twenty years ago an African dictator - Idi Amin - broke all norms of civilised behaviour when he expelled all the Asians from Uganda, because they were Asian. Citizens or not, Sikhs, Hindus, Shia and Sunni Muslims, and others, all were stripped of their rights and belongings. Amongst them were many Ismailis. Tonight, two decades later, I say, 'Thank you Canada.' Thank you for having welcomed so many Ismailis, helped them to rebuild their lives and institutions and to believe and trust in their future. But let me also say that there is a new President and Government in Uganda, and I pay tribute to them for their efforts to rebuild their country, and to do justice to those who were so victimised by a previous regime.
Yes, this is indeed a crucial time for Canada as you continue your search for the best constitutional solution to your future, but let me emphasize that Canada remains for the rest of the world, an enviable haven. A haven of peace, and of immense natural beauty and wealth. The wealth I speak of, is not merely its natural resources but the peoples of Canada, steeped in your tradition of tolerance, generosity and compassion in alleviating human suffering and respect for diversity of thought and culture.
In the intervening five years since my last visit much has happened in the world. The demise of communism as a political force has seen the crumbling of old political unions and the emergence of nationalist aspirations, often times with tragic consequences.
The major changes on the political front - along with the world-wide recession have had a definite impact on the funding of aid programmes, with the effects being most deeply felt in the poor countries of Africa and Asia.
And yet, in all of this rapid change, there is good reason for optimism. The conflict between the power blocs is gone, hopefully forever. The massive imposition of dogma on human minds may also be gone forever. Henceforth, artificial constraints on human intelligence will be replaced in many lands by new horizons of hope and thought.
In the context of this change, the role of private initiative in national development programs, and in particular that of non-governmental organizations is also being redefined.
This has been recognized not only by Governments but also by major international donor agencies - your own Canadian International Development Agency and the World Bank amongst others. Now, more than ever, is the time for pragmatism and innovation. The Aga Khan Development Network, a group of institutions working to improve living conditions and opportunities in specific regions of the developing world together with its partners, will share in the challenge.
It is in this climate that on Friday last, I signed an important accord in Ottawa for cooperation with the Canadian Government on behalf of the Aga Khan Development network. It is a further - very significant - step in the close and increasingly productive collaboration between the network and Canadian institutions and more particularly the Aga Khan Foundation and CIDA. Indeed this accord follows on similar accords signed with the Governments of the United Kingdom, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
In the past eleven years, the Aga Khan network has enjoyed the cooperation, not only of CIDA, but also of Alberta Aid and institutions of higher learning of this country, such as McGill and McMaster Universities as well as the University of Toronto. These institutions work very closely with the Aga Khan University in the fields of training nurses, primary health care and education. Hopefully, in the future, we can extend this collaboration beyond the social sector - into economic development and culture in which Canadian agencies are expressing increasing interest and in which the networks' institutions are already involved.
The Aga Khan Foundation in Canada, through resources raised by the Ismaili community, as well as from significant funding from other agencies and the corporate sector - currently supports no less than 40 projects in some of the poorest areas of the Developing World, helping local people to work together for productive community action and self-reliance. In our experience, the people of the developing world are both resilient and determined in their efforts to improve their circumstances. It is incumbent upon us to join them in furthering their efforts not only by supporting projects, but equally importantly, by informing and educating potential donors and the wider public about development issues. If in this endeavour, the Ismailis for their part, have been instrumental in playing a positive collaborative role in furthering Canada's international development activities, as Canadians, they can be justly proud.
Canada is this year celebrating the anniversary of its 125th year of confederation. Few confederations can, have contributed so much to so many peoples in just over a century. I have no doubt that many of these peoples - including the Ismailis - will be looking to the next century as a time in which to carry Canadian ideals world-wide, and for no other reason than that they believe in them.
Thank you. Thank you Canada.