Justin Trudeau spent vacation on Aga Khan's island in Bahamas
Aga Khan Foundation receives federal money to support social development, education and charity projects
CBC News Posted: Jan 06, 2017 2:05 PM ET Last Updated: Jan 06, 2017 4:17 PM ET
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the Aga Khan on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 17, 2016.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the Aga Khan on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 17, 2016. (Sean Kilpatricl/Canadian Press)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent part of his holiday vacation on the private island of the Aga Khan in the Bahamas, the Prime Minister's Office confirmed.
The PMO said Trudeau, his family and a few friends were invited to join the Aga Khan on Bell Island for the holidays.
"As you are aware, his Highness and the Prime Minister have been close family friends for many years," the statement said.
The PMO said Trudeau will repay the cost of flights to and from Nassau for himself and his family. The statement said no family friends flew on the government plane.
Trudeau marked the Aga Khan's birthday with an official statement on Dec. 13, 2016.
"Canada has come to share a close relationship with the Aga Khan and bestowed honorary citizenship on him in 2009," the statement said.
"I am proud to call His Highness both a mentor and friend. He has shown time and time again that no matter our faith, where we were born, what colour is our skin, or what language we speak, we are equal members of this world."
The Aga Khan's private island Bell Island
The Aga Khan's privately owned Bell Island is located in the Bahamas. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family were invited there over the holidays. (Google Maps)
Prince Karim Aga Khan IV is the hereditary spiritual leader of the world's 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims and a multimillionaire philanthropist.
He is head of the Aga Khan Development Network, which receives some of its funding from the Canadian government, to support social development, education and charity projects.
Registered to lobby
The Global Affairs Canada website lists 16 partnerships with the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada since 2004.
The most recent one is a five-year, $55-million project to improve health services in Afghanistan that was announced in December 2015 under the Trudeau government.
The foundation is registered to lobby the federal government, including the prime minister.
Canada's connections with the Aga Khan and his institutions go back 30 years.
In 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed a protocol of understanding acknowledging decades of work with the Aga Khan Development Network. The Aga Khan made a historic address to Parliament to mark the occasion.
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his family and a few friends spent the New Year as the guest of the Aga Khan on the religious leader’s private island in the Bahamas, the National Post has learned.
The Aga Khan, who is the spiritual guide of the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims, has been a friend of the Trudeau family for years, beginning with Pierre Trudeau.
“Canada has come to share a close relationship with the Aga Khan and bestowed honorary citizenship on him in 2009,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement issued Dec. 13 on the occasion of the Aga Khan’s 80th birthday. “I am proud to call His Highness both a mentor and friend. He has shown time and time again that no matter our faith, where we were born, what colour is our skin, or what language we speak, we are equal members of this world.
The Aga Khan also has long ties to Canada, including having the distinction of being the only faith leader to ever speak to a joint session of the House of Commons and Senate. He did that in 2014 at the invitation of former prime minister Stephen Harper.
The Aga Khan is also the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the world’s largest development networks.
That development network has been a significant recipient of Canadian foreign aid, receiving $310 million for 16 projects since 2004. Most recently, the Trudeau government granted the Aga Khan Development Network $55 million over five years to improve maternal and child health in Afghanistan.
Chris Selley: It’s 2017. Do you know where your prime minister is?
As the federal government launched Canada’s 150th birthday, PM Trudeau vacationed in The Bahamas
The Swiss-born Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, Aga Khan IV, as he is formally known, is also one of the world’s wealthiest royals, estimated to have a net worth in excess of $1 billion, wealth that was partly inherited and partly earned as a British business magnate and racehorse owner and breeder.
He is said to have dedicated his wealth and the influence of his position to the elimination of global poverty, to the promotion of the status of women, and to the celebration of Islamic art and architecture.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, at the opening of the Ismaili Centre Toronto and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto on Friday, September 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, at the opening of the Ismaili Centre Toronto and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto on Friday, September 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim
The Aga Khan purchased the 349-acre Bell Island in the Bahamas in 2009 for as much as $100-million. Bell Island is part of a 365-island archipelago known as the Exumas and was once described by The Hollywood Reporter as the “veritable Hamptons of The Bahamas” where, “everyone from Johnny Depp to Bernard Arnault, CEO of luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessey, is an owner there.”
The Aga Khan moors a 150-foot super yacht there and uses his private helicopter to get on and off the island.
While Trudeau’s office confirmed the trip to the Aga Khan’s private island, his staff did not provide any other information about his activities on the island or the identity of the friends that accompanied him there.
Kate Purchase, Trudeau’s director of communication, said the prime minister will be reimbursing the federal treasury for the costs of his and and his family’s airfare to and from Nassau, the Bahamian capital. The prime minister and his family — but not his friends — flew on a Royal Canadian Air Force C-144 Challenger on Boxing Day and returned to Ottawa this week.
He remained on holiday this week at Harrington Lake, the prime minister’s official residence in the Gatineau hills north of Ottawa.
Published Friday, January 6, 2017 12:56PM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 6, 2017 3:10PM EST
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family spent their Bahamas vacation on a private island belonging to the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, Trudeau's office confirmed Friday.
A spokesman for the prime minister said in a statement that Trudeau, his family and a few friends were invited to join the Aga Khan on Bell Island for the holidays.
"As you are aware, his Highness and the Prime Minister have been close family friends for many years. As is the usual course, the Prime Minister will be reimbursing the costs of his (and his family’s) flights to and from Nassau. No friends were on the Challenger," Cameron Ahmad wrote in an email.
The Aga Khan was an honorary pallbearer at the funeral of Trudeau’s father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
The Aga Khan is the hereditary leader to the world's 12 to 15 million Ismaili Muslim population, with a profile among his followers similar to that of a pope among Catholics.
He's also one of the world's wealthiest royals, according to a 2010 Forbes magazine list.
The Aga Khan founded one of the world's biggest international development organizations, the Aga Khan Development Network. The organization works in 30 countries around the world. The federal government provides tens of millions of dollars in funding to the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada every year.
◾ PMO tried to keep Trudeau's vacation details secret
◾ $64,000 spent on RCMP accommodations for PM's 2015 Caribbean vacation
In 2015, Global Affairs Canada provided more than $46 million in funding for projects in countries including Afghanistan, Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan and Tanzania. The projects cover maternal, newborn and child health funding, as well as strengthening basic education.
Khalil Shariff, executive director of the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada, is registered to lobby a variety of federal departments, including Global Affairs Canada and the Prime Minister's Office. Publicly available records show he's met with top officials at Global Affairs six times in the last year, including International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and her chief of staff. His last recorded communication was last month, with Bibeau's chief of staff.
Shariff hasn't met with anyone from Trudeau's Prime Minister's Office, though the communication reports log one interaction with a Privy Council official, the deputy secretary to cabinet, nearly a year ago. The Privy Council is the arm of the civil service that supports the work of the PMO.
A spokeswoman for Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson said, in an email to CTV News, that the office knew nothing about Trudeau's vacation arrangements and wouldn't comment on them anyway due to "confidentiality considerations." Dawson is the watchdog for questions of conflict-of-interest gifts and sponsored travel.
"More information would be required in order to determine whether a trip taken by any public office holder or member would be subject to the gift rules ... or whether it would be considered sponsored travel," Jocelyne Brisebois wrote in an email to CTV News.
"If we had information that raised concerns in this regard, we would contact the public office holder or member in question. Commissioner Dawson has not received any complaints about this matter."
Postmedia first reported the vacation location.
In a December statement marking the Aga Khan's 80th birthday, Trudeau called him a friend and noted Canada gave him honorary citizenship in 2009.
We should not lose sight of some basic facts about the Aga Khan and the Ismaili community worldwide and in Canada. An inspiring source for pluralism, the oppression of the Ismaili community in east Africa led to a far sighted decision by Pierre Trudeau to admit tens of thousands of Ismaili refugees. The community in Canada has become an inspirational source of generosity and leadership to the whole country. The Harper government made the right decision in making the Aga Khan an honorary citizen of Canada. The Aga Khan Foundation, and the Centre for Pluralism based in Ottawa, do outstanding work in the field of humanitarian assistance, development work, and governance expertise. All Canadians should be proud of this partnership. Long may it continue.
[b]Who is the Aga Khan? A religious leader and jet-setter whose friends know him as ‘K’[/b]
The Aga Khan is a religious leader and philanthropist with a talent for charming audiences, a skill he demonstrated during his historic address to the House of Commons in February 2014. Three minutes into a 45-minute speech, where he switched easily between French and English, the billionaire descendant of the prophet Muhammad nodded in the direction of then Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, congratulating him — and all Canadians — “on the Olympic gold medals of your remarkable hockey teams in Sochi.“
He then added that, as an ex-player, “I was hoping you might require your honorary citizens to join your team. I am convinced that the Dalai Lama and I would have formed a formidable defence.”
The House of Commons erupted in laughter. It is a jocular tone that has been absent in recent days in connection with the Aga Khan and current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, after the National Post revealed that Trudeau spent his New Year’s holiday as a guest at the Aga Khan’s 349-acre private island in the Bahamas.
Trudeau arrived, with his wife and kids and a nanny in tow, on the Aga Khan’s private helicopter, in an apparent violation of the federal Conflict of Interest Act. The prime minister, now on a cross-Canada goodwill tour, has said that he believes that no great ethical wrong has been done, while pointing out that the Aga Khan is an old family friend who has known him since he was a “toddler.”
The spiritual head of the Ismaili Muslim diaspora, scattered over 20-some countries and numbering around 15-million worldwide, was a pallbearer, along with Fidel Castro and Jimmy Carter, at Pierre Trudeau’s funeral in 2000. It is unclear, however, when the friendship between the families was initially struck, or if it predated Trudeau senior’s election in 1968. But in 1972, when the Ismailis of Uganda needed safe haven, and the Aga Khan asked the world to help, Canada stepped into the breach.
Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator, declared that anyone of Asian descent had 90 days to leave the country. Trudeau reacted by sending a cable that Canadian diplomat Roger Saint-Vincent would later describe as a “mission impossible.” Standard immigration protocols were to be abandoned and a swell of refugees, about 6,000 in the end, were to be processed and put onto Air Canada charter flights bound for Canada in advance of Amin’s deadline.
“We as a country of Canadians are prepared to offer an honourable place to those Ugandan Asians who come to Canada,” Trudeau said.
A photo taken in Ottawa a few years later shows Trudeau, with his face pinched into a smile, staring straight at the camera while the Aga Khan and his then wife (he is twice divorced), the former British model Sarah Croker-Poole, look on, clearly amused.
In the years since, the Aga Khan — whose stated mission is to eliminate global poverty, and whose affection for Canada is partly rooted in it being a well-functioning pluralistic society without any obvious rifts among its myriad cultures — has partnered with the Canadian government in numerous initiatives. The Aga Khan Foundation, the Aga Khan’s Canadian charity, has received about $300-million from the government since 2004. Money earmarked for maternal health initiatives in Tanzania, food security programs in Mozambique, access to education in Bihar and more.
For all his good deeds, the Aga Khan retains the gilded-image of the global jet-setter. He is spiritual, and secular, a pope of sorts, but not at all pope-like. He is a British citizen. His close friends know him as “K” — his given name is Karim. He doesn’t drink. He owns a stable of racehorses, homes on several continents and a degree from Harvard. His wealth derives, in part, from his business acumen — he built a media empire in East Africa in the 1960s and developed a large swatch of the Sardinian coastline, transforming it into a playground for the rich and famous — but also from his followers, who pay tithes.
Much of the money has been used to make the world a better place. But some of it has been spent on good times and fast cars. When he was younger, the Aga Khan would make his chauffeur sit in the passenger seat of his sports cars, so that he could be at the wheel as he sped along the winding mountain roads of the Swiss Alps. And he did play hockey, at Le Rosey, the elite Swiss boarding school he attended. He even competed in downhill skiing at the 1964 Winter Olympics.
Now he is 80, with poor eyesight and silver-rimmed spectacles that perch on his nose when he peers down at his notes during speeches, similar to the one he gave to the House of Commons.
The Aga Khan of 2017 looks like a kindly grandpa, with a big heart and a huge fortune — or just the kind of man who might offer the use of his private helicopter to an old family friend.
Globe editorial: Why was the PM’s vacation a secret?
None of the following is news to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or his advisers.
While the public is only now learning the details of his Caribbean vacation, these details, and the red flags they raised, would have been well known to the PMO weeks ago – long before the boss packed his bags.
His advisers would have known that some of the Trudeau family's holiday plans were ethically questionable and legally problematic, as they involved accepting luxurious travel benefits from the Aga Khan, a family friend of Mr. Trudeau's who also happens to head a charitable organization registered to lobby the federal government, and which has received hundreds of millions of dollars in funding from it.
And yet instead of responding to these obvious red flags by modifying Mr. Trudeau's itinerary, Team Trudeau decided the best approach would be to go ahead with this troubling trip – but try to keep it a secret.
Mr. Trudeau, the Instagram Prime Minister who never misses an opportunity for a selfie and is often accompanied by his own photographer, spent his vacation making no mention of what he was up to on his social-media handles. Neither did his travel companions, Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan, Liberal Party president Anna Gainey, and their respective spouses.
Normally, a Canadian politician who is lucky enough to meet the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the world's Ismaili Muslim community, does not miss an opportunity to have themselves photographed with him. But in this case, they mysteriously tweeted not a peep about their vacation on his private Bahamian island, or their travel there aboard his helicopter.
In fact, for several days, his spokespeople flat out refused to say where Canada's PM was, who he was with, or how he got there.
There is nothing wrong with a politician, even the leader of a government, occasionally taking a holiday. Nobody should begrudge the PM a vacation. There's also nothing wrong with taking that vacation in a sunny place outside of Canada; nobody said that Canadian public officials have a civic duty to spend their winter holidays north of the 49th parallel.
And there's nothing wrong with a politician using his vacation to visit a "friend" – the argument that has been the centrepiece of Mr. Trudeau's defence of his trip. Nor is the Prime Minister obliged to limit his travel options to those that would be affordable to the average middle-class Canadian.
But the PM, who is well paid for his work, and has many of his personal needs picked up by the taxpayer, does have to limit his travel options to those affordable by him.
The same goes for all public officials. It's about preventing our legislators from being bought, or looking as if they are for sale. And even if they aren't influenced, they have to avoid giving the appearance of a conflict of interest – and that includes not accepting otherwise unaffordable accommodations on a private island, with transportation thrown in, to boot.
That's where the red flags on Mr. Trudeau's trip go up – and surely went up in the office of the PMO, weeks ago.
Over the Christmas break, the PM did not go just on a vacation with a friend. He appears to have accepted a vacation partly provided to him by that friend; an extremely wealthy friend who heads a charitable organization that, however good its work, is nevertheless a lobbyist of the federal government and a seeker of taxpayer funds and favour.
As part of the vacation, the PM on Thursday admitted that he arrived at the Aga Khan's island by means of his host's private helicopter. The federal Conflict of Interest Act is very clear about how something like this is to be handled:
"No minister of the Crown, minister of state or parliamentary secretary, no member of his or her family and no ministerial adviser or ministerial staff shall accept travel on non-commercial chartered or private aircraft for any purpose unless required in his or her capacity as a public office holder or in exceptional circumstances or with the prior approval of the (Conflict of Interest and Ethics) Commissioner."
It does not appear that Team Trudeau sought such prior approval; it is not clear why, if sought, it would have been given.
In a few days, Donald Trump will be sworn in as U.S. president. The billionaire owner of global businesses he refuses to divest, he embodies the potential for conflict of interest – between public duty and private benefit – to an unprecedented degree. Mr. Trudeau's holiday malfeasance is, relatively speaking, minor league.
But the fact that the PM's advisers wanted to keep his trip secret strongly suggests that they knew how bad it would look. The first to know where Mr. Trudeau was going were also the first to know that something about it was not quite right.
Ethics Commissioner probing Trudeau trip to Aga Khan’s private island
The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is investigating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family holidays at the home of the Aga Khan, the billionaire Ismaili Muslim leader who owns a private island in the Bahamas.
The revelation is increasing the pressure on Mr. Trudeau to provide a full account of the trip and his plans to deal with any potential conflict of interest, but he refused to provide more details on Monday during his cross-country tour.
Justin Trudeau’s Family Vacation on Aga Khan’s Island Leads to Ethics Inquiry
OTTAWA — Canada’s federal conflict-of-interest and ethics office confirmed on Monday that it is investigating the propriety of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family’s spending part of the Christmas holidays as guests of the Aga Khan, the billionaire philanthropist and spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, on a private island in the Bahamas.
Jocelyne Brisebois, a spokeswoman for the ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, said in an email that an inquiry is being conducted under Canada’s conflict-of-interest act but offered no details about its scope or timing.
The PM Visiting The Aga Khan Is Much Trudeau About Nothing
I have this photo in my apartment. It is of a man who's recently been involved in some scandal with our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. This man is known as the Aga Khan, Imam i.e. religious leader to approximately 15 million Ismaili, Muslims worldwide. Aside from being a religious leader, he's also a well respected philanthropist and businessman.
Recently, Justin Trudeau and his family took-up an offer from the Aga Khan to join him on his private island in the Bahamas. They were able to escape the cold, but clearly not the controversy.
As part of their vacation, they took the Aga Khan's private helicopter from Nassau to get to and from the Island. Newfoundland PM Seamus O'Regan and Liberal Party President Anna Gainey also joined the Trudeaus.
This whole thing has rubbed many people in Parliament, and across the country the wrong way. People have grabbed their metaphorical pitchforks and the ethics commission is now investigating.
The Aga Khan and Canada: a decades-long, multi-partisan friendship
‘It is unfortunate that many Canadians who are not familiar with the Aga Khan may hear his name for the first time in the context of this scandal with the prime minister,’ says Tory MP Garnett Genuis.
By CHELSEA NASH
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017 12:00 AM
With the recent hubbub about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Christmas vacations to the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas, the spiritual leader for the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims has been a topic of discussion in Canada.
While he is not usually at the forefront of political scandal, ties between the Aga Khan and the Canadian government go back decades.
Conservative MP Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.) said “it is unfortunate that many Canadians who are not familiar with the Aga Khan may hear his name for the first time in the context of this scandal with the prime minister.”
The spiritual leader has often praised Canada as a leader in pluralism, multiculturalism, and a beacon for the rest of the world to follow.
He is personal friends with the current prime minister, as well as with former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, and her husband, John Ralston Saul. Over the course of eight years, Global Affairs Canada spent just under $200,000 on six of the Aga Khan’s visits to Canada.
In 2010, he became one of only a handful of people in the world to ever receive honorary Canadian citizenship, and he has had a consistently close relationship with the prime minister of Canada, regardless of their political stripe. He was also made an honorary companion of the Order of Canada in 2005 under the Paul Martin government.
According to the National Post, the Aga Khan Development Network, a non-denominational group of institutions of which the Aga Khan is the founder that helps poor people mainly in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, has received nearly $310-million from the Canadian government since 2004 for 16 foreign aid projects.
In 2016 alone, through its Canadian branch, Aga Khan Foundation Canada, the AKDN lobbied the federal government 15 times, according to the lobbying registry.
The Aga Khan has “always felt that Canada is a special place,” said Liberal Senator Mobina Jaffer. Ms. Jaffer herself is an Ismaili. She came to Canada in 1975 as a refugee from Uganda. In 1972, the Ugandan leader at the time expelled the country’s 80,000 South Asians, giving them 90 days to leave.
Many of the Ismailis fleeing Uganda found refuge in Canada, in large part thanks to a long-time friendship between the Aga Khan and then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
The Aga Khan and the elder Trudeau developed a friendship long before Mr. Trudeau’s political ambitions would be realized. The pair met while attending Harvard University, and developed a lifelong bond. The Aga Khan was an honorary pallbearer at Mr. Trudeau’s funeral.
When Ismailis in Uganda were fleeing for their lives, Mr. Trudeau answered the request of his friend the Aga Khan to provide refuge for Ismailis in Canada. Today, the population of Ismaili Muslims in Canada is estimated to be 100,000—the largest settlement of Ismailis in any Western country.
That friendship came to include the men’s respective families. Current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) grew up in close contact with the Aga Khan, and his children, having first gone on a family trip with the Aga Khan when he was 12 to Greece. Today, Mr. Trudeau calls the Aga Khan “Uncle K.”
Carleton University professor Karim Karim, who is an Ismaili migrant from Kenya and has previously served as the director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, England, was at the airport to greet the Aga Khan upon one of his visits to Canada during Mr. Harper’s tenure.
Prof. Karim explained the Aga Khan was received by former ministers John Baird and Jason Kenney, as well as Mr. Trudeau, who was an MP at the time.
When Mr. Trudeau greeted the Aga Khan with a hug, and the nickname “Uncle K,” “you could see the envy on the faces of the Conservative ministers,” Prof. Karim said, laughing.
While the Aga Khan’s political ties and friendships are extensive, Ismailis in Canada have achieved their own individual levels of influence.
Prof. Karim said Ismailis do seem to have an “affinity” with Canada, noting that a lot of people who had previously settled in places such as Britain relocated again to Canada.
“What’s happened is people who have done well in their own fields, they go on to serve in various international networks, including the Aga Khan Development Network,” Prof. Karim said. The Aga Khan himself has admitted to joking that Canadians are “colonizing” the AKDN, as more and more Ismaili leaders around the world are Canadian. Arif Lalani, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan, for instance, is now head of the Diplomatic Department for the Aga Khan.
“They’ve been drawn to Canada, they’ve done well here, and then they’ve been selected because of their hard work,” Prof. Karim said.
The Aga Khan is one of the wealthiest royals in the world, with a net worth of $800-million. He inherited his fortune from his grandfather and predecessor, but also runs businesses, including horse breeding. Members of the religion also give back to the institution in order to fund mosques, schools, and hospitals around the world.
Ismaili Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi (Don Valley East, Ont.) said Ismailis aren’t that different from other communities who’ve come to Canada. “The first generation works very hard to get their children educated.”
That said, it is part of the Aga Khan’s leadership to promote community participation, she said.
“The bottom line is, we are a well-integrated community, we believe in giving back,” Ms. Ratansi said.
“Basically, they seem to have earned it on their own merit,” Prof. Karim said. While there are several Ismailis involved in Canadian politics, including Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Prof. Karim pointed out “there’s not a single minister who’s an Ismaili, so far.” He said compared to the Sikh community, “[Sikhs have] done much better.”
Stephen Harper and the Aga Khan
Ms. Ratansi dismissed the fact that the Aga Khan had such close ties with very different political leaders in Canada as insignificant.
“There is multi-party support because of the work he does. He is non-partisan. He works with all governments,” she said. “When the leaders of the West look to Muslim leadership, they would go to the Aga Khan, because he is apolitical.”
In other sects of Islam, Ms. Ratansi said the spiritual leader and the political leader are often one in the same. But the Aga Khan, being a spiritual leader for all Ismaili Muslims regardless of geography or politics, is able to advocate for all Muslims to governments like Canada’s—regardless of the government of the day.
The Aga Khan and Mr. Harper quickly found common ground of their own, forging a relationship that would see ties between the Ismaili community and Canada continue to deepen.
In 2008, when the Aga Khan visited Ottawa for the opening of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, a sort of unofficial diplomatic delegation to Canada, Mr. Harper attended the ceremony with him. In his speech to a crowd of Canadian Ismailis, Mr. Harper said he felt he had known the Aga Khan for much longer than the three years since they had met. He explained that as a student at the University of Calgary, his Ismaili roommate had a photo of the Aga Khan on the wall.
Mr. Harper also helped the Aga Khan establish the Global Centre for Pluralism, which will eventually be housed in the old war museum on Sussex Drive in Ottawa, once its refurbishment is complete. The National Capital Commission owns the building, but leased it to the centre for one dollar for 99 years, with the caveat that the centre would be responsible for the cost of renovating the old museum.
The Aga Khan pledged at least $20-million to renovate the former war museum building. This was in addition to the $10-million the Aga Khan Development Network committed towards an endowment fund to keep the centre running day to day, and $30-million that the Canadian government pledged for the fund.
In 2010, Mr. Harper bestowed honorary Canadian citizenship upon the imam. In 2014, the Aga Khan became the only spiritual leader to address a joint session of Canadian Parliament. The Canadian government also signed a protocol with the Aga Khan that year to allow for the reciprocal appointment of ambassador-like representatives. The Aga Khan appointed Mahmoud Eboo to be his resident representative to Canada, while Canada appointed the former premier of British Columbia, then-Canadian high commissioner to the U.K., Gordon Campbell.
The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto opened in 2014 to display art and artifacts from all sects of Islam.
Mr. Genuis, who is an outspoken advocate for freedom of religion, said the Aga Khan is “obviously a national partner for us,” and that “shared values” was the main reason why.
“Certainly in the last government, what we were trying to do with the office of religious freedom, was [promote] minority rights, peaceful co-existence,” he said. The Aga Khan was consulted by the Harper government when it established the office of religious freedoms. The Liberal government has since closed the office, but replaced it with an office of human rights.
Mr. Genuis said he thinks the Aga Khan “helps people to understand that groups like Daesh don’t represent Islam.”
Prof. Karim said during Mr. Harper’s time, he saw many “Tory ideologues” in the media “mis-describe” the Aga Khan’s work as “working with the Canadian government to prevent terrorism,” in the context of promoting moderate and modern Islam.
“I don’t think the Aga Khan’s work is directly to counter terrorism,” he said.
Prof. Karim said that during Mr. Harper’s tenure, Muslims of different sects wondered why the Conservative prime minister was so friendly with Ismaili Muslims, but also perpetuated Islamophobic sentiment through initiatives such as the “barbaric cultural practices hotline,” which was announced during the last election.
“There were groups of Muslims that [Mr. Harper] certainly was not friends with, and [were] seen as not moderates. There were certain groups, like the Ismailis, who he did work with, which of course upset a lot of other Muslims,” Prof. Karim said.
But, Prof. Karim, Ms. Ratansi, and Ms. Jaffer all said that using the term “moderate” to describe any form of faith was subjective and likely inaccurate.
“That term is often misused to mean other things that aren’t true,” Prof. Karim said.
Modern and moderate mean very different things to Canadian natives than they might mean to Ismailis around the world, said Ms. Ratansi.
PM's Aga Khan vacation won't influence funding, minister says
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's vacation with the Aga Khan won't have any impact on future funding decisions for his Canadian charity, International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says.
In an interview with CTVNews.ca, Bibeau countered concerns about the vacation, pointing out the previous government recognized the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada as a strategic partner, providing it tens of millions of dollars a year for its international development work and humanitarian aid programs around the world.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper also awarded honorary citizenship to the Aga Khan, the hereditary spiritual leader for the world's 15 million Ismaili Muslims.
"I think we all recognize the good work that this organization is doing in very fragile countries. The fact that the [current] prime minister knows the Aga Khan since he was a kid shouldn't impact the fact that Aga Khan Foundation is a strategic partner for international development," Bibeau said.
In 2015, the foundation received more than $46 million in Canadian funding, according to an audit posted online. Its executive director is a registered lobbyist who has met with Bibeau and her chief of staff, according to publicly available records.
◾ 'The fun is over': Ambrose sharpens attacks on PM
◾ A few facts to know about the Aga Khan: philanthropist and spiritual leader
◾ Ethics watchdog to investigate PM's use of Aga Khan's private helicopter
◾ Trudeau spent vacation on Aga Khan's private island
The Prime Minister's Office confirmed last month that Trudeau, his family and a few friends vacationed on the Aga Khan's private island at the end of December. They also flew in his private helicopter.
The Aga Khan was an honorary pallbearer at the funeral of Trudeau's father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
Bibeau says Global Affairs Canada has strong mechanisms in place to choose its partners based on their track record, ability and experience.
"This has nothing to do with relations," Bibeau said.
"I've never talked about [the] Aga Khan [foundation] with the prime minister, and the prime minister is not getting involved in the choice of the partners we're working with. I don't feel any, absolutely any, pressure from his part. I honestly believe that it was a family holiday."
Who is the man behind Trudeau’s controversial Christmas vacation?
The Aga Khan enjoys a solid reputation in the world of international development. If Trudeau acted improperly, observers say that’s on him, not the Aga Khan.
Two weeks ago, during an overseas trip, former prime minister Stephen Harper tweeted to his 1.11 million followers. “Just visited the magnificent #Ismaili Centre Dubai,” he wrote. “Reminds me of what a tremendous force for global peace and pluralism the Aga Khan is.”
Yes, that Aga Khan: the same billionaire philanthropist and Ismaili Muslim leader who welcomed Justin Trudeau to his private Bahamian island over the Christmas break, and whose generosity (including the use of his personal helicopter) is now the focus of an investigation by Mary Dawson, the federal ethics commissioner.
Harper’s out-of-the-blue tweet raised some eyebrows, to say the least. Day after day, his former Conservative colleagues had been pounding his successor, screaming that a prime minister has no business accepting a free vacation from an ultra-wealthy man whose Canadian charity (a registered lobbyist, no less) receives tens of millions of dollars in federal funding every year. Yet there was Harper—who does nothing by accident, and who knew full well the political fireworks back home—reminding Canadians that the Aga Khan is one “tremendous” guy.
Truth be told, he’s right. Although many Canadians hadn’t even heard of the Aga Khan until last month, it’s worth remembering that his Ottawa-based charity has been one of the government’s most trusted foreign aid partners for more than three decades, delivering education and health care to impoverished corners of the globe, especially war-torn Afghanistan. His connections to Canada have only deepened over the years—the Aga Khan built his de facto embassy on Sussex Drive, in the heart of the capital, in 2008—and he is no stranger to prime ministers, both Liberal and Conservative. Trudeau is certainly not the first to call him a friend.
The spiritual leader of the world’s 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims, the Aga Khan’s followers believe he is the 49th direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. In the West, however, it is his family’s vast fortune—and the charmed lifestyle it affords—that garners headlines. When his grandfather celebrated his diamond jubilee in 1946, his followers famously donated his weight in diamonds and other precious jewels. The Aga Khan’s father, who perished in a fiery car crash in Paris, is best remembered for his brief but rocky marriage to Hollywood superstar Rita Hayworth.
The current Aga Khan is no less a target of the tabloids (twice divorced himself, he inherited his dad’s love of race horses), but he is much more than a billionaire who owns a luxurious private island. A lifelong promoter of peace and pluralism, he is the driving force behind the widely respected Aga Khan Development Network, which works to find sustainable solutions to global poverty. Its Canadian affiliate, Aga Khan Foundation Canada, was launched in 1980.
“There is a deep and broad relationship between the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and the government of Canada,” says David Moloney, a former executive vice-president of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and now an adjunct research professor at Western University’s Ivey Business School. “This is not a relationship that has just popped up with this government.”
Indeed. When the Aga Khan opened Canada’s first Ismaili Centre in Burnaby, B.C. in 1985, Brian Mulroney was among the distinguished guests. Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin both welcomed the spiritual leader to Ottawa when they occupied the Langevin Block, each time reaffirming the government’s fruitful partnership with his foundation. Harper not only granted the Aga Khan honourary citizenship, but invited him to address Parliament, a rarity for a non-head of state.
Since 2004, the feds have forked over more than $300 million to the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, including $55 million for women’s health initiatives in Afghanistan, $16 million for youth employment in Pakistan and $8 million for early-childhood development in Bangladesh.
“They do good work,” says Ian Smillie, a foreign aid and development expert who has evaluated Aga Khan projects in numerous countries. “They get funded not because of friendships with politicians, or because of the Aga Khan’s connections to the government. They get funded on the basis of the quality of their project proposals and evaluations.”
True as that may be, Trudeau’s vacation revelations have many Canadians wondering otherwise. The prime minister and his family not only accepted a free trip from the charity’s namesake, but hopped on his private chopper to get there—an apparent violation of both the Conflict of Interest Act and the very rules the Prime Minister issued to his new Liberal cabinet after winning the 2015 election. Fair or not, the lingering perception is that the Aga Khan wanted something in return—and perception, as everyone in politics knows, is reality.
“The trip was just a bad judgment call,” says Greg Thomsen, the director of research at Charity Intelligence Canada, an organization that analyzes how charities spend their donations. “I’m certainly not saying that funding was the reason Trudeau was invited down there, and it likely wasn’t. But the optics of it are horrible because the government is giving them so much money.”
The ethics commissioner will ultimately separate the smoke from the fire. Should Trudeau have cleared his trip with Dawson in advance? Undoubtedly. Were his advisors naïve to believe they could keep his travel plans hidden from reporters? Absolutely. Does the public actually care? Hard to say. A recent poll conducted by Toronto-based Forum Research found a near-even split: 42 per cent thought the trip was inappropriate, while 41 per cent said it was appropriate.
Will the Aga Khan Foundation survive all this negative attention? Its CEO, Khalil Shariff, did not respond to an interview request from Maclean’s, and a spokeswoman said “we’re not in a position to comment on any aspect of this matter.” But if Stephen Harper’s Tweet is any indication, the Aga Khan’s “tremendous” work will carry on after this brouhaha fades from the news.
“Honestly, I think it’s a tempest in a teapot,” says Smillie, the aid expert. “And whether or not the ethics commissioner or the parliamentary opposition think it’s something more than that, I don’t think it should have any bearing on what the Aga Khan Foundation is doing in Tanzania or Pakistan or India. If the Prime Minister gets a rap on his knuckles, it will be a rap on his knuckles, not theirs.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been devoting one day each week to showcasing his idea for reforming question period, standing in response to all queries from opposition party leaders and backbenchers alike.
On Wednesday, the Conservatives – opposed to Liberal attempts to set the practice in stone – used it to their advantage.
Virtually every Tory question was about how many times the prime minister has met with the federal ethics commissioner about Trudeau's controversial Bahamas vacation with the Aga Khan, the billionaire leader of the Ismaili Muslims.
"Has the prime minister met with the ethics commissioner, and if so, how many times?" asked Opposition House leader Candice Bergen, repeating a question that had just been asked in French.
"It is very, very simple."
So was Trudeau's reply, an echo of the same answer he's been giving for months.
"I am pleased to work with the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner to answer any questions she may have," he said. "That is what Canadians expect of the prime minister, and that is exactly what I am doing."
John Baird: The noble work of the Aga Khan should not be tarnished by this Canadian political scandal
His Highness the Aga Khan is a remarkable human being and a force for pluralism in a world besieged by tyranny. At 80 years of age, he is now the longest living spiritual leader in the Islamic world, and a jewel for Canada as our own honourary citizen. His statesmanship has shaped the course of history — in the midst of the Cold War, he bridged Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva in his relentless pursuit for peace.
A lot of attention and media has recently been concentrated on the Aga Khan. Let me tell you about the Aga Khan I have come to know, who I have come to deeply respect and admire, and who continues to be a powerful and irreplaceable force for good in a dangerous world.
Under the previous government, Canada invested in crucial development programming across the world that materially impacted the lives of the most imperiled. From Africa to the Middle East and Asia, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a shining model. International aid agencies the world over aspire to achieve the effectiveness of the AKDN’s initiatives.
The Government of Canada and Aga Khan Foundation Canada have jointly funded initiatives that have improved the quality of life of well over a million people in some of the most marginalized places in the world over the last decade — helping people with jobs and income, spurring entrepreneurship, improving health care and education even in some of the world’s most remote locations. In East Africa alone, over 300,000 children are benefiting from improved education, and a new hospital in central Afghanistan will serve a population of 400,000, most of whom are women and children. The AKDN pioneers new and powerful ways to creating lasting change, paralleled perhaps only by the Gates Foundation.
This has not been a one-way street. Across Canada, the Aga Khan’s public parks and centres add to the rich tapestry of our national life.
In partnership with Canada’s Global Centre for Pluralism, His Highness has funded the multi-million-dollar rehabilitation of one of the capital’s critical heritage buildings, the former War Museum and Dominion Archives in Ottawa, saving it from disrepair and giving it a new global vocation.
The cultural complex and architectural treasure in Toronto that includes the establishment of the Aga Khan Museum, Ismaili Centre, and Aga Khan Park is another contribution. The construction of this world-class site provided 1.5 million hours of construction work during an economic downturn, engaging over a 100 subcontractors and dozens of Canadian suppliers. The opening of the museum was itself covered in media across over 50 countries and became Lonely Planet’s top reason to visit Toronto.
An ongoing demonstration of the remarkable symmetry between Canada and the Aga Khan was consecrated by prime minister Stephen Harper and the Aga Khan in the Canada-Ismaili Imamat Protocol of Understanding prior to the Aga Khan’s remarkable address in Parliament. The protocol shapes diplomatic, development and other joint ventures between Canada and the Ismaili Imamat around the world.
It would be a perilous mistake to conflate this important partnership and this great man, one that continues make a meaningful difference, with the excesses of the elite. Prime ministers and senior representatives are often afforded generous gestures; the responsibility to decline them politely rests on the public office holder.
The Aga Khan embodies Canadian values. There is no one alive today who I respect more or hold in higher esteem. His counsel during my tenure as foreign minister provided rare perspectives that can only be accrued by a man of his stature, having witnessed the world for as long as he has. It is unforgivable that the irresponsible decisions of one individual could threaten to tarnish an exceptional leader’s lifetime of global statesmanship.
Hon. John R. Baird, P.C., a senior adviser at Bennett Jones LLP, is a former minister of foreign affairs.
Aga Khan not subject to lobbying law, says commissioner
He wasn't paid to lobby Trudeau or other politicians, Karen Shepherd decides
By Elizabeth Thompson, CBC News Posted: Dec 22, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last
Lobbying commissioner Karen Shepherd refused in September to investigate a complaint into the Aga Khan giving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a vacation on his private island. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Award-winning reporter Elizabeth Thompson covers Parliament Hill. A veteran of the Montreal Gazette, Sun Media and iPolitics, she currently works with the CBC's Ottawa bureau, specializing in investigative reporting and data journalism. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lobbyists' Code of Conduct
(Note: CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external links.)
The Aga Khan can pitch projects and offer gifts to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Canadian politicians without running afoul of lobbying laws because the multimillionaire isn't paid to lobby for the foundation that bears his name, CBC News has learned.
In a letter dated Sept. 21 and obtained Thursday by CBC News, Commissioner of Lobbying Karen Shepherd refused to launch a formal investigation into the Aga Khan following a January complaint he violated the lobbying law by allowing Trudeau and members of the prime minister's family to vacation on his private island in the Bahamas.
In the letter, Shepherd said she conducted an administrative review in response to the complaint.
"After reviewing the information provided to me in the administrative review report, I have come to the conclusion that the Aga Khan receives no payment for his work on behalf of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and, therefore, does not engage in activities requiring registration as a lobbyist," she wrote.
"Consequently, the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct does not apply to his interactions with the prime minister."
Aga Khan Helicopter 20170122
Trudeau meets the Aga Khan on Parliament Hill in 2016. Among the subjects discussed was a $15 million grant for the Aka Khan's Global Centre for Pluralism. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
The complainant, who shared the letter on condition their name not be used, said they aren't satisfied with Shepherd's ruling and plan to ask her to reconsider.
Manon Dion, spokeswoman for Shepherd, confirmed that the letter was sent by the lobbying commissioner's office.
While Shepherd refused in September to investigate, she "can open or reopen files at any given time, based on information available," said Dion. "All factors are considered when making a decision on a file."
Shepherd also has to take into account the provisions of the law such as the requirement that somebody be paid in order to be considered a lobbyist under the law, Dion said.
Democracy Watch to challenge
Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, says refusing to investigate someone on the grounds they aren't paid to lobby could create a giant loophole in Canada's lobbying law.
Bell Island House
Among the guests on Bell Island at the same time as Trudeau and the Aga Khan was former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry. (CBC)
"Democracy Watch will challenge this ruling in court, because it is legally incorrect, violates the spirit and purpose of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct, and opens up a huge loophole that big businesses and other organizations will exploit by having their unregistered board members or staff do favours for, and give gifts to, politicians and government officials they are lobbying as a way of unethically influencing their policy making decisions," he said in an email.
The Aga Khan, believed to be one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, is the spiritual leader of millions of Ismaili Muslims and is listed as a member of the board of directors of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada. The foundation, which has received millions of dollars in federal government development aid over the years, is registered to lobby several federal government departments including the Prime Minister's Office.
A search of the lobbyist registry shows the foundation has filed 132 reports since 2011 outlining its meetings with government decision makers. However, none of those reports list any meetings with Trudeau — despite the meetings the prime minister has had with the Aga Khan and his officials.
Bell Island lookout
A wooden pathway leads to a scenic lookout on Bell Island in the Bahamas. (CBC)
While Shepherd has found the Aga Khan isn't subject to the lobbyist rules which prohibit lobbyists from putting politicians in a position where they could feel a sense of obligation such as giving them gifts, MPs are still subject to conflict of interest and ethics rules if they accept gifts.
Wednesday, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson made public a scathing report that found Trudeau violated four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act when his family accepted vacations on the Aga Khan's private island nestled in the turquoise waters of the Bahamas.
She found Trudeau should not have accepted the vacation on Bell Island at Christmas or the vacation his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, a friend and their children took in March 2016. He also violated the rules when he accepted a flight to the island on the Aga Khan's private helicopter, failed to avoid being put in a conflict of interest and failed to recuse himself from discussing a $15 million grant for the Aga Khan's Global Centre for Pluralism, she ruled.
Bell Island at night
Looking out from Bell Island at night. (CBC)
Only hours after Dawson's report was made public, Conacher sent the lobbying commissioner's office a letter calling on her to investigate whether the Aga Khan "violated the Lobbyists Code by giving Prime Minister Trudeau and Liberal MP Seamus O'Regan the gifts of trips to his island home."
"Your position must be that anyone working for or associated with a company that is registered to lobby a public office holder who gives to or does anything for that office holder … that is more than an average voter does … puts that office holder in an apparent conflict of interest."
The Aga Khan explained
By Janice Dickson. Published on Jan 13, 2018 7:38pm
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau found himself at the centre of an intensifying controversy in December when the departing ethics commissioner Mary Dawson said Trudeau broke a number of federal ethics rules when he went on a family vacation to the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas over the holidays in 2016.
With the House of Commons Ethics committee having met earlier this week – which saw Conservative MPs demand Trudeau testify before the committee and Liberals defeat the Tories motion – we thought a primer on the Aga Khan would be helpful.
Who is the Aga Khan?
His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan is the spiritual leader of the Ismaili branch of Shiite Islam. The Aga Khan is the Imam who leads roughly 15 million Ismailis — which is not a huge following given that there are several hundred million follower’s of Shiism’s main branch known as Twelvers. Sunni Muslims make up the majority of the roughly 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.
The Ismailis now primarily live across the Middle East and also in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa, Europe and North America. There are an estimated 100,000 Ismailis in Canada.
He also happens to be a globe-trotting multimillionaire philanthropist, known as “K” by his friends, and who owns about 600 racehorses. Forbes magazine listed the Aga Khan as one of the world’s richest royals, with an estimated net worth of $800 million US.
The Aga Khan was born in Geneva, Switzerland on Dec. 13, 1936. He grew up in Nairobi, attended a Swiss boarding school and studied at Harvard University. The Aga Khan became the 49th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims when he was 20 years old while at Harvard. He succeeded his grandfather, His Highness Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III, marking the first time the family’s 1,300-year history that a generation for the Imamat had been skipped over.
When he’s not travelling the world, the Aga Khan, now 81, spends time at his Aiglemont estate which is in Picardie, France.
Where does his title come from?
The Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary imam and some believe he is a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. The title “His Highness” was formally granted to the reigning Aga Khan by Queen Elizabeth II upon the death of his grandfather, Aga Khan III.
An extensive profile in The Washington Post, describes how the Ismaili imams are descended from Muhammad through a cousin and son-in-law, Ali, whose wife Fatima was the prophet’s daughter, and how there were two previous Aga Khans. According to The Aga Khan Development Network’s (AKDN) website, he is a descendant of the Fatimids, the Egypt-based dynasty that founded Cairo and ruled much of North Africa and the Middle East from the tenth through the twelfth centuries.
The Aga Khan keeps the hereditary title of “Prince,” and the title “Aga Khan” dates to 1818, when Hassan Ali Shah, the 46th Ismaili Imam, was granted the honorary hereditary title of “Aga Khan” by the Shah of Persia.
What is the role of the Aga Khan in Canada?
The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, is applauded as he arrives to deliver an address in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, February 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
The Aga Khan became an honorary citizen in 2010, and he is also an honorary Companion of the Order of Canada. In 2014, the Aga Khan made an historical address to Parliament that highlighted Canada’s 30-year relationship with the AKDN. Following his address, the Aga Khan signed a Protocol of Understanding with former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, solidifying the partnership between the federal government and the Aga Khan and his institutions.
Canada is also involved in a number development projects with the AKDN such as the World Partnership Walk.
The Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa.
More recently, the Aga Khan opened the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa in May, 2017, with the support of $30 million from the federal government.
He’s also funded the Aga Khan Museum and the world’s sixth Ismaili Centre, which are both in Toronto.
How is the Aga Khan viewed internationally?
The Aga Khan is well respected internationally, largely because of his development programs, his dedication to eradicating poverty and helping those most in need. The AKDN operates in 30 countries, employs 80,000 people and its programs focus on health and education.
According to the AKDN’s website, its annual budget for non-profit development activities is approximately $925 million US. The project companies of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) generated revenues of US$ 4.1 billion and all surpluses are reinvested in further development activities.
The AKDN has a number of agencies including: Aga Khan Academies, Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance, Aga Khan Education Services, Aga Khan Foundation, Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, Aga Khan Health Services, Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Aga Khan University, Focus Humanitarian Assistance, University of Central Asia.
A fierce advocate of pluralism – which he’s defined as “equity towards all peoples and backgrounds”— the Aga Khan also works toward helping the West understand Islam.
“The nature of Islam is a faith of peace; it’s not a faith of conflict or social disorder,” he said in a rare telephone interview with Quartz media and a few other reporters, “[But it] has been used in a political process, or a part of a political process, for political goals.”
A spokesperson for the Aga Khan told Quartz that the strategy is to push for more education and understanding of Islam – which the Aga Khan believes is absent from western schools.
What is the Aga Khan’s relationship to PM Justin Trudeau?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with the Aga Khan on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
The Aga Khan’s relationship with Trudeau came to light after it was reported that Trudeau, members of his family and friends, including Liberal MP Seamus O’Regan, now the minister of veterans affairs, vacationed with the Aga Khan on a private island he owns in the Bahamas.
In response to Dawson’s findings, Trudeau repeatedly said that the Aga Khan was a family “friend” and said he would clear all family vacations with the commissioner’s office in the future.
“I’ve always considered the Aga Khan a close family friend, which is why I didn’t clear this family trip in the first place. But given the commissioner’s report, I will be taking all precautions in the future,” said Trudeau.
Dawson ruled that Trudeau and the Aga Khan’s relationship did not constitute “friends” in a way that may have exempted their interactions from one section of the Conflict of Interest Act. The Aga Khan had been friends with Pierre Trudeau, and Trudeau vacationed with the Aga Khan’s family as a child. The fact that the Aga Khan had been an honorary pallbearer at Pierre Trudeau’s funeral indicates how close they were – but Dawson concluded there had been no private interaction between Justin Trudeau and the Aga Khan until he became leader of the Liberal Party in 2013.
But the greeting from a mop-headed pre-politics Trudeau in 2007 seem to indicate there was some interaction. (Fast-forward to the 1:50 mark):
RCMP not planning to reimburse cost of stay on Aga Khan's island
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police do not plan to reimburse the more than $56,000 in expenses its officers racked up for meals, accommodation and Jet Ski rentals during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's controversial vacation on the Aga Khan's private island in the Caribbean, CBC News has learned.
The RCMP says it made "numerous" attempts to reimburse the managers of Bell Island. However, the managers did not want to issue an invoice and the RCMP says it has not been contacted by Bell Island about the matter for some time.
"The RCMP considers the matter closed," said RCMP spokeswoman Catherine Fortin.
The RCMP estimates the decision to close the books on the question was taken in mid-2018, sometime between spring and early summer.
"There is no specific date when the matter was formally concluded," Fortin wrote.
Since the amount the RCMP wanted to reimburse was below $100,000, government accounting rules do not require the force to record a non-monetary transaction, she said.
Fortin said the RCMP's $56,000-plus tab for meals, accommodation and personal watercraft rentals was above and beyond the costs of the trip that are already known.
That means if the RCMP were to reimburse Bell Island, it would bring the force's costs for the trip to $209,504 and the overall cost to the Canadian government for Trudeau's Bahamas vacation to $271,000.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair's office refused to comment.
"By law, the RCMP commissioner has control and management of the force," said Scott Bardsley, spokesperson for Blair. "The government of Canada respects police independence. Operational questions should be directed to the RCMP."
Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch said the RCMP should pay the bill rather than close the books on it.
"There's no way the RCMP should stop pursuing that payment," he said. "Because if they do, it essentially amounts to a gift by the Aga Khan to the RCMP, which is a very dangerously unethical thing to have happen given that the RCMP enforces Canadian laws that apply to the Aga Khan and the Aga Khan's foundation."
"Police investigations, like all law enforcement actions, have to meet a standard of appearance of integrity and not even the appearance of any bias," he said. "And having this unpaid bill hang over them gives that appearance of bias because it's a gift, in effect, from the Aga Khan.
"So it taints anything that the RCMP may be looking into, including the gift to the prime minister by the Aga Khan and it causes a lot of ethical problems, which is why they have to pay it."
Conservative ethics critic Michael Barrett said the RCMP has to pay its bills.
"If the RCMP is skipping out on a $56,000 cheque, it doesn't really set a good precedent for law-abiding Canadians," he said.
"Now that there's new information, it requires new examination," he said.
Trudeau has repeatedly come under opposition attack for taking the trip to the Aga Khan's exclusive private island over the Christmas holidays in 2016/17. Trudeau long defended the trip, arguing that the Aga Khan, leader of the world's Ismaili Muslims, is a longtime family friend.
Former ethics commissioner Mary Dawson found in December 2017 that Trudeau violated four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act, which governs public office holders, when he accepted the vacation.
While Dawson investigated the trip, Canada's lobbying commissioner refused to investigate, saying the Aga Khan was not bound by the rules governing lobbyists because he was not paid to lobby. In April, however, a Federal Court judge ruled in a challenge launched by Democracy Watch that the lobbying commissioner's office had used too narrow a definition of what constitutes payment and should take another look at the question.
On Thursday, Democracy Watch and the federal government was back in court, making the cases before the Federal Court of Appeal.
Alexander Gay, lawyer for the Attorney General's Office, urged the court to overturn the Federal Court ruling, saying the law was never designed to cover those who aren't paid to lobby government.
Sebastian Spano, lawyer for Democracy Watch, asked the court to uphold the ruling, saying the alternative would be to allow wealthy individuals and unsalaried board members to lobby government officials without having to register as lobbyists.
The RCMP have rejected calls for a police investigation into whether the trip broke the Criminal Code prohibition on someone who deals with the government giving a gift to a public office holder.
"The RCMP's Sensitive and International Investigations team has thoroughly reviewed this matter and a decision was taken internally to not pursue a criminal investigation," Fortin said. "The RCMP takes all complaints seriously and decisions are reflective of the thoroughness, diligence and independence of our investigations."
On Friday, Trudeau issued a statement to mark the Aga Khan's birthday, a man he said "has worked for more than six decades to reduce poverty, improve healthcare and education and defend the rights of the most vulnerable, especially women and children."
RCMP resolves impasse, pays $56K bill related to Trudeau's trip to Aga Khan's island
The cost to the Canadian government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's controversial vacation on the Aga Khan's private island in the Bahamas increased to $271,000 when the RCMP wrote a cheque two weeks ago for $56,000 worth of meals, accommodations and jet ski rental.
The police force, which ensures the safety of the prime minister when he travels, had given up on trying to reimburse the amount for the trip over the 2016/17 Christmas holidays and had considered the matter closed. However, that changed a few weeks ago, said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Caroline Duval.
"In late in late December 2019, RCMP officials made a further effort to explore possible repayment methods, which resulted in a solution and a reimbursement," Duval wrote.
"On January 17, 2020, the RCMP issued a cheque 'in trust' of the legal counsel representing Bell Island. The reimbursement was treated as an operational expenditure."
Duval has not yet responded to questions from CBC News about what prompted the RCMP to try once again to pay the three year-old costs, and whether RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki was involved in the decision.
CBC News reported in December on the outstanding bill and the fact that the unpaid tab was considered closed. The RCMP's accounting system requires invoices — but the managers of the Aga Khan's island said in e-mails obtained by CBC News that while they wanted to be reimbursed for the RCMP's costs, they did not want any invoices.
Ethics watchdog Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch argued that if the police force failed to pay the bill, it would mean the RCMP had received a gift from the Aga Khan.
The $56,000 payment brings the RCMP's cost for the trip to $209,504 and the overall cost to Canadian taxpayers for Trudeau's Bahamas vacation to $271,000.
The RCMP's cheque to legal counsel for Bell Island is the latest twist in a saga that has dogged Trudeau ever since he decided to spend his Christmas vacation in 2016/17 on the Aga Khan's exclusive private island in the Bahamas.
Trudeau long defended the trip, arguing that the Aga Khan, leader of the world's Ismaili Muslims, is a longtime family friend.
However, former ethics commissioner Mary Dawson found in December 2017 that Trudeau violated four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act, which governs public office holders, when he accepted the vacation.
The RCMP have rejected calls for a police investigation into whether the trip broke the Criminal Code prohibition on someone who deals with the government giving a gift to a public office holder.
Last week, Conservative MP Michael Barrett filed a complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, calling on it to probe the RCMP's refusal to investigate the trip.
In an interview Monday, Barrett said Trudeau should not have accepted a trip from someone who has lobbied the government and he believes there are still unanswered questions.
"We believe that the trip shouldn't have occurred and the trip should have been reimbursed from the prime minister's personal funds," he said.
However, New Democratic Ethics Critic Charlie Angus said the fallout from the trip has gone on long enough and questioned why it took the RCMP so long to pay the bill.
"The whole thing just reeks of some kind of circus."
Also watch: Poilievre slams Trudeau on RCMP's plan for his controversial Bahamas trip (Provided by Global News)
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