Toronto gives spiritual leader, the Aga Khan, key to the city

The City of Toronto gave the head of the world’s Ismaili Muslim community a key to the city Sunday, in light of years of “remarkable contributions” made to celebrate Ismaili culture and heritage.

In a ceremony at the Ismaili Centre attended by politicians from all levels of government, Toronto Mayor John Tory presented the family of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV the award, which is only given to individuals who “embody the spirit and potential of Toronto and who have contributed significantly to civic life.”

“It is the least we can do for His Highness,” Tory said at the ceremony.

In Toronto, the Aga Khan opened the Aga Khan Museum, the only museum in North America dedicated to Islamic arts, and the Ismaili Centre, a place of congregation, prayer and friendship for the Ismaili community, in 2014. He also established the cultural landmark Aga Khan Park, which officially opened in 2015. 

The city also renamed the portion of Wynford Drive, between Don Mills Road and the east side of the Don Valley Parkway overpass, to Aga Khan Boulevard, to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Aga Khan’s accession as the 49th hereditary Imam of Shia Ismaili Muslims and mark 50 years of the Ismaili Muslim community’s establishment  in Canada.

The City of Toronto has renamed a portion of Wynford Drive to Aga Khan Boulevard in recognition of the Aga Khan’s contributions to the city. (Doug Husby/CBC)

“The community presence here would not have been possible if not for Toronto and Canada’s commitment to embracing and celebrating diversity,” said Prince Amyn Aga Khan, the Aga Khan IV’s brother, who accepted the award on his behalf.

“For many years now, His Highness has looked to Canada as a model of pluralism, one that is ever more critically, more urgently needed in our increasingly divisive and fragmented world.”

According to a press release from the Ismaili Council of Canada, the Sunday award is one of a number of events taking place across the country this week to celebrate the Ismaili community’s settlement in Canada. 

This includes another appearance in Toronto by Prince Amyn Aga Khan on Monday to the ground breaking of Generations, a not-for-profit community housing initiative to support vulnerable individuals, families, and seniors, the organization states.

Outside of Toronto, the Aga Khan, a billionaire and a believed descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, is known for his philanthropy.

The Aga Khan Developmental Network operates in more than 30 countries around the world, contributing to more than 1,000 programs and institutions and employing almost 100,000 people, who are primarily based in developing countries, the city says.

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