Trudeau's (early) valentine to the Aga Khan -

Trudeau’s (early) valentine to the Aga Khan

In a tribute video presented last fall, the PM credits his friend with making Canada ‘stronger and richer’

The Aga Khan, center, smiles as he arrives at the Memorial Church on the campus of Harvard University before addressing an audience. (Steven Senne/AP/CP)

The Aga Khan, center, smiles as he arrives at the Memorial Church on the campus of Harvard University before addressing an audience. (Steven Senne/AP/CP)

The last time he visited Canada, back in September, His Highness the Aga Khan received yet another accolade: the inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship. Awarded by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (a charity co-founded by the former Governor-General and her husband, the philosopher and novelist John Ralston Saul), the prize recognizes an individual “who has, through thought and dialogue, encouraged approaches and strategies that strive to remove barriers, change attitudes, and reinforce the principles of tolerance and respect.”

The Aga Khan—spiritual leader of the world’s 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims, ultra-wealthy philanthropist, lifelong promoter of peace and pluralism—was a worthy first choice, to say the least. A champion of multiculturalism who never misses a chance to praise Canada’s commitment to diversity (“a model for the world,” as he often says), the 80-year-old Aga Khan is also the driving force behind one of the world’s most respected development charities. To borrow a line from Clarkson’s award-ceremony speech, he is “a light in much of the world’s conflicting darkness.”

His Highness accepted his prize at Toronto’s Koerner Hall, packed to capacity, on Sept. 21. Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s Premier, was in the crowd. So were Mayor John Tory and the First Lady of Iceland, Ottawa-born Eliza Reid.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was unable to attend. But he did make sure to record a video message for his “dear friend” and “mentor:”

“I often say that Canada is stronger not in spite of its differences, but because of them,” the Prime Minister said into the camera, four Canadian flags behind him. “Well, for half a century, the Aga Khan has shown that about the world. Thank you, Your Highness. Canada and the world are stronger and richer because of your commitment to diversity and to finding common ground, to helping those most vulnerable, and to believing in a better, closer, more inclusive world. Merci, mon ami.”

Six months later, that dear friendship has been thrust under the political microscope amid revelations that Trudeau and his family spent part of their Christmas holiday vacationing at the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas—and using the billionaire’s personal helicopter to get there, an apparent violation of both federal law and the very rules the prime minister issued to his new Liberal Cabinet after winning the 2015 election. On Monday, news broke that Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has launched a second investigation into Trudeau’s controversial vacation: a probe under the Conflict of Interest Code, a set of guidelines that govern the behavior of all Members of Parliament (included in the code is an expectation that MPs not “accept any gift or benefit connected with their position that might reasonably be seen to compromise their personal judgment or integrity”).

Dawson was already investigating the possibility that Trudeau’s trip violated the Conflict of Interest Act, specifically the section that states public office holders can only fly on private aircraft under “exceptional circumstances” or if the trip is approved in advance by the Commissioner. Her initial investigation is also exploring whether it was even appropriate for the PM to accept a free luxury holiday from a man whose Ottawa-based charity—a registered lobbyist, no less—has received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. In last year’s budget, Trudeau’s first, the Liberals committed $55 million to the Aga Khan Foundation Canada for aid work in Afghanistan.

Dawson has not indicated how long her dual investigations could last. But on paper, the potential sanctions are minimal. A confirmed breach of the Act carries a maximum $500 fine, while the heftiest punishment under the Code is a public rebuke. It is the potential political damage, however, that looms largest for Trudeau. He is the first Prime Minister to have his travel scrutinized by the ethics commissioner.

If his few public statements are any indication, Trudeau is telling Dawson’s office what he’s told Canadians: that it was a private vacation; that the holiday had nothing to do with official government business; that the Aga Khan has been a dear family friend for decades.

On that last point, there may be no better proof than the PM’s tribute video.


Trudeau’s (early) valentine to the Aga Khan

  1. My Valentine’s Day Message to Justin Trudeau,
    One month ago, I would have said that “I am sure that you are a nice person”. Now, I am not so sure.

    Un-related to this article on the Aga Khan, but extremely relevant to me, is the contempt which you have shown the Canadian people by turning your back on your promise of electoral reform. “Shame on you.”

    Related to this article on the Aga Khan, I can tell you that I now believe that you are completely out of touch with the “ordinary Canadians” you claim to feel such deep affection for. $55 million to the Foundation of this already-absurdly-wealthy Moslem’s Foundation? Do you, sir, have any idea how far that $55 million could have gone to providing clean drinking water to the indigenous people of this country? Or, to improve the educational systems they study under?

    Or, what about the homeless people shivering on Canada’s cold streets this evening. Do those Canadian citizens not deserve to come in from the cold just as much as the people crossing our border now illegally???

    And have you even, for one minute, considered the affect your “we love Moslems” attitude and actions have on the soldiers whom we asked to go to Afghanistan and fight for our country. Does it never, even once, enter your mind that perhaps — just perhaps, for those families there is still great emotional trauma involved when “all things Middle Eastern” are at the forefront of the news, night after night after night….. Could you not give them at least a small amount of peace, rather than knocking them over the head with your need for everyone in our country to sing your “sunny days” song.

    Mr. Trudeau, when you were elected, people who know that I didn’t vote for you asked me, “Well, what do you think?” My response to them — because, sir , I do love this country, was that “if he does even half of what he says is going to, the country will be a better place.”

    Well, Justin, you aren’t doing it. You are breaking the most important of your promises left and right — on electoral reform, on climate change, on consultation with the indigenous peoples. Oh, but you are keeping the one promise which seems to be the nearest and dearest to your heart — opening the doors of our country to a group of people whose religion preaches violence, and whose believers are carrying our a world-wide jihad.

    You have no right to do this, son of Pierre. You are supposed to “put Canadians first”. Rather, I believe now that you are using the position of Prime Minister of Canada to gain international “kudos” for being such a generous and warm-hearted guy. (Perhaps , late at night, you dream about a Nobel Prize for Peace Making — is that what this is all about???)

    I did not vote for you, but I — like millions of other Canadians, was interested to see how you would do, what you would do. Well, we know now. You are as shallow and as dictatorial as the one whom you follow. I no longer have any respect for you.

    A Canadian Senior Citizen

    • While I do not agree with many of your posts, Lindsay3, I do with this one. I do think we have to differentiate “bad guys” with the many others who don’t hold to the extremist positions. But generally well said!

      • Hi, Blacktop. At no time , in my mind and in my heart, have I forgotten that there are many, many , many “good hearted” Muslim people. And, if all things were equal, I would probably be willing — I won’t say “eager”, because I am an old horse now, and am coming to like the familiar :) :) — I would probably be willing to put effort into getting to know them. BUT, the whole point, Blacktop, is that “all things are not equal”. There are no Jewish people that I know of, or Buddhists, or Hindu’s who are actively planning to set off bombs or commit mass murder in our country. And to anyone who says there aren’t any Moslem’s doing this, either, I say strongly — “maybe not this week”. But it is coming. Their religion preaches it ; many of their leaders are calling for it ; and they have what seems to be unlimited funds to finance it. I am sorry, BlackTop, but I believe that there is a terrorist, or a potential terrorist, within these many Moslem people we have taken in. BTW : “Thank You” for your input.

        • Lindsay3 I agree with most of what you say. The Muslim religion has way too many dark facets, there may be some who take these things in stride but as with all religions there are issues that can and are used to tighten other peoples human ts that are justified by ancient religious beliefs. Here and in the states as well as in most countries run by dictators, it is way to acceptable for friend benefits to be spread amongst the disgustingly rich on the back of the shrinking middle classes and it is becoming more and more openly acceptable. It is time people wake up and do something about that. I am also a senior and regret that each boomer generation seems to get worse and believe in the fu Jack I’m alright.

          • HI, RobertVan. If you are saying that “our generation” — yours and mine, do not seem to remember that all of the good times which they have enjoyed in their lives have come from the pillaging of our natural resources, and an increasing “forgetfulness” that there are people living on the streets, and families using Foodbanks in this country — then I am in total agreement with you. I used to envision ours being a “boomerang” generation — meaning that we would come together , as members of the most fortunate generation ever to live on earth, and “give back” for all that we have received. Instead, I see people still trying to “up their neighbor” in physical possessions. And the most philosophical debate of the year is often where to vacation — Mexico or Cuba? We baby boomers are wasting the wealth that was won for us at great cost with, as you say, our “I’m ok — it must be your fault if you are not.” ///// I was struck by how easily the phrase “dictatorship” slipped into your comment, in the same sentence as “our country”. Only twenty years ago, this would not have happened. But today — everything you say strikes home with me. When asked about his rationale for cancelling electoral reform, Trudeau asked a person, “Would you want Kellie Leitch to have her own Party”. etc. etc. — He SAID “we don’t want fringe parties to have a swing vote in Parliament”. Well, I thought that allowing everyone to have their own point of view, and to “have their vote count” was the point of the whole electoral reform debate. You and I may not agree with Joe Blow’ point of view, but the whole idea is that Joe Blow has the RIGHT to democratically express that point of view. ……

    • First, the standard spelling today is Muslim, not Moslem.

      Harper’s Conservative government and prior federal governments contributed far than $55M to the Aga Khan Foundation. Canada has partnered with the Aga Khan Foundation on international development projects for many years. Harper made the Aga Khan an honorary citizen of Canada – a very rare honour. It works in, and employs thousands of local people in countries around the world. It is widely respected among NGOs – similar to UNICEF and other top level charitable development organizations.

      Many wealthy people are associated with charitable foundations but they are not expected to be the sole funders (Bill Gates’ foundation is a great example.) The annual operating expenses of these large NGOs would quickly bankrupt even the wealthiest philanthropist.

      Canada is a very wealthy country with natural and human resources far greater than most countries. We can afford to invest in development and social projects both at home and internationally. Many would say that Canada has a moral obligation to do so.

      Running through your comments is an undercurrent of factual ignorance or bigotry about Muslims, which may be the real reason why you are critical of Canada’s and Trudeau’s relationship to the Aga Khan and the Foundation.

      If we were talking about the Pope and the Vatican’s international development projects, or Prince Charles and his large charitable foundation (they are comparable analogies), would you have the same objections? I suspect not.

      • Hi, DPChurch. First, I am fully aware of the current spelling of the Muslim. I am using it’s alternative on purpose.

        You said : Canada is a very wealthy country with natural and human resources far greater than most countries.

        The whole point to my comment above is that that “wealth” is not making it down to millions of Canadians.

        Could I ask you to read my comment again in that light.

        I will not comment on your assumptions about my reactions to “Prince Charles” and the Pope. But let me note that I would be happy if the monarchy were abolished, and that the crimes of the Catholic Church over the centuries have been in numbers impossible to imagine.

        I believe that Canada needs lower immigration levels, for many reasons. That fact does not make me “factually ignorant”, nor does it make me a bigot.
        If you would like to , please go to the website ImmigrationWatchCanada and read a bit about how thousands of other Canadians are feeling.

        I hope that you have a nice day.