Aga Khan making a ‘better world’ gets two more degrees from SFU and UBC

Aga Khan SFU/UBC degrees
Andrew Petter, president of SFU and on right UBC president Santa Ono cheer the Aga Khan after the award of two honorary degrees in Vancouver on Friday. Photo by Paul Joseph and Martin Dee

“Speaking from the perspective of my own university – University of British Columbia – defines its purpose as pursuing excellence in research, learning and engagement to foster global citizenship and to advance a sustainable and just society across British Columbia, Canada and the world – related to that pursuit our vision is inspiring people, ideas and actions for a better world. Who in that regard could be a better exemplar than His Highness the Aga Khan” – Santa Ono, President of UBC.

Ono’s reverence marked the theme of a double-degree ceremony to honour the Aga Khan with Doctor of Laws bestowed by UBC and Simon Fraser University at a Vancouver ceremony Friday.

These two degrees, conferred in a historic joint ceremony by two universities, makes it a unique week for the global humanitarian’s 60-years of giving to those who have little, those who struggle even for basic necessities as toilets, shelter, food security and medical care.

On Wednesday, University of Calgary paid a similar tribute to the Aga Khan in conferring a Doctor of Laws degree.

As Premier John Horgan, Lt-Gov. Janet Austin, SFU President Andrew Petter and SFU Chancellor Ann Giardini as well  as other dignitaries and guests listened, Ono stated:

“The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) works in more than 30 countries, operating roughly 1,000 programs and institutions, employs more than 80,000 people, invests more than 1 billion dollars each year in non- profit development activities around the world”

“This is a profound example of global citizenship,” Ono said. And this global citizenship works without regard to race or ideology, he added.

“Self reliance and human dignity” are the ethic of the AKDN in its global work, Ono said.

“The Aga Khan’s leadership is not restricted to a particular community, country or region, rather the AKDN focuses on the poor and vulnerable,” he said.

The Aga Khan is himself a chancellor of the University of Central Asia which officially opened in September in Khorough, Tajikistan. It’s supported by the Aga Khan and presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Tajikistan.

Petter, president of SFU listed the huge scope of humanitarian work carried out by branches and sub-branches of the Aga Khan network.

Petter said 2 million learners go through Aga Khan founded schools and universities throughout the world.

“SFU aspires to be Canada’s most community-engaged research university … I can think of no better demonstration of the value of community engagement than that demonstrated by the Aga Khan Development Network,” Petter added. (Story continues below.)

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The three new degrees are in addition to degrees conferred by other top Canadian universities.

LL.D. (honoris causa)  McGill University, Canada (1983)

LL.D. (honoris causa)  McMaster University, Canada (1987)

LL.D. (honoris causa) University of Toronto, Canada (2004)

LL.D (honoris causa) University of Alberta, Canada (2009)

These additional degrees add new jewels to a crown of honorary degrees, national honours, and citations for the Aga Khan.

Humanitarian impact of Aga Khan’s work

Surrey Liberal MP Randeep Sarai who attended the degree ceremony was effusive in his praise for the Aga Khan’s work.
“His Highness is a remarkable individual who has helped not only his people but others around the world and especially those in much needed areas like Afghanistan – other parts of Asia and Africa,” he said in an interview.
“He has helped uplift lives through education, development, micro finance,” he said. “Canadians are impressed by that and honoured by that. And that’s why two degrees are being bestowed which as far as I recall has never happened before.”

The Aga Khan, hereditary 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims, appeared delighted when a young Ismaili choir sang ‘O Canada.’

A reception for guests followed the ceremony. Earlier, indigenous drummers led the procession of dignitaries into the Vancouver Convention Centre where the award ceremony took place.