World Partnership Walk reflects the best of Canadian values

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      Some politicians are focusing a great deal of attention on "Canadian values", particularly as they pertain to immigration.

      There's an almost hysterical fear that if Canada permits people to move here who don't share these "values", which are rarely defined, then somehow the country will go down the drain.

      The foremost purveyor of this idea in national politics has been former Conservative cabinet minister Kellie Leitch. She received a blizzard of free publicity from the media in her campaign to lead her party.

      Yet after nine ballots, Leitch was only able to muster 7.95 percent support in the contest to become leader of the Official Opposition. Only 7.95 percent from Conservatives!

      It shows the disconnect between what we sometimes read in the media and what people actually care about in their communities.

      If people are keen to learn about Canadian values, all they need to do is look at the World Partnership Walk, which took place in Stanley Park today.

      Organized by Canada's Ismaili community, it raises vast amounts of money every year to support the Aga Khan Foundation Canada's antipoverty, health, and education programs in Africa and Asia.

      Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, Aga Khan IV, is the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims. They say he's a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammed through his cousin and son-in-law, Ali.

      Many Canadian Ismailis trace their family roots back to the Indian state of Gujarat, and their families were sent to East Africa during the colonial era. It's why Ismaili-owned businesses, such as Jambo Grill on Kingsway or Simba's Grill on Denman Street, sometimes showcase African art.

      The first wave of Ismailis came to Canada in 1972 after Ugandan dictator Idi Amin expelled residents of Indian origin. They were followed by more Ismailis from Tanzania and other countries.  

      Because most of these Ismailis were well-educated and spoke excellent English, the community adapted exceedingly well to Canada.

      Through their actions and their beliefs, they shatter common stereotypes about Muslims promulgated in the media and by ignorant politicians like Donald Trump.

      Ismailis are strongly in favour of women's equality. Many have thrived in the professions, including law, and they're the last ones who would want to impose Sharia law on Canada.

      "The Ismailis, who emerged in the eighth century out of a schism in Shia Islam, have long taken the view that the Qu’ran (Islam’s central religious text) is to be read as a set of allegories and reinterpreted over time," wrote academic Rahim Mohamed in Policy Options magazine. "It requires and ensures constant reformation."

      The Aga Khan Foundation Canada has also been a bulwark against terrorism through its overseas efforts to advance learning and alleviate poverty.

      It has promoted, among other things, girls' education in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and medical education for women in Pakistan.

      Nowadays, the best known Ismaili in Canada might be the incredibly popular Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi, but there is no shortage of high achievers in the community. They include journalists such as Omar Sachedina and Nafeesa Karim, TV morning show host Riaz Meghji, immigration lawyer and human-rights activist Zool Suleman, two-time Giller Prize winner M.G. Vassanji, Sen. Mobina Jaffer, and business leaders such as Mossadiq Umedaly and Amin Lalji.

      When Leitch was whipping up fears of immigrants in her ill-fated quest to become Canada's next prime minister, she didn't go out of her way to talk about how immigrants and their children make Canada a better country. Nor do certain newspaper columnists and broadcasters, particularly in Quebec, who zero in on people's cultural, religious, or racial differences rather than highlighting what we all have in common.

      Immigration can be a profoundly shocking experience. Imagine arriving in a new land knowing hardly anybody, let alone not understanding how the transit system works or how to access the public library system. Yet so many immigrants to Canada, including the Ismailis, have enriched our country immeasurably. And not only monetarily through their entrepreneurial endeavours, but also through community activities such as today's World Partnership Walk.

      Face it: Vancouver was a pretty boring place in the 1970s and early 1980s. It's not anymore, largely because of the tapestry of diverse communities.

      It's something to celebrate.