Who said Canadian politics are dull? Canada’s current political crisis began when the Conservative minority government presented an economic update to Parliament. The update had little to say about the economy but included some socially regressive measures.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives have managed to carry out significant private fund-raising. Faced with this threat, the opposition parties did something virtually unheard-of in Canada. Liberals and the socialist New Democrats formed a coalition, and the secessionist Bloc Québécois guaranteed its support on matters of confidence. Thus, they had the votes to defeat the government and to go to the Governor General to ask to replace it without a new election.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper then went to the Governor General to ask her to grant an adjournment till late January, thus avoiding an immediate confidence vote, and she granted the adjournment.
The coalition is quite fragile, and he was playing on time to enable internal strains to lead to its collapse. He also withdrew the aggressive and regressive measures in his economic update, including the threat to party funding.
As part of his strategy to defeat the coalition, Harper denounced the coalition’s reliance on the support of the Bloc, with those who would destroy to country, he charged. Those remarks upset many Quebec nationalists, even people who did not support the Bloc. Meanwhile, on Dec. 8, Quebec voted for a new National Assembly, the Quebec parliament. Harper’s remarks attacking the Bloc are credited with shaving the gains made by the provincial Liberals, who ended up with a majority but a smaller one than the pollsters had foreseen. There is no provincial Conservative Party. Coming in second place was the Parti Québécois (PQ).
But there was another interesting outcome.
Amir Khadir, running for Québec Solidaire, won a seat, the first for this party of which he is co-leader, garnering 38 percent of the vote.
Khadir, a former PQ candidate, is Iranian-born. Raised as a Muslim, he is no longer practicing. He is a physician, specializing in infectious microbiology. In Canada, he actively opposed both the shah and the ayatollahs. He has participated in international medical aid, having led missions for Médecins du Monde to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. He has also taken part in programs to send medical equipment and supplies to Palestine, Nicaragua, Cuba, India, and Zimbabwe.
His main opponent was PQ candidate Daniel Turp, a distinguished legal scholar. The PQ brings together a hodge-podge of types, social democrats and conservatives, from separatists and people seeking greater decentralization of Canada. In power, conservative attitudes have sometimes prevailed, so that when the late René Lévesque’s government was in power, it cut welfare so sharply that young people were reduced to eating out of garbage cans and prostituting themselves. By contrast, Québec Solidaire is both secessionist and strongly left-wing and socialist.
Re-elected for the Liberals is Morocco-born Fatima Houda-Pépin. A Muslim, she was responsible for getting the Quebec National Assembly to pass a unanimous resolution opposing the implementation of sharia law in Canada. She was responsible for the resolution, claiming that efforts to introduce sharia were a threat to women’s rights.
Ismaili Center opens in Ottawa
Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, spiritual leader of some 15 million Ismaili Muslims, was in Ottawa on Dec. 6 for the formal opening of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat. The building is now the home of his development agencies and a conference center. It will also provide him with an office when he is in Canada. His development agencies have partnered with various Canadian universities and with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
The Aga Khan is a British subject who studied at Harvard and who resides in France and Switzerland. His fondness for Canada can be traced back to the dark days when Idi Amin drove the Ismailis from Uganda. They were given refuge in Canada, where they now number upwards of 80,000.
The building itself, long and wide as a football field, was designed by Japanese architect Fumihoko Maki and his associate Gary Kamemoto, aided by the Canadian architectural firm of Moriyama & Teshima. Their design was inspired by a long letter from the Aga Khan calling for a building that would be suggestive of the experience of viewing rock crystal, a structure that “pleases and confuses the eye,” that is “somewhat mysterious and visually nearly esoteric.”
The actual structure was extremely demanding in the precision required and the various raw materials and manufactured elements commanded, from a number of different countries—Namibia, Croatia, Italy, Poland, Germany, Austria, as well as Canada. A German firm was engaged to produce the intricate glass roofing.
More Ismaili buildings are planned for Canada by the Aga Khan. The Global Center for Pluralism will promote international development and intergroup harmony. It will also be located in Ottawa, while Toronto will be the home both of the Aga Khan Museum, which will hold Islamic art, and of an Islamic cultural center.