Who We Are

About the Centre

The Centre’s vision is a world where human differences are valued and diverse societies thrive.

Founded in Ottawa by His Highness the Aga Khan in partnership with the Government of Canada, the Global Centre for Pluralism is an independent, charitable organization. Inspired by Canada’s experience as a diverse and inclusive country, the Centre was created to advance positive responses to the challenge of living peacefully and productively together in diverse societies.

Through research, education and knowledge exchange, the Centre’s programs:

  • Deepen understanding of the sources of inclusion and exclusion in Canada and around the world
  • Chart pathways to pluralism in specific places and cases
  • Catalyze knowledge exchange and learning about the policies and practices that support pluralism
  • Build awareness of the benefits of inclusive societies

“What a wonderful, liberating thing it would be if more of us, more of the time, could see diversity not as a burden, but as a blessing; not as a threat, but as an opportunity.”

His Highness the Aga Khan

The Centre was established with contributions from both the Government of Canada and His Highness the Aga Khan. Both founding partners have invested $45 million in the Centre to form an endowment fund and to revitalize the Centre’s landmark headquarters in Ottawa.

His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims, had long been interested in Canada’s experience of pluralism. His close ties with Canada go back almost four decades, to the time when many thousands of Asian refugees from Uganda, including many Ismailis, were welcomed into Canadian society.

Although still a work in progress, respect for diversity is a defining characteristic of Canada and a core element of the country’s identity. In his 2010 Lafontaine-Baldwin Lecture, His Highness said, “My interest in launching the Global Centre for Pluralism reflected my sense that there was yet no institution dedicated to the question of diversity in our world, and that Canada’s national experience made it a natural home for this venture.”

What Is Pluralism?

Defined simply, pluralism is an ethic of respect for diversity. Whereas diversity in society is a fact, how societies respond to diversity is a choice. Pluralism results from the daily decisions taken by state institutions, civil society associations and individuals to recognize and value human differences.

Pluralist societies are not accidents of history. They require continuous investment across many different sectors — economic, political and social. Although every society must define its own path, comparative experiences can be studied to better understand different possible outcomes.

Compromise is essential. Belonging is the goal.

In diverse societies, people with different identities and viewpoints must find ways to live together. The work of pluralism is to find a balance between competing values. Institutional mechanisms help to choose between competing values, but pluralism is not created by institutions alone. The content of those choices is important.

The goal of pluralism is belonging. Building inclusive societies requires both institutional responses (“hardware”) and behavioural change (“software”) to ensure that every person is recognized and feels they belong.

Annual Reports & Corporate Plans

Bilingual reports are submitted to the Government of Canada on a yearly basis outlining the Centre’s plans and priorities.