EDITORIAL: Things to know about the Aga Khan controversy

Seven things you need to know about the Aga Khan controversy



Ethics commissioner’s office is reviewing Trudeau’s visit


When news of Justin Trudeau’s holiday visit to a private Caribbean island leaked out, the prime minister’s political opponents were quick to label the vacation a conflict of interest Here’s what you need to know about the controversy:

Who is the Age Khan, anyway?

Prince Shah Karim AI Hussaini, Aga Khan IV, is the spiritual leader of the world’s 15 million Ismailis, who follow a branch of Shia Islam He is also a philanthropist who runs one of the world’s largest private charities: the Aga Khan Development Network

And who are Ismailis?

Ismailis are a minority within a minority in the Muslim world. Most of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims are Sunni, not Shia, dating back to the 7th-century schism that followed the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The Ismaili sect then broke with the Shia minority in the 8th century over further disagreement about which of the prophet’s descendants should lead.

What does the Aga Khan Development Network do?

The network employs 80,000 people in 30 countries, operating universities, hospitals and school programs for people in poor and war-torn parts of the world regardless of their faith A Canadian charity, the Aga Khan Foundation, is part of this network. Since 2004, the Canadian government has sponsored 16 global development initiatives in partnership with the foundation, worth a total of more than $300 million

So, what’s so bad about the prime minister visiting the island?

Potentially nothing, but a helicopter ride during the visit may have broken federal law. Trudeau admitted Thursday that he travelled on the Aga Khan’s private helicopter, but the Conflict of Interest Act says the prime minister can’t take a private aircraft without permission from the ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson.

The commissioner’s officer confirmed it has started a “preliminary review” of the trip, based on the fact the Aga Khan is chairman and director of the foundation, which is a registered Canadian federal lobbyist Conflict-of-interest laws allow the prime minister to take gifts from friends or relatives but not from lobbyists. Which category the Aga Khan falls under appears to be up for interpretation.

What is the Aga Khan’s relationship with the prime minister?

The Aga Khan’s relationship with the Trudeaus goes back to the 1970s when Ugandan dictator Idi Amin expelled Ismailis from his country.

The Aga Khan called on then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to give his people a safe haven and Canada took in 7,000 Ismailis.

“He was a pallbearer for my father’s funeral. He has known me since I was a toddler,” Trudeau said. Today, an estimated 100,000 Ismailis live in Canada.

Does the Aga Khan have any connections to Toronto?

Yes. Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum opened in 2014 to promote knowledge of Islamic culture and art. The 10;000-square-metre museum is set among formal gardens near Eglinton Ave. and Don Mills Rd.

So, how did the Aga Khan become the Aga Khan?

He succeeded his grandfather, Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, in 1957. At the time, he was 20, studying Islamic history at Harvard.

With files from The Canadian Press and Alex Ballingall

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