OTTAWA - Canada will grant the Aga Khan honorary citizenship for what Prime Minister Stephen Harper describes as his exemplary humanitarianism and long friendship with Canada.

Born in Geneva, Shah Kari al-Hussayni is the 49th Aga Khan, or imam to Shia Ismaili Muslims, and is widely recognized for his work against poverty and his promotion of tolerance.

Now 72, he is the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, which works in Asia and Africa and is one of the world's largest private development networks.

Harper told the House of Commons the Aga Khan is "a beacon of humanitarianism, of pluralism and of tolerance throughout the entire world."

Honorary Canadian citizenship is bestowed by the Governor General and requires the unanimous approval of all voting MPs.

It has been given to four others: Swedish diplomat and Holocaust hero Raoul Wallenberg (posthumously in 1985); former South Africa president and Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela (2001); the Dalai Lama (2006); and pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi (2007), a Nobel laureate who has spent most of the last 20 years under house arrest in her native Myanmar.

The Aga Khan was in Edmonton on Tuesday, where he received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Alberta.

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