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23october201091Dharamshala: On Saturday, the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama inaugurated and blessed the new Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto, as part of his weekend visit to the city.

The centre, in Etobicoke district, has been built on the site of a former factory, which was bought for $3.2 million, half of it contributed by Tibetans living in Canada. His Holiness inaugurated the centre, which is due for completion in March 2011, alongside Toronto Mayor David Miller, and Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff.

As part of the ceremony, His Holiness unveiled three 4.5-metre tall statues of Buddha, crafted by monks in Nepal.

The Buddhist leader went on to talk about the importance of preserving Tibetan heritage and culture, and the difficulties faced in doing so. "In our own land, there is a real danger [for Tibetan culture] if the present situation remains for a long period", he said, "Without freedom, it is difficult to have meaningful preservation of Tibetan culture".

He also spoke of the benefits to the world of preserving Tibetan and Buddhist values: "It's a culture of peace, a culture of non-violence, a culture of compassion".

The building is intended to function as a new focus for the 7000 Tibetans now living in Toronto. The first Tibetan refugees to the country were accepted in 1971.

His Holiness arrived in Toronto on Friday, and was met by mayor Miller at the airport. "His [the Dalai Lama's] work around the world promoting peace, understanding, tolerance, social justice and equality for all is beyond compare", said Miller as he welcomed the Tibetan leader.

His Holiness participated in a science symposium at Toronto University in the morning, before speaking for 90 minutes to the tens of thousands gathered at the Rogers Centre in the afternoon, on the subject of "Human Approaches to World Peace".

He noted that 200 million people were killed in war and violence in the course of the 20th century, and urged those gathered to "promote the concept of dialogue for a happy and peaceful century". He emphasized the oneness of humanity, and asked for "human warm heartedness". "The meaning of human approach is more compassion, and genuinely consider others as brother and sister", he said.

On Sunday, the Dalai Lama will give teachings on mind training at the new cultural centre, which will be webcast live around the world for the first time.

His Holiness, whose last visit to Toronto was in 2007, was presented with the key to the city by the mayor. "You're a true friend of this city", commented Miller. On his last visit to Canada, in 2009, the Dalai Lama visited Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver, and he met with then Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2004.

The Dalai Lama is also one of only three people to have been granted honorary Canadian citizenship, along with Nelson Mandela and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenby.

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