1972 Ugandan Refugees: An Honourable Place in Canada | CBC Radio

In 1972, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin declared there was no place in his country for Asians, even though many had lived there for generations. Some 7000 came to Canada and have made a home here.

Rewind with Michael Enright

1972 Ugandan Refugees: An Honourable Place in Canada

Thursday November 24, 2016

LISTEN TO FULL EPISODE 54:59

Not long after Ugandan leader Idi Amin came to power in 1971, he said he had a dream that told him to expel people of Asian descent from the country. Many of them were Ismailis.

The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Nizari Ismaili branch of Islam represents about 15 million people and advocates tolerance and pluralism. When Amin’s decree came, the Aga Khan called then prime minister Pierre Trudeau asking him to help. More than 7 000 Ugandan Asians came to Canada. It was the first time in Canadian history that Canada accepted a large group of non-European refugees.

 

1972 Ugandan Refugees: An Honourable Place in Canada

 

There was a long tradition of trade between Asia and Africa. Nevertheless, General Amin insisted that “Africa was for Africans.”His expulsion order affected at least 80,000 people, many who had lived in Uganda for generations.

“I am a fourth generation African. I couldn’t be any more African than I was when I was there, but I wasn’t accepted. We did not have the right colour. We were not black enough to be African.”

 

– Muslim Harji, Asian immigrant to Canada 

 

The expulsion of steady migration of Asians from Uganda had dire effects on the economy. The country lost doctors, technicians, business owners, and engineers. Railways were compromised, there were food shortages and prices skyrocketed. The economic foundations of the country started to crumble.

 

“Before Amin, Uganda had such a great government –  the best civil service in Africa, the best health care. Life was good. Amin was known and feared before he came to power, so imagine what happened once he did. Very soon things started falling apart. I’ll tell you straight: at least Asians, by and large, we escaped. The Black Ugandans who stayed paid with their lives. It was a really troubling time.”

– John Nazareth, Asian Ugandan

 

Most Ugandans who came to Canada because of Amin’s expulsion prospered. The Aga Khan met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last May. The Aga Khan Foundation sponsors charitable works around the world and has an office in Ottawa. The new Aga Khan Museum in Toronto promotes tolerance and understanding through art and culture.

Source:  CBC Radio | 1972 Ugandan Refugees: An Honourable Place in Canada

 


Research, Insight & Perspective by A. Maherali


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s