“Asian immigrants have already added to the cultural richness and variety of our country, and I am sure that those from Uganda will, by their abilities and industry make and equally important contribution to Canadian society”
– Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, August 25, 1972.
By Shezan Muhammedi
This was Prime Minister Trudeau’s defence of the decision to deploy an immigration team to Uganda in August of 1972. Following the widely-publicized expulsion of Uganda’s South Asian population by President Idi Amin, the Canadian government admitted almost 8,000 Ugandan Asian refugees. This represented the largest resettlement of non-white, non-Christian refugees in Canada up to that date. As we contemplate the current government’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis, it is worth reminding ourselves of one of the earliest cases of non-European refugees being resettled in Canada.
On August 4th 1972, Ugandan President Idi Amin declared that there was no room in the country “for the over 80,000 Asians holding British passports who were sabotaging Uganda’s economy and encouraging corruption”. The President ordered every Asian to leave the country within ninety days, threatening that those remaining would be sent to rural communities as farmhands. Even before that decree, South Asians living in Uganda were caught in a precarious position. Regardless of their deep historical roots in the country, they were seen as colonial collaborators. This was a direct consequence of the country’s colonial inheritance.
South Asian migration to East Africa began in the 1840s…
More at the Source: Lessons Learned from the Ugandan Asian Refugees | ActiveHistory.ca