Saturday, November 05, 2022

History of Ugandan refugees, history of Canada

I read recently that there were just 50,000 people of Indian (i.e., Asian Indian) descent in Canada fifty years ago, in 1972, when Ugandan dictator Idi Amin expelled the South Asian Ugandan population of some 80,000 people in just ninety days.

Canada did not take in all 80,000 -- more like 6,000 or 8,000. But the Canadian response to the Ugandan Asian refugee crisis "marked the first time Canada accepted a large group of predominantly Muslim, non-European, non-white refugees." It's as good a marker as any of Canada's transformation into the society we have become in just fifty years.

Happily, there's a new history of all that. Not just the experience of the migrants but what it meant for Canadian policy about immigration, "multiculturalism," and diversity.

Shezan Muhammedi’s Gifts from Amin documents how these women, children, and men—including doctors, engineers, business leaders, and members of Muhammedi’s own family—responded to the threat in Uganda and rebuilt their lives in Canada. Building on extensive archival research and oral histories, Muhammedi provides a nuanced case study on the relationship between public policy, refugee resettlement, and assimilation tactics in the twentieth century.
Shezan Muhammedi is a policy analyst with the Canadian federal government and an adjunct research professor in the Department of History at Carleton University.  There's another "gift" -- from immigrants and children of immigrants Canada is acquiring a community of historians to match the diversity of the country. 

Omar Sachedina, CTV's chief new anchor, and the son of 1972 Ugandan migrants, reflects on their experience in today's Globe and Mail 

Update, November 7: A less optimistic look at Canadian immigration policy is Containing Diversity: Canada and the Politics of Immigration in the 21st Century by Yasmeen Abu-Laban, Ethel Tungohan and Christina Gabriel, recently published by University of Toronto Press:
This book reflects on how diversity is being "contained" through practices designed to insulate the Canadian settler-colonial state. In assessing the Canadian government’s policies towards refugees and asylum seekers, economic migrants, family-class migrants, temporary foreign workers, and multiculturalism, the authors show the various contradictory practices in effect. Containing Diversity reflects on policy changes, analysed alongside the resurgence of right-wing political ideology and the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, Containing Diversity highlights the need for a re-imagining of new forms of solidarity that centre migrant and Indigenous justice.
Follow @CmedMoore