50th Anniversary of the Ugandan Asian Resettlement
In August 1972 Ugandan President Idi Amin demanded the exodus of all Ugandans of Asian descent. Within ninety days, approximately 50,000 Ugandans were forced to leave Uganda and seek asylum elsewhere.
In response to the urgent situation, Canada opened its borders to close to 8,000 Ugandan Asian refugees between 1972 and 1974, representing the country’s first major resettlement of non-European refugees.
Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Ugandan Asian Resettlement: Panel Discussion
In our History of Social Change Conversation: Looking back, looking forward, panelists Shezan Muhammedi and Jalal Jaffer reflect on what life was like in Uganda prior to expulsion and how that all changed with one decree. They discuss the challenges faced by Ugandan refugees to Canada, what resettlement taught them about Canadian refugee policy and practice, and how their personal experiences effected their life choices.
Shezan Muhammedi - Bio
Dr. Shezan Muhammedi is a policy analyst with the government of Canada and an adjunct research professor in the Department of History at Carleton University. He’s also the author of Gifts from Amin: Ugandan Asian Refugees in Canada. Using archival research and oral histories, the book explores the historical context of the resettlement, Canada’s refugee policy, and how thousands rebuilt their lives in Canada.
Mr. Muhammedi completed his PhD in History and Migration and Ethnic Relations at the University of Western Ontario, with his dissertation exploring the resettlement of Ugandan Asian refugees in Canada in the 1970s. His mother’s family came to Ottawa, Ontario as Ugandan Asian refugees in late October of 1972 fueling his passion for displaced peoples and vulnerable communities. Upon completion of his PhD, Dr. Muhammedi spent four years working for Focus Humanitarian Assistance under the Aga Khan Development Network leading a resettlement program for newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees in Europe.
Jalal Jaffer - Bio
Jalal Jaffer is a Vancouver-based lawyer and author of Memories of a Ugandan Refugee: Encounters of Hope From Kampala to Vancouver. The memoir recounts his personal story of growing up in Uganda, his dangerous escape with his wife in 1972, and his gratitude to the country that embraced him ever since.
He became close friends prior to the expulsion decree with a Canadian immigration official, Mike Molloy (featured in our digital story), who encouraged him to apply to Canada immediately following the expulsion decree.
Mr. Jaffer was born in 1945 in Kenya and moved to Kampala, Uganda with his family when he was three, growing up there as one of nine children. After coming to Canada, he earned his Law degree from the University of British Columbia in 1977, and in 2015, he was named Queen’s Counsel by the Government of British Columbia. Today Mr. Jaffer balances his work and family life with service to the Canadian Ismaili Muslim community.
In this digital story, Mike Molloy describes his experience as a young immigration officer brought to Kampala to help deal with the surge of Ugandans fleeing their homeland. He shares how that pivotal moment inspired not only a rethink of Canada’s approach to refugee resettlement but new career opportunities and lifelong friendships with former Ugandans now living in Canada.
Mike Molloy - Bio
Mike Molloy, a retired Foreign Service Officer, was second in command at the Kampala office during the expulsion. He was sent to Uganda in September 1972 where he managed the unit that interviewed the refugees and supported their next steps.
Mike also coordinated the resettlement of 60,000 Indochinese refugees in Canada in 1979-80 and oversaw the implementation of the refugee provisions of the 1976 Immigration Act. He’s president of the Canadian Immigration Historical Society and a Senior Fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Mike was Director General of Citizenship and Immigration in Ontario and former Ambassador of Canada to Jordan.
In this digital story, Tom Francis shares his personal story of finding a home in Canada with his new wife after being one of thousands of South Asians forced to flee Uganda. He describes the welcoming journey that he was fortunate to experience and his adventurous spirit that helped guide the way forward.
Tom Francis - Bio
Born in Entebbe, Tom Francis was in the middle of completing a master’s degree in agriculture when Amin’s 1972 decree forced him, his family, and then-girlfriend Joan to find a new home in Canada. He and Joan got married to make the immigration process easier and arrived in Montreal shortly thereafter. Fortunately, Tom was able to complete his master’s at McGill University. After attaining his PhD in agriculture and working for Agriculture Canada for several years, Tom worked with Syngenta Seeds Canada until his retirement in 2010.