Beyond Resettlement: Exploring the History of the Ugandan Asian Community in Exile

November 14-16, 2022
Carleton University
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

September 28, 2022, marks the 50th anniversary of the first group of Ugandan Asian refugees to arrive in Canada after being expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin. This was Canada’s first major resettlement of non-European and largely non-Christian refugees in the postwar period. To consolidate power in Uganda, after leading a military coup in 1971, Idi Amin accused 80,000 Ugandans of South Asian descent of economic sabotage and a failure to integrate socially. He subsequently announced on August 4, 1972, that they would have 90 days to leave the country or face dire consequences. Canada’s rapid response to the expulsion order led to the resettlement of nearly 7,500 Ugandan Asian refugees between 1972 and 1974.

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the expulsion of Asians from Uganda the conference Beyond Resettlement: Exploring the History of the Ugandan Asian Community in Exile explored the historical context of the expulsion, Canada’s response and reception of a large number of these refugees, the larger diaspora of Ugandan Asian refugees, and the lived experiences of the community in Canada over the past 50 years.

The conference took place at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario in November 2022. Carleton hosts the Uganda Collection in the Carleton Archives and Special Collections which features a collection of oral histories, newspaper clippings from the 1970s on the expulsion and reception, a log book of arrivals to Canadian Forces Military Base Longue Pointe, and an interactive map of where Ugandan Asian refugees were resettled in Canada. The conference featured a series of workshops including a global café on intergenerational identities and belonging in Canada, screenings of documentaries on Ugandan Asian refugees, and a roundtable discussion with novelists.

The aim of the conference was to yield insights on the Ugandan Asian experience in Africa, Canada and elsewhere in the diaspora and to consider the nature of being a racialized refugee community in 1970s Canada and beyond. With this framework, the conference intended to broaden understandings of the refugee resettlement experience in Canada.

The themes of the conference included:

  • Routes/Roots in East Africa: Life in East Africa and Interrogating the Colonial Sandwich
  • The Expulsion Order and A Warm Welcome? (Re)Settling and Early Experiences of Life in Canada among East African Asians
  • Investigating the Legacy: Understanding the Ugandan Asian Refugee Resettlement Initiative, Impacts, and Further Migration from East Africa
  • Home and Homeland: Explorations of Transnationalism amongst the Ugandan Asian Refugee Diaspora in Canada and Beyond