Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,

Volume 148, Issue 129

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

The Honourable Mobina S. B. Jaffer

Expression of Thanks

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, as we all come together this holiday season to celebrate peace, love and unity, I would like to take a moment to reflect on what I am grateful for.

As many of you know, 40 years ago my family along with thousands of other Asians sought refuge from Idi Amin’s Uganda. In August 1972, when Idi Amin declared that all Ugandan Asians had one month to leave the country, our lives began to crumble. As fear filled the streets, my family and many others had to come to terms with the reality that we would soon be forced to flee the only home we had ever known.

Not only was Uganda the country where we were born, it was the country where we were educated and the country we helped to build. In fact, as a young girl, I remember admiring my father, Sherali Bandali Jaffer, a politician who dedicated his life to creating a peaceful, prosperous and, most importantly, independent Uganda.


However, despite the fact that we lost our homes, our businesses and everything that we had spent our lives working for, Ugandan Asians were very fortunate. Under the leadership of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, many countries welcomed us. Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Australia, United States and Canada — all were willing to give us asylum.

His Highness Karim Aga Khan worked with Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and helped thousands of Ugandan Asians find a home in Canada. Ugandan Asians will always be grateful to these two people for rescuing us.

To this day, I am truly astounded by the kindness and generosity afforded to Ugandan refugees by Canadians, who welcomed us into their country and their homes and allowed us to rebuild all that we had lost. I am especially grateful to immigration officials like Mike Molloy, who risked their own safety to go into prisons where Ugandan Asians were being held captive and personally place them on planes headed to Canada.

Honourable senators, every year at this time I reminisce about the first Christmas I spent in this great country, and I am eternally grateful. This year, as I celebrate my fortieth year in Canada, I would like to say “thank you” to all Canadians who welcomed my family, along with many others just like ours, for giving us the opportunity to call Canada our home.

I would also like to personally thank my mentor, to whom I will always be indebted, the Honourable Thomas Anthony Dohm, Q.C., who taught me what it meant to be Canadian.

Honourable senators, I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank my fellow Canadians for opening up their minds, their hearts and their homes to Ugandan Asians. Thank you.


One Response to December 11 2012 40th Anniversary of the Expulsion of Ugandan Asians

  1. Senator Mobina, you do us all proud – the expelled (60 thousand) and even those back in Uganda (2,000). Both the British houses of parliament marked the 40th anniversary with full-fledged debates in December and it is good to see the anniversary was marked by you by your intervention. Britain took 30 thousand of their subjects; Canada took 8 thousand or so of the stateless. The greater thanks go to Canada for stepping out and taking such a large number of refugees – the first time they accepted so many non-white refugees. PET is a hero to all those Canada accepted, so are the dedicated immigration officials that came to process the applications. Roger St Vincent was the chief and Mike Molloy the deputy. Canada became a little more multi-cultural with the intake of the Uganda Asians. In the course of time the Uganda refugees were synonymed as Success and their success contributed to Canada passing the multi-cultural law as national law in the late 1980s.
    Me? I am just one of those who happened to be in Uganda during the expulsion itself, collecting data for my PhD at Stanford. It was a horrific time and being a halfway decent writer I knew I’d want to write about it one day. Well, I did – for the last 5.10 years, 13/7, from Kampala itself, with the power more out than in. I crossed 1500 pages recently – 1 million words, 5x times Moby Dick. It was our last chance to do a book such as this, as that generation with memories of 1972 and their grandfather’s times are passing on. The book will be tabled at the Uganda Parliament next month. The President has endorsed the book and will launch it. The Aga Khan and Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (as UNHCR chief) are recognized in the book for the roles they played in resettling us, from archival material. The people who lived through the expulsion – 60 thousand or so – are the real heroes of the book. A third of them were still living in the villages in 1972 as mere dukawallas – the ubiquitous shopkeepers. I pay my homage to them, along with the 5 percent who were the entrepreneurs then. The 2000 or so who have returned have prospered so much that their net worth equals that of all Asians in 1972. The diasporans in UK, Canada, USA and 22 other countries prospered so much that their net wealth equals half of Uganda’s current GDP (US$ 17 billion). It’s a thoroughly researched book.
    A stone falls in a pond and disappears but leaves ripples. Sometimes I fear this book will be like an object that fell in one of Kampala’s mud-filled pot-craters and left just one ripple. Not at all: A million-words book has to be recognized just for that fact and I keep trying, like intruding on your space! On verra!

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