40th Anniversary Lecture: Ugandan Asian Refugee Movement 1972

Canadian Immigration Historical Society President Mike Molloy lectured on the 1972 Ugandan Asian refugee movement at Ontario universities in Ontario in October, 2012 (Ottawa, Carleton, Windsor, Western, Laurier, McMaster, York, Ryerson and Toronto).

The 1972 Uganda Asian Refugee movement was the first test of Canada’s “Universal” immigration policy as applied to refugees. The talk examined the reasons behind General Idi Amin’s decision to expel Uganda’s small but dynamic Asian community and the Trudeau government’s reaction to the expulsion within a new Immigration and refugee policy framework. It described how a small, hastily assembled team went to Kampala in September 1972 and moved over 6000 refugees to Canada by the 8 November deadline imposed by the Ugandan government. The talk also explored the impact of the Ugandan experience on the refugee resettlement provisions of the 1976 Immigration Act and on the subsequent Indochinese refugee program of 1979-80. One of the lectures can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtQPKNhxymY.

Uganda Refugee Movement 40th Anniversary

Forty years ago this August the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin announced the expulsion of most of Uganda’s Asian population. Canada responded by sending a team to Kampala under the leadership of Roger St. Vincent and setting up a special reception facility at Canadian Forces Longue Pointe. Between 6 September and 6 November 1972 the Kampala team selected and transported over 6000 people to Canada.

CIHS is working with Carleton University, Ottawa to preserve and make publicly available an important collection of historical materials on this refugee movement. Included in this collection will be Roger St. Vincent’s account of the Uganda Operation “Seven Crested Cranes”, a unique collection of Ugandan press clippings covering 1970-72, and a comprehensive collection Canadian, British and US press clippings covering the events in Uganda and their repercussions in Canada between August to December 1972. These will be supplemented by electronic collections of Canadian and UK official documents and media coverage collected by three University of Ottawa graduate students, including a compilation of coverage in the Quebec media. Patti Harper of Carleton University’s Archives and Research Collections will oversee the conservation of the original materials and the creation of an internet accessible electronic archive.

As well, CIHS reprinted a special 40th anniversary edition of Roger Saint Vincent’s “Seven Crested Cranes”, his day by day account of the Uganda operation in the fall of 1972. The anniversary edition includes a new introduction as well as a series of never before seen photographs of Ugandan refugees arriving in Canada at Canadian Forces Base Longue Pointe, Montreal. This is a unique historical document detailing the challenges and pressures that characterize the management of urgent resettlement operations. Copies are available for $25.00 (Canadian) from the Society.

Indochinese Refugee Book Project

The Indochinese Refugee crisis which began with the fall of Saigon in April 1975 resulted in Canada’s largest resettlement operation. Books and studies on this event focus on the experiences of the refugees or on the groups that sponsored them. The herculean task of selecting the refugees in camps from Macau and Hong Kong, to the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, ensuring they met health and security requirements, transporting them to Canada, matching them with sponsors or destinations, receiving them on arrival and sending them on to their destinations and providing settlement assistance to the refugees and support to the sponsoring groups has been largely ignored by scholars.

For the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon in 2015, the Canadian Immigration Historical Society plans to tell the story from the point of view of the men and women who worked directly with the refugees and the sponsoring groups in Canada and in the refugee camps in South East Asia. While the refugee movement continued into the early 1990s we plan to focus primarily on the five year period from the fall of Saigon in 1975 to the end of Canada’s 1979-1980 commitment to resettle 60,000 refugees.

The project will collect memoirs, documents and artefacts that pertain to the experiences of our colleagues from:

  • The fall of Saigon including the Promise of Visa Letters and expedited family reunification, the baby airlift, and the initial resettlement from camps in Thailand, Hong Kong, Guam, Wake Island, Camp Pendleton, Fort Chaffee, Indian Town Gap  and the General Quang controversy.
  • The “Boat People” and the increasing Canadian involvement in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines etc. 1975 -78 including the “Hai Hong” and other “large” boats and how the refugee measures in the 1976 Immigration Act were deployed to meet the growing challenge.
  • The 1979-80 Commitment to accept 50,000, then 60,000, refugees: operations in SE Asia, the selection and processing systems; sponsorships; matching and destining; the Reception Centres; supporting sponsors and resettling government sponsored refugees, strengthening the resettlement system, the Refugee Liaison Officers, special groups and initiatives and the Family Reunification Program.

To date the project team has been in touch with 70 potential writers and we are looking for more. If you were involved in the resettlement of Indochinese refugees at a post abroad, at the Griesbach or Longue Pointe Reception Centres, at the national or a regional matching centre, or in any capacity at National Headquarters, a Regional Office and especially at a CIC or CEC we are interested in hearing from you. If you would like to be part of this important project please contact us.

CIHS Website

We are upgrading our communication capacity via the Website.

We are hoping that the new website will allow us to reach more potential members, contributors and new partners in the Canadian immigration and refugee memory business.

We welcome feedback in regard to the website and our Society.

CIHS-Pathways to Prosperity Partnership video project

CIHS and Pathways to Prosperity (P2P) have  launched an on-line video interview series.  They which provides an oral history of immigration related by insiders involved in the political and policy decisions through to program development and operational logistics.

The first videos, Reflections from the Past, feature three one hour interviews and a group panel discussion with Michael Molloy, Raphael Girard, and Gerry Van Kessel.  They were Directors-General, responsible for refugee policy, at the federal immigration department over a thirty year period.  The interviews were conducted by Martha Nixon, a former Assistant Deputy Minister at Citizenship and Immigration Canada,  responsible for the Ministry’s operational arm during the 1990’s.  All four are well known to Bulletin readers.  Mike, Raph and Gerry offer their appraisals on the legislative and organizational development of Canada’s overseas and domestic approaches to refugee determination and refugee selection.

Visit http://p2pcanada.ca/library/reflections-from-the-past-partnership-between-p2p-and-cihs/ to view the videos.

Re-publishing of CIHS articles

CIHS has come to agreements with Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s “Insider” newsletter and the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers’ award winning magazine “Bout de Papier” to re-publish selected articles from the Bulletin. So far the “Insider” has reprinted Jim Humphries’ series on the creation of CAIPS (Bulletins 59, 60 and 61) and “Bout” is planning a series of features on the immigration program.