International Operation Name: N/A
International Operation Dates: N/A
Mandating Organization: Government of Canada
Region Name: Africa
Canadian Operation Name: Uganda 1972
Canadian Operation Dates: 1972/10/01 – 1072/10/30
To evacuate to Canada Asian-Ugandans being expelled by Idi Amin.
Idi Amin took power in Uganda following a military coup in January 1971. On 4 August 1972, he announced that the country’s 80,000 Asians had 90 days to leave the country. This was amended two days later so that only those Asians who did not have Ugandan citizenship would be expelled. This still amounted to an estimated 60,000 people, most of whom had British citizenship and were mainly third-generation Ugandans brought to the country by the former British colonial regime. They were told that they could leave with only that which they could carry and would not be compensated for homes, businesses and possessions left behind. The expulsion order took Britain by surprise: it had been taking in about one thousand Asian-Ugandans a year, but accepting sixty thousand at one time was beyond its capacity – there was a risk of serious domestic problems.
In the face of the humanitarian crisis created by the expulsion, Canada agreed to accept 4,400 Asian-Ugandans into Canada. The lead agency would be the Department of Manpower and Immigration. The Canadian Forces would assist by providing accommodation, food services, medical facilities and transportation upon the arrival of the refugees in Canada.
With one week’s notice, the Longue Pointe detachment of CFB Montreal was converted into a reception centre. As the refugees arrived on Air Canada, CP Air and Pacific Western flights, they were transported to Longue Pointe. The gymnasium became a reception centre, while three old barracks became a temporary hospital, a press centre and clothing store.
A group of 20 military cooks from Gagetown, London, Montreal, Petawawa and Valcartier quickly learned the intricacies of cooking Asian meals, as well as the different food requirements of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. A medical unit from 5e Groupement de Combat provided a small hospital, and acted as liaison with two Montreal hospitals that had volunteered their assistance if required. They also inoculated all Asians as they arrived as a precaution against various diseases, including smallpox, which had been reported in Uganda. Even casual visitors to the reception centre were inoculated.
After flights lasting about 19 hours, on arrival at Longue Pointe the refugees were treated to a hot meal, given inoculations and informed as to what would happen to them next. Most stayed no more than two days at Longue Pointe, as Manpower and Immigration personnel worked quickly to find places in Canada to stay based upon their education and previous employment. Airline and railway personnel maintained offices at the reception centre, while the CF provided transport to Dorval airport or Windsor Station.
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