“What an absolutely marvelous job you did in creating this work… How very important it was for you to do this because I think it gives a truer picture of what actually happened… Your film should be more widely distributed – especially to schools. To learn that our decisions can have significant repercussions is an important idea to understand” — Jennifer Shelley, Edmonton
Note: The event is now over.
[Simerg is delighted to inform its readers, especially those living in and around the Calgary area, that Edmonton based filmmaker Aleem Karmali is travelling to Calgary for the screening of his highly acclaimed film “Thrown into Canada: The Settlement of Asian Refugees from Uganda”, on Saturday, January 21, 2023, at the Globe Cinema located at 617 8 Ave SW, Calgary. The doors to the cinema will open at 1:00 PM and the film will commence shortly thereafter. At the screening, Aleem will engage in a discussion with Honourable Salma Lakhani, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, whose appointment to the position was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on June 30, 2020. Salma herself became stateless when Idi Amin announced the expulsion of Asians from Uganda in August 1972. As readers may be aware, Simerg had carried a special article on Salma Lakhani with a link to an interview she gave to the Canadian Geographic magazine. We sincerely hope Calgary residents will fill up the cinema for Karmali’s film. Tickets are only $10.00 and can be purchased by clicking on EVENTBRITE. At Simerg’s invitation, Aleem Karmali has prepared the following short introductory piece about the film he is screening in Calgary — Ed.]
The Ugandan Asian Refugees: Canada’s First Major Movement of Non-European Refugees
By ALEEM KARMALI
The story of the Ugandan Asian refugees has received a fair amount of coverage in the past year, marking the 50th anniversary of Idi Amin’s expulsion of South Asians from Uganda in 1972. The expulsion targeted around 50 thousand people from a diverse array of ethnic and religious backgrounds, including several thousand Ismaili Muslims.
Often when these stories are told, they focus on the experiences of the refugees during the expulsion, their settlement in the UK, Canada, or other countries, and their contributions to their new societies. Typically, the story begins with Idi Amin’s expulsion order and they rarely engage with the damaging legacy of British colonialism in shaping the tangled historical context leading up to the expulsion.
In Canada specifically, the stories often focus specifically on Ismailis. However, while the Ismailis were the largest group that came to Canada, this was actually a diverse community, including many Goans, Hindus, Sikhs, and other Muslims.
DOCUMENTING AN UNTOLD CANADIAN STORY
When I set out to make a documentary film about the expulsion, I wanted to tell the Canadian story in a slightly different way than others had generally approached it. I approached the expulsion as a key moment in Canadian refugee and immigration history.
The Ugandan Asians were the first major movement of non-European and non-white refugees accepted in Canadian history. We tend to view Canada today as a multicultural, diverse, and pluralistic society. However, it was not always so.
Canada’s early history had very exclusionary immigration policies rooted in Canada’s history as a British colony. Eventually, Canadian immigration policies began to change, laying the foundations for Canada’s decision to accept almost 8,000 Ugandan refugees.
The Uganda movement also left a legacy in Canada. The generally positive perception of the Ugandan refugees opened the door to more, and larger, refugee movements from outside Europe, including the Boat People in the late 1970s, and later movements from Afghanistan and Syria.
Another legacy is that the experiences of Canadian immigration officials on the ground in Uganda led to new policies, particularly the world’s first policy of private sponsorship of refugees.
THE FILM: “THROWN INTO CANADA”
The film, “Thrown into Canada: The Settlement of Asian Refugees from Uganda,” is a 77-minute feature-length documentary, which premiered in November 2022 in Edmonton. It has also been featured at Carleton University’s “Beyond Resettlement” conference and was a selection in the Waterloo Region Migration Film Festival.
The film features interviews with historians, Canadian immigration officials, and former Ugandan refugees from the Ismaili, Goan, and Hindu communities. Notable interviews include Dr. Shezan Muhammedi, Prof. Karim H. Karim, Senator Mobina Jaffer, and Her Honour, the Honourable Salma Lakhani, the 19th Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.
CALGARY SCREENING: JANUARY 21, 2023, GLOBE CINEMA, DOORS OPEN 1:00 PM; AND LINK TO PURCHASE TICKETS
An upcoming screening will be held on Saturday, January 21 in Calgary at the Globe Cinema — 617 8 Ave SW, Calgary — followed by a panel discussion with Her Honour Salma Lakhani and myself. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by clicking on EVENTBRITE.
The film is independently-produced with grant funding from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Edmonton Arts Council.
TESTIMONIALS ON THE FILM
The following is feedback received from previous screenings of the film:
“I want to compliment you on a superb documentary.” — Michael Molloy, Canadian Immigration Official in Kampala in 1972
“It is beautifully told – written and visual. I love many creative elements you’ve included and I was so happy to hear so many voices.” — Shelley Ayres, Producer/Director of “Expelled: My Roots in Uganda” (CTV)
“The film was so well made, and I learned so much.” — Ikhlas Hussain, Waterloo Public Library
“What a wonderful contribution!!” — Dr. Shenila Khoja-Moolji, Associate Professor of Muslim Societies at Georgetown University
“What an absolutely marvelous job you did in creating this work… How very important it was for you to do this because I think it gives a truer picture of what actually happened… Your film should be more widely distributed – especially to schools. To learn that our decisions can have significant repercussions is an important idea to understand.” — Jennifer Shelley, Edmonton Resident
Again, tickets for the film can be purchased by clicking on EVENTBRITE.
Date posted: January 17, 2023.
Last updated: January 20, 2023 (trailer added.)
Aleem Karmali is an independent documentary filmmaker, writer and educator based in Edmonton, Canada. Through his company Crescent Productions, his films generally explore the intersections of history, diversity, culture and religion, with a particular focus on the contributions of Muslim civilizations to the world. He is also an alumnus of The Institute of Ismaili Studies and has produced several projects for The.Ismaili and the Aga Khan Development Network over the years. He also contributed The Unveiling at Sijilmasa for Simerg’s acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been There.
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