Monday, 7 July 2014

Adventures from the Archives Part III

Hello blog world, 

Here is the latest instalment from the adventures from the archives series. I was fortunate enough to be granted access to personal correspondence between the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. I had always wondered how close these two actually were especially considering how it has taken on a life of its own within the Ismaili community in Canada. 

It turns out that they were actually very close friends. Beyond the fact that the Aga Khan was a honorary pallbearer  at Prime Minister Trudeau's funeral and that Justin Trudeau commonly refers to the Aga Khan as "Uncle Karim", these letters showcased how they were indeed good friends. Their letters were often signed off with "in friendship". The photo that I have included was from a letter PM. Trudeau had sent to the Aga Khan congratulating him and his wife at the time Princess Salima on the birth of their first child Princess Zahra

A photo of Princess Zahra included in a
letter to the Aga Khan from PM Trudeau
Now for the good stuff, so what? It turns out that there did exist a very close personal friendship as made evident by their communication that has been left within the archives. I am sure there are more letters that are not kept in the archival collection but from what I have seen so far it is seems reasonable to conclude that they were very close. This will play a crucial role in understanding how large of a factor this relationship was when looking at the resettlement of Ugandan Asian refugees in Canada. There have been quite a few telegrams and letters within other archival collections that allude to the Aga Khan negotiating the settlement of 10,000 Ismaili Muslims from all of East Africa. It was clear that the "Asian question" in the post-colonial atmosphere in East Africa was finally being addressed with nationalization and ultimately Idi Amin's expulsion decree. Keep in mind that in 1967 President of Tanzania Julius Nyerere had implemented a policy of nationalization, which led to initial Ismaili migration to Canada. In another set of documents, it was made clear that the Department of Manpower and Immigration had estimated that there were already almost 1,000 Ismailis living in Canada (primarily in Vancouver and Toronto) which consisted largely of Kenyans and Tanzanians. 

What this all means is that: 

1. The Aga Khan and PM. Trudeau were in fact good friends
2. There was a decent sized population of Ismailis in Canada before the arrival of Ugandan Asian refugees
3. There was evidence that previous Ismaili migrants and succeeded within the Canadian atmosphere making the resettlement of a large Ismaili refugee community particularly attractive for the Canadian government
4. The close friendship between the Aga Khan and PM. Trudeau cannot be ignored as a significant factor in Canada's decision to accept roughly 8,000 Ugandan Asian refugees.
As always feel free to comment or send me any questions you may have. I am almost done the collection process of archival documents and will transitioning to the stage where I actually get to read the 10,000 documents I have collected :) Of course, I will keep you all in the loop on what I find! 

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