Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Adventures from the Archives IX

Hey there blog world!

This week's adventure from the archives is definitely one that a few people have been waiting for. Fortunately, I was able to track down Trudeau's response as I've been making my way through the research I collected over the summer.

What: The response from Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau to Major-General and President Idi Amin's original letter explaining why he had expelled the Asians
When: January 17th 1973
Where: Uganda
So what: This letter outlines the rhetoric used by the Prime Minister to showcase how Uganda's expulsion decree violates basic principles of equality and how Canada has chosen to withdraw significant forms of economic aid since Canada does not support their decision.

Unfortunately, I was not able to find that original letter just yet in the archives but I was able to find a telex which directly quoted the Prime Minister's letter. I have transcribed it in full below and don't worry I have added my own take on it further below.

"Your excellency, 

I wish to thank you for writing to me at such length and describing some of the concerns of your government and the steps which you have taken to meet them. The Canadian Government and people have followed closely recent events in East Africa because of our long-standing interest in Uganda, and in the other members of the East African community. Your letter was welcome for that reason.

There are many obvious differences between Uganda and Canada - of geography, climate and economic development - yet out joint membership in the Commonwealth demonstrates that we share in common a number of ideals and principles of law and human equality. Because Canada is a country populated by peoples of diverse origins, we have come to regard these concepts of equality and justice as vital. Without them, Canada would not have developed as it has. You expressed in your letter the degree to which you have followed these same principles while attempting to meet what you consider to be the primary threat to the viability of your country: non-national control of major sectors of your economy. 

As you know, concern about foreign economic influence now occupies the attention of many governments, including our own. Canadians believe, however, that the resolution of that particular problem, or of any problem, must not sacrifice basic principles of equality. It was for that reason that Canada expressed disagreement with your governments decision to order the abrupt expulsion of non-citizen Asian residents, and to arrange for thousands of Asians from Uganda to come to Canada although we were under no legal obligation to do so. 

Canadian interest in Uganda, of course, dates back over a number of years. The Canadian development assistance program, for example, began very modestly prior to Ugandan independence and has grown steadily since. In addition, many individual Canadians, often through work of missionary groups, have participated in the building of educational and medical facilities in Uganda. The developmental activities of these private organizations and societies have been encouraged, and on occasion, assisted by the Canadian government. 

One of the happy side effects of these programs has been the knowledge and understanding of one another's countries gained by many Canadians and Ugandans. I consider these personal relations between the citizens of our two countries to be particularly important to mutual understanding; as important in the long run as diplomatic and commercial relations.

I would not want this opportunity to pass, however, without mentioning that in this area of development assistance we have found contribution hampered by present circumstances in your country. For several reasons, including the departure or unavailability of local personnel and the lack of support services essential to make effective the work of Canadian technical advisers, the usefuleness to Uganda of Canadian assistance activities has been greatly decreased. My government, as you will recognize, has an obligation to the Canadian people to ensure that publicly financed aid programs contribute effectively to economic and social development. Under present conditions, we have judged that Canadian advisers in Uganda are unable to make such a contribution and for this reason, with considerable reluctance on our part, they are being withdrawn. I know that this decision will disappoint you but I trust you will appreciate why it is necessary. We are prepared, of course, to continue with other forms of assistance which can, under prevailing circumstances, continue to be effective. My belief is that at this time the most promising form of assistance which we might continue to provide is the training of Ugandans in Canada to acquire the skills which will further the development of your country. I hope we will be able to maintain our co-operation in this field. 

I am grateful to you for writing to me in such a straight-forward manner. It has been my intention to be open and frank in reply for I know you would not want me to be otherwise, I hope that my comments will be of assistance to you in understanding Canada's views on the important matters which you raised and which are of interest to us both.

Your's sincerely,"

As always here are some of my own thoughts

"As you know, concern about foreign economic influence now occupies the attention of many governments, including our own. Canadians believe, however, that the resolution of that particular problem, or of any problem, must not sacrifice basic principles of equality." Prime Minister Trudeau does not beat around the bush on this one at all. He very clearly states that although foreign economic influence is of concern to many countries the solution is not to expel thousands of people from your country.

"... arrange for thousands of Asians from Uganda to come to Canada although we were under no legal obligation to do so" Another frank remark from the Prime Minister to showcase not only Canada's benevolence and humanitarian motivations behind the reception of Ugandan Asian refugees but also how there was no legal obligation for the Canadian government to allow for the resettlement of Ugandan Asian refugees.

"I consider these personal relations between the citizens of our two countries to be particularly important to mutual understanding; as important in the long run as diplomatic and commercial relations." The relations that P.M. Trudeau is referring to are those based on CUSO partnerships for development along with a previous agreement made between Canada and Uganda to train military personnel from Uganda. He also highlights how these relations are have promoted positive cultural exchanges which are just as important as diplomatic and commercial partnerships.

"I am grateful to you for writing to me in such a straight-forward manner." You may be a little surprised to see how direct the Prime Minister is in his response and the tone of this letter. However, it adequately responds to how Idi Amin had phrased his initial letter.

As always feel free to comment or ask any questions you have. Until next time, I wish you all nothing but the best :)

1 comment:

  1. Like your article, content is very good, next time will come again.
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