Friday, 17 July 2015

Adventures from the Archives part XI

Here's the latest from the adventure from the archives series! I hope you enjoy taking a look :)

What: A welcoming guide for Ugandan Asian refugees
Who: Secretary of State and the Citizenship Branch
When: December 1st 1972
Where: Canada
So what: Showcases exactly what the Canadian government wanted refugees to know regarding life in Canada. It also reinforces the importance of collaboration between the several departments within the federal government and local NGOs, religious groups, and volunteers in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for newly arrived refugees.

Here are some very interesting excerpts from the document:

page 1 click to zoom
"In addition, Uganda Asian committees have been set up in larger cities to assist you with your adjustment to your new homeland. They include representative of government, community organizations and the Asian community in Canada." The welcome brochure outlines specifically how there are several Uganda Asian committees that have been created across Canada as a third centre for refugees to seek assistance. The most interesting element is that they consisted of numerous volunteers, in addition to government workers, who were every day Canadians willing to lend a helping hand.

"Do not hesitate to ask for information. It is available without charge. If you lose your way ask a policeman for help or ask anyone." Again, the brochure outlines how average Canadians are always willing to help. I fondly remember that when Senator Jaffer spoke at world refugee day in Ottawa last summer, one of her best pieces of advice she had for refugees living in Canada was to ask for help. All those around you as a refugee embody that Canadian attitude of generosity and kindness.

"Each committee will be holding meetings and developing short courses and lectures on Canadian society for you and your family to enable you to learn quickly about our way of life. They will also be arranging social activities in which you can participate." It is very interesting that a lot of the "softer" characteristics of Canadian society are being explained to refugees from the committee. More importantly, it also showcases the absolute importance of this type of programming for immigrant and refugee resettlement around the world. Yes, it is important for newcomers to understand how to open a bank account, the laws of the country, etc. However, many other subtle elements of Canadian society need to be introduced such as making eye contact, shaking hands with someone when you meet them, or the classic elements of saying sorry even if you are the person that was bumped into!

page 2 click to zoom
"Great care should be taken when buying on credit. If you cannot maintain regular payments, do not buy." This was a key piece of information for many refugees since back in Uganda many purchases were made on credit. However, the credit system in Uganda was vastly different. It operated based on mutual trust that the individual who is making the purchase would return at a later date with the remainder amount owed or a portion of it. There was NO INTEREST. It was an honour system that functioned quite well in Uganda.

"You may feel nervous about the Canadian winter. The climate in Canada varies a great deal according to the region and some parts of Canada have a relatively mild climate. If you settle in a region which has a severe winter remember that: 

  • Central heating is universal in homes and public places 
  • Canadians dress for their winter and winter clothing in Canada now is light, warm, practical and not too expensive 
  • Most Canadians enjoy their cold but sunny winters very much, partly because of the delightful opportunities it offers for winter sports and vacations.
The Canadian climate was most certainly one of the biggest adjustment factors for refugees. Remember that Uganda is a country that is situated on the equator. The idea of Canadians enjoying the winter because it gives them an opportunity to play outside and participate in various winter sports in frigid temperatures is an extremely foreign concept to refugees from East Africa. Don't forget that Canada's definition of a "mild" climate was also something that was still ridiculously cold for refugees. Another fun fact is that the Canadian government issued several vouchers to stores like Sears and the Bay for refugees (those who arrived at the military base first in Longue Pointe) to purchase winter clothing and even a pair of ICE SKATES!

"We hope the few suggestions offered in this pamphlet will be of some assistance to you as you begin life in Canada. We hope your adjustment will be easy and your life in Canada a happy one." Although this may seem like a standard ending note to any pamphlet regarding immigrant and refugee resettlement it is still nonetheless a very inclusive and positive way of welcoming those who have been displaced. It represents hope and entrusts that refugees will live long and happy lives in Canada. This beautifully articulates the welcoming attitude that was embraced by the government and the Canadian public regarding the arrival of this refugee community.

As always feel free to be in touch with any questions and thank you all for taking the time to read through this. Until next time, all my very best :)

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