Uganda expulsion: Senator Mobina Jaffer on nearly losing her father, husband


Senator Mobina Jaffer represents British Columbia within the Senate of Canada. She was appointed to the Senate on June 13, 2001 by Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

She is the primary Muslim senator, the primary African-born senator, and the primary senator of South Asian descent.  Jaffer was additionally one of many greater than hundreds of Ugandans of Asian origin who have been expelled from the nation when, in August 1972, dictator Idi Amin introduced that the South-Asian inhabitants had 90 days to get in a foreign country, or else.

As a part of the upcoming CTV News particular ‘Expelled: My Roots in Uganda with Omar Sachedina’, the senator spoke with producer Shelley Ayres on nearly losing her father and her husband to Ugandan troopers previous to being expelled.

Below is a transcript of an edited interview, which you’ll watch in our video participant above. 

Question: What do you keep in mind about dwelling in Uganda?

Senator Jaffer: I’ve very fond reminiscences of Uganda, and Uganda remains to be my residence. And, you realize, they are saying that those that drink the water of the Nile at all times come again. So there are very fond reminiscences I’ve of Uganda.

Question: How did your grandparents come to Uganda?

Senator Jaffer: So, my ancestors are from Gujarat, India. And my grandparents, at a really younger age got here to Uganda. And they began off in a verysmall space. And my grandfather was a really enterprising man. But within the early years, my grandmother, she was an actual businesswoman and he or she labored in, you realize, making paint and issues like that. So each my grandparents have been very enterprising

Question: How was your father elected into Ugandan Parliament?

Senator Jaffer: My dad was elected by Africans, and my dad had a really shut relationship with Africans. And in reality our grandfather, after my organic grandfather died, turned an African man. And we’re nonetheless in connection together with his household. Very shut connection. And you realize, that’s the reason it actually damage me once we left, as a result of I felt that my dad did every thing to be a Ugandan

Question: What was your father’s job and relationship to Idi Amin?

Senator Jaffer: My dad was a member of parliament and really well-connected. He knew Idi Amin as a result of he was chief of the military and he knew Idi Amin as a result of he would come to our home for lunch. And so and I assume Idi Amin type of thought that my dad was somebody he might speak to. And so he would come to our home for lunch and never for lengthy, only for a number of days. But it was simply, for me, I’d preserve pondering, why is he asking my dad? “Is he really the president?” The cause I say this to you is to let you know that he did not anticipate to develop into president.

Question: What was it like seeing President Idi Amin at your home for lunch?

Senator Jaffer: Yes, he could be at our lunch desk, and plenty of different occasions, and he was a really, very huge man. And when he walked into the room, he actually took over the room and type of managed the room. And so my recollection at first was that he simply was you realize.. Well I wish to put it kindly however we didn’t suppose a lot of him within the sense that we knew he was not very good and issues like that, and he was solely put in energy by international powers, in any other case he would by no means have develop into president. And so we have been very, we thought it was brief time period. Soon Obote could be again and I do know it sounds silly now. But, you realize, you at all times reside and hope that this can be a brief time period and that issues will change and we’d once more have a Democrat in authorities.

Question: Did you sense rigidity between the black Ugandans and Asians?

Senator Jaffer: So you must perceive and naturally, we have been underneath colonial management and I used to be not white. And then we had the brand new authorities and I used to be not Black. So we at all times knew there was rigidity between us and African individuals. But in our family, we have been very strongly introduced up as Ugandans. And, you realize, my dad would at all times say that, sure, there are points, however that is only a small hurdle in life, you realize, and you’d say that may’t maintain you again. You simply need to look previous it. And you consider my dad, he constructed faculties for women in Uganda, he by no means, ever differentiated and my African grandfather used to say that, you realize, chickens can have white chickens and black and brown chickens. And that is my brown son. And, you realize, I knew so we have been very a lot built-in into the neighborhood. So after all, it would not be right if I mentioned that we did not notice that we weren’t black or white.

Question: What was it like in Uganda earlier than the expulsion decree in August 1972?

Senator Jaffer: It was horrible, our mayor was, I will not let you know, however he was killed very badly on the streets in entrance of all of us. So issues have been very robust. And my mom was a probation and social employee, probation officer and social employee. She would go to jail as a result of at the moment we had lashings and we had hangings. And as a probation officer, she must go into jail and all of these issues, and he or she’d come again very, very upset as a result of she would say, issues are very unhealthy. I’d hear her whisper to my dad,issues are very unhealthy. The indisputable fact that in jail they’re hammering individuals, political prisoners to demise. Things have been simply worse. And so clearly, we have been getting very involved. Obviously, we had issues. But, you realize, it is your house and also you at all times suppose tomorrow issues will probably be higher.

Question: What occurred when your father realized his life was in peril?

Senator Jaffer:  In June of 1972, my father discovered from a senior navy individual that that evening it was his flip to be killed. Many, many politicians, particularly Asian politicians, have been being properly in Uganda they’d disappear, however actually they have been killed.

And so in a single day, my dad fled Uganda. But we bought a name that he had been killed. And you’ll be able to think about we have got 4 siblings in England. And my mom was there as a result of my sister was having eye surgical procedure and we have been simply devastated. Bless my mum. She was so sturdy, she mentioned, ‘No, Dad’s not been killed. We will see him. Dad’s not been killed. I’ve a sense he is  not been killed.’ But you’ll be able to think about how we felt to at the present time. I simply get goosebumps after I consider that day that we went by way of.

And then the subsequent day, are you able to think about? There was a knock on our door and my dad was there. He had escaped. Oh, it was. Oh, my God. I can not let you know. First, we simply could not consider it. We thought we have been making, you realize, having creativeness. And then once we noticed him and spent a while with him, we have been so relieved, you realize, as a result of I particularly my and my life was round my father. He was my son, my moon, my every thing and and all the opposite kids. So it was it was essentially the most wonderful time for us to have my dad again.

Question: How did you react when Idi Amin introduced the expulsion?

Senator Jaffer:  We all laughed. We all laughed. We laughed as a result of we thought, ‘Oh, that is one other dream he is had. Tomorrow he’ll change his thoughts.’ And, you realize, we went about our enterprise as if tomorrow issues will probably be again to regular. And then he wasn’t. Then it bought worse and worse. And my dad insisted that my husband and I go away immediately. And we have been in my husband’s small village of Fort Portal. And simply earlier than we have been leaving, the military arrived and so they got here to get me and there have been 4 younger males and it was terrible. And my husband stood in entrance of me and mentioned, ‘No, you are not going to take her, you’ll be able to take me however to not her.’

They took him and so they had two weapons on his head, weapons on, rifles on his head and rifles on his aspect, pointing in the direction of his abdomen, then dragged him out in a jeep and so they left. And that day I assumed my world has ended. My world has ended.  I used to be a younger bride and simply been married to him for a 12 months and now we have been married 51 years. So however at the moment I assumed my world has ended and it was regular when an individual was taken by the military, you’d by no means see them once more.

Question: How did your husband escape?

Senator Jaffer: We have been so, so fortunate. I’m simply born fortunate. We have been so fortunate that the military was taking my husband and the police arrived. The police arrived and the pinnacle of the police was a buddy of my father in legislation’s, and he completely insisted on taking my husband to the police station and to not the military barracks. And because of the intervention of that police officer, my husband is alive at the moment. They did take him to the police station, yeah he did have a really tough time there, however he was alive. And so clearly we left quickly after.

Senator Mobina Jaffer and her husband on their wedding ceremony day (Supplied picture)

Question: How did the world reply to your loved ones and people expelled?

Senator Jaffer: -One of essentially the most wonderful issues occurred to Ugandan Asians, the world opened its doorways. Literally, the world opened its doorways.

Canadian officers have been completely, they did every thing. Mike Molloy, one of many officers, even went to our prisons and bought the political prisoners out, and actually drove them to the airport. And he tells the story, it’s best to ask him, that he put them on aircraft, the military wished to take them off and he mentioned, ‘No, that aircraft is Canadian territory you’ll be able to’t go on it.’ We know that’s not true however he bought away with that and that is the sort of factor Canadian officers did. It was Canadian officers that saved many, many lives of Asians in Uganda. They have been heroic, we owe a lot to them.

Question: Why did your loved ones select Canada?

Senator Jaffer: So, you realize, my father was a politician and he traveled all around the world, he had been to Canada. And as a result of he was a former politician, he had visas to go to the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and keep in England. But he determined to come back to Canada as a result of he mentioned in Canada my nice grandchildren won’t be thrown out. Canada is the place of immigrants. Everyone’s an immigrant aside from Indigenous individuals and that is the place that I wish to increase my household. So my father made that call for us to come back to Canada.

Question: How did you discover work as a younger lady in Canada?

Senator Jaffer:  I arrived in Canada in 1975 and I had a number of tough years then as a result of I used to be a lawyer, however the Law Society wouldn’t settle for my credentials and I had an actual uphill battle. 

When I first got here right here, I seemed in all places for a job and I bought determined so I went to the listing and I went by way of all of the legal professionals. What did I do know that Thomas Dohm was one of the crucial distinguished legal professionals in British Columbia? I used to be intrigued. So he requested me to come back down and so they employed me as a ‘Girl Friday’. I do not suppose that even exists now, an individual who does every thing, as a result of I did not have any {qualifications}.

And then a number of days later he got here and mentioned, “You’re a lawyer, why are you doing this work?” And I defined to him my story and he went to the Law Society, requested them for the shape. And Tom Dohm went to the Law Society, they weren’t capable of argue with him. And he bought the shape, I stuffed it up that evening and in 10 days I bought my reply about what I needed to do. And then I bought by way of my exams and I labored for him. and later on we turned legislation companions.

Question: Why did you select to get into Canadian politics?

Senator Jaffer: So in my blood is politics however after I got here to Canada, one of many issues that I assumed was how can a refugee ever develop into a politician? Right? That’s simply not proper. But as soon as I used to be standing within the lineup and I began speaking to any individual who was a Liberal lady, and he or she inspired me to come back to one of many conferences, Liberal conferences. And I’ve by no means seemed again. I’ve finished each single position within the Liberal Party.

I actually care to offer again to Canadians. And I additionally know that Canadians have finished loads for me.

Question:  What has it been like returning to Africa as a peace envoy?

Senator Jaffer:  Part of my job was to go to many, many African nations to barter peace and convey peace in that area on behalf of Canada. And I keep in mind going to Uganda and I met with the president, President Museveni, and when he noticed me, he after all, knew me as a result of I used to be a Ugandan. But additionally I used to be my father’s daughter and by this time, my father had gone again to Uganda many occasions. And he mentioned to me, I’m very, very confused. Tell me, what’s this? What do Canadians have of their blood? How do they suppose? How might any individual that is been thrown out by Ugandans, come again as me again as a Canadian senator and peace envoy from Canada. And that is what Canadians are about. And that is why I, I actually am proud to be a Canadian, proud to be a Canadian Senator. And I’ll work so long as I can to verify I serve Canadians.

Question: What can Canada be taught from the Ugandan Expulsion?

Senator Jaffer:  I consider that our authorities must be taking a look at, and I’m at all times pushing the prime minister and minister of iImmigration that, why cannot we be extra artistic, as we have been 50 years in the past? We actually saved the lives of individuals. And there are lots of individuals, for instance, in Yemen, in Afghanistan who’re in horrible circumstances in the meanwhile.

For hundreds and hundreds of refugees in our nation, they arrive at our doorways and so they can’t even work. I’ve some instances I’m working with some actually unhappy instances. They have not bought a piece allow for 10 years.Can you think about? How do you go about working, feeding your loved ones? How do you go about dwelling from everyday? And that is the distinction.

The Ugandans might come right here and thrive as a result of the day they arrived, that they had a proper to remain in Canada. Most refugees do not. And I feel we have to have a look at a system the place we convey individuals and they’re type of actually parishing as a result of we aren’t processing their paper work. It’s very, very irritating for an individual like me who works day and evening on making an attempt to assist individuals to settle right here and their papers will not be being processed. There’s little doubt our system is damaged. And we have to actually have a look at how, all of us want to have a look at how all of this and to have a look at how we wish to, to start with, obtain refugees. And the second factor is, how will we wish to be recognized around the globe?

Question: What have you ever realized about refugees that come to Canada?

Senator Jaffer:  Refugees do not come right here by free will. They come right here as a result of their lives are in peril. I can let you know even at the moment 50 years later, if any individual mentioned to me, you had a alternative of staying in your homeland or coming right here.. we did not come right here as a result of we thought this land right here was filled with it was nice alternatives. We got here right here as a result of we have been determined. Nobody leaves their residence as a real refugee, besides if they’re determined. I feel we have to re-look at how we see refugees.

Question:  Do you see your self as each Canadian and Ugandan?

Senator Jaffer: Uganda remains to be my residence. And after all, Canada is my residence, too. So I’m fortunate, I’ve two properties. But, you realize, my love for Uganda will at all times be there.

When we converse Swahili and our mannerisms and consuming habits, we are going to at all times be Ugandans. Right. But we’re additionally Canadians, I’ve been in Canada longer than I used to be in Uganda, so I’m fortunate, I’ve two nations, and have been capable of to reveal my kids and my grandchildren to 2 nations. Two lives and our lives are a lot richer as a result of we have been accepted in Canada and we have been capable of flourish right here. But we even have fond reminiscences of Uganda.


Did Senator Jaffer’s story resonate with you? desires to listen to from you. Share your personal household’s tales of immigration to Canada with us.

You can share your story by emailing us at together with your title and site. Your feedback could also be utilized in a story.

WATCH the complete community particular ‘Expelled: My Roots in Uganda’ airing Friday, Nov. 4 at 9 p.m. on CTV


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here