A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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General History


Opiyo Oloya came to Canada as a refugee from Uganda in 1981. After the fall of Uganda's tyrannical regime in 1979, Oloya had hoped that democracy would return. But the elections of 1980 brought a repressive regime into power and Oloya, a student activist, had to flee for his life. He fled to Kenya where he applied for refugee status to Canada in 1981.

Opiyo Oloya
Like Opiyo Oloya's story, the history of African immigration to Canada is a very recent one. The vast continent of Africa and its diversity of peoples (the term African includes Negroid-blacks from the countries of West, East and Southern Africa, as well as people of other ethno-cultural origins who have several generations of settlement on the continent) have not had a close relationship with Canada.(1)

Prior to 1960, black Africans made up a small, widely dispersed and largely unknown group of immigrants to Canada. From 1946 to 1950 Africans comprised .3 % of new Canadian immigrants. That figure rose to an average of 1-2% over the next 20 years. The White Paper on Immigration, published by the government of Canada in 1966, was a catalyst for the introduction of a more nondiscriminatory screening process. As a result the proportion of African immigrants rose to an average of 2% from 1968 to 1970, which indicated that the new system was a bit more objective, although still very selective.(2)

Black Africans began to emigrate from their homeland as the consequences of Africa's independence from European colonizers unfolded in the mid 1960s. By 1966, it became apparent that those who had taken power in Africa had failed to build viable political structures to replace the old colonial systems. The first wave of Black African immigrants to Canada was composed of the educated elite class who felt that emergent social systems were failing. Their departure contributed to the phenomenon of "brain drain" from Africa.(3)

The major source countries of African immigrants to Canada are the regions which developed complex social problems and areas prone, through neglect or poor planning, to natural disasters. South Africa, with its socially oppressive apartheid system has been the biggest source nation of immigrants to Canada, followed by Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria. (4)

From 1972 to 1973, Canada accepted an estimated 7,000 Ugandan Asians, raising the proportion of African immigrants to 6.8% of total immigration.(5)

The introduction of the Green Paper on Immigration in 1976, had the effect of restricting entry of potential landed immigrants in the independent class. This regulation seriously curtailed movement of people from black African countries, and was aggravated by the fact that there were just three Canadian Citizenship and Immigration offices in Africa at the time. The office located in Abidjan, capital of the Ivory Coast, served 23 widely dispersed neighbouring countries. The office in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, served 19 equally dispersed countries in the northeastern part of Africa. The office in Pretoria, the administrative capital of the Republic of South Africa, served just five countries at the continent's southern tip.(6)

The 1978 Immigration Act had the positive effect of allowing Canadian citizens to sponsor close relatives. Stipulations helped landed immigrants from the Republic of South Africa and from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Ghana.(7)

From 1973 to 1983, some 16,000 Southern Africans entered Canada. Most were from non-black ethnic origins (Portuguese and British, for example), after Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe achieved independence.(8)

By 1981, there were 50,107 Africans in Canada, with the number rising to 54,617 the following year. In 1984, 3,552 people (comprising 4% of Canada's immigration that year) arrived in Canada from Africa. In 1985 the population had jumped to 65,000 people.(9)

By 1981, according to the 1981 census report, there were 45,215 people of African origin in Canada. Ten years later the African population had increased to an estimated 166,175. The increase in the African presence reflects the political instability, factional wars and violence that continue to ravage many parts of the African continent.(11)

The Canadian & World Encyclopedia
(McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, 1998).

The Integration of Black African Immigrants in Canadians Society, by A.B.K. Kasozi
(Canadian African Newcomer Aid Centre, Toronto, 1988).

The Black Presence in the Canadian Mosaic, A Study of Perception and the Practice of Discrimination Against Black in Metropolitan Toronto, by Wilson A. Head
(Ontario Human Rights Commission, Toronto, 1975).

CELAFI, Celebrating African Identity
(CAN: BAIA, Toronto, 1992)

The Blacks in Canada, A History by Robin W. Winks
(McGill-Queen's Press, Kingston, 1997).

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