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Tasneem Jamal came to Canada at the age of 6. Her novel, Where the Air is Sweet, tells the story of the expulsion of South Asians, particularly Ismailis, from Idi Amin’s Uganda.
What would you tell people about growing up here?
For the most part, I found it to be an extraordinarily supportive environment. When we first came in the early 1970s it was very much the “P-ki go home” days. There was a civil war in Pakistan in the news. It was very white, certainly in smaller cities like where I grew up in Kitchener. (On the other hand) there was this famous quote of Pierre Trudeau’s: “We want to offer these people an honourable place in Canadian society”… And I think that was always the energy we experienced and we received … I think because we didn’t feel begrudgingly let in. We felt they wanted us … I still have my documents from when I first arrived and a letter from the Government of Canada with my citizenship papers saying: ‘We’re honoured you chose our country.’ And that really stayed with me.”
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