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The Mountie Doll

by Dan Conlin, Curator

Time 0:02:45


This little plastic figurine of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer is one of my favourite objects in our exhibit. It tells many stories about immigration to Canada. This little guy was presented to the Saujani family in 1972 when they arrived in Montreal on September the 28th 1972 as refugees from Uganda. They were fleeing the dictator, Idi Amin, who expelled every Asian in the country and the Saujanis arrived in Canada after a long flight and many scary and challenging experiences, they were very exhausted but happy to have arrived in Canada. Shanta Saujani, her husband, and 3 children arrived and were welcomed at the immigration facility in Montreal and they were presented with winter coats, the staff were very kind and welcoming, and the children were presented with this little plastic figurine of an RCMP officer. They were a little puzzled by this object, which seemed so different from the toys they had in Uganda, but they understood that it was an important national symbol and they cherished this object.

It was also a unique scene in the immigration facility that night, September the 28th 1972, because there were televisions everywhere, black and white and color, people were glued to the TV screens and then suddenly they erupted in cheers and cries of joy because Paul Henderson had just scored the winning goal in the famous Summit Series between Canada and Russia. The Saujanis were kind of perplexed, they had never seen winter or snow or ice, they didn’t know anything about ice hockey, but they could see all these happy people around them and Shanta remembers their sort of confusion, but joy, as discovering that they’d arrived in this pivotal moment in Canadian sort of popular culture and it became an auspicious moment for the family. Shanta Saujani became a lifetime hockey fan and they always saw this moment as a real kind of lucky time to become a Canadian citizen that night all that happened.

The little figurine they were presented also became a cherished item in the family. Sheyfali Saujani kept it, especially in the 1980s and 90s regarded this object with sort of much interest as a famous Canadian multiculturalist case went through the courts. A Sikh man, Baltej Singh Dhillon, wanted to join the RCMP, but the RCMP didn’t allow men to wear turbans, and he launched a challenge that was eventually successful and he became a RCMP officer. And for Sheyfali, the little plastic figurine symbolized Canada’s capacity to accept new comers, adapt sometimes in troubled ways to changes and ways of life, as very much a part of the Canadian immigration experience. So there you see in this little guy all kinds of stories; stories of refugees, of identity, of challenging the status quo, all stories which we tell in our new exhibit in Canada’s Immigration Hall.