From Uganda to Canada: A Refugee Story

Jul 5, 2022

For many Canadians, July 1 is more than simply a day off work to have a BBQ, go to the cottage, or launch some fireworks. As we reflect on the national holiday we just celebrated, we wanted to share the story of how our Creative Director’s family came to Canada and how this country’s birthday has a very deep meaning for them. 

Placido Dias feels a patriotism that is likely more powerful than most Canadians do. He hung his Canadian flag long before July 1, with great pride and gratitude for the country that welcomed him with open arms. His story is fascinating: A young, East African refugee who went on to build a brilliant career as a Creative Director here and had a family who themselves are successful. His son, Tyler, is the owner and Creative Director of Pixels & Pencils.

The Dias family was dealt a brutal blow in 1972, when they were forced to leave Uganda after military dictator Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of all Asians within 90 days and seized all their assets. They lost everything – including their home, money and, in the case of Placido’s father, a career as a pre-eminent tailor. He had moved to Africa from the Portuguese-influenced area of Goa in India and were well-established within the British colonial community in Uganda. 

While some of the family went back to India, Placido had his eye on Canada and was fortunate to be granted a refugee visa to come here, along with his sister. They landed in Quebec, with nothing but ambition and drive and a lot of gratitude for the country that had given them a chance. Other members of the Dias family would follow later on, carving their own successful paths in Canada. Placido eventually moved to Scarborough and raised three boys there with his wife Judy. He put his creative mind to work, and grew a career that included designing the holiday windows at The Hudson’s Bay on Queen street and designs for Nike and Sears, among many other clients.

The sense of gratitude toward Canada has never left him. Canada Day is a particularly poignant holiday for Placido and many other immigrants and refugees who have benefited from this country’s immigration policies. Although we are not perfect and have work to do, we can be proud of our history of acceptance.   

Tyler is grateful as well. He feels he could not have the career he has today without his father’s determination to come to Canada and succeed here. If you are a refugee, you retain that gratitude for life, he says.

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