Category Archives: ARTICLE IN ENGLISH

Vietnamese Boat People Model Permanently Displayed at Maritime Industry Museum, New York

Bronze cast Vietnamese Boat People Model will be displayed permanently at Maritime Industry Museum in New York This statue is dedicated to museum by  a Vietnamese boat people family (Vuong Hoc Thiem, San Jose)  His family and a group of other Vietnameses fleed the country on the small boat name Thang Loi and were rescued by a Maritime Industry merchant ship back to 1980.   His daughter, Lawyer Laurent Vuong will present this gift to their rescuer at the ceremony on November 4th, 2017 in New York

Tượng thuyền nhân bằng đồng đen, nặng 45 cân Anh với kích thước 15x17x18 in, một tác phẩm mỹ thuật của Điêu Khắc Gia Phạm Thế Trung sẽ được làm quà cho Maritime Industry Museum tại New York vào ngày 4 tháng 11 năm 2017. Đánh dấu một giai đọan lịch sử về thuyền nhân Việt Nam. Nữ Luật sư Lauren Vương đại diện gia đình và nhóm thuyên nhân trên tàu Thắng Lợi vượt biển năm 1980 trao tặng.  Sẽ thưc hiện một clip video lưu niệm.

Vương Học Thiêm ( Hoàng Sơn Long writer) and Vietnamese Boat People Statue by Sculptor Phạm Thê’ Trung

Phạm Thế Trung Sculptor with Mr Vuong beside the Vietnamese Boat People Model before cast in bronze at the Art Foundry Berkeley -California

Vietnamese refugee (Pham The Trung) turns flight into art in Canada

By: UNHCR/Leyland Cecco and UNHCR/Annie Sakkab in Ontario, Canada   

(Source: UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency)

(Canada’s 150th anniversary – UNHCR documentary series about immigrants then and now)

Living in a Thai refugee camp in 1980, Trung found solace in the pages of his sketchbook. Today, in Canada, his work records that flight from danger.

In Trung Pham’s basement, shafts of afternoon sunlight shine on the newspaper clippings and photographs that chronicle his rise as an artist. Most of the articles are now yellowed by time and the photos have a thin layer of dust resting on the glass. But the memories are vivid, sharp and clear.

In 1980, brothers Trung and John joined the waves of people fleeing persecution in Viet Nam, slipping away from Saigon one night in a small wooden boat with 59 others. In fleeing, they left behind family, friends and the home they had known all their lives. Trung left with nothing but a black leather satchel – a prize from elementary school. Inside, he stuffed sketches and watercolour paintings.

“I left behind my girlfriend,” Trung says. “I still remember the tears on her face when I told her I was leaving. I’ll never forget that.”

Brothers Trung and John Pham in Trung’s studio.  © UNHCR/Annie Sakkab

Trung was among nearly 800,000 Vietnamese who crammed aboard boats and ships to flee repression after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

His boat was headed for Thailand, but after seven days on choppy seas, it began to drift off course and was intercepted by a large fishing boat, whose crew tried to return it to Viet Nam. But terrified of reprisals, the passengers rose up, commandeering the larger vessel and resuming their voyage

After reaching Thailand, Trung lived in the sticky heat of a refugee camp. Each month he received money from Long, his older brother who was studying in Japan and wanted to support his creative talents.

“Trung, he’s an artist,” says John. “So he used that money to buy papers, watercolours and brushes.”

The young painter used the materials to document life in the camp, sketching his impressions onto pages with black ink as he awaited resettlement to Canada as a refugee, with his brother.

Now, 37 years later, he still keeps those pages in the house he built for himself surrounded by rolling fields near Owen Sound, in southern Ontario.

The weighty quiet of his home in the country suits him, he says. A porch extends from the back of the house, overlooking acreage of thickets, trees and water. In the living room, the satchel, a relic of his early years in Viet Nam, sits in a glass case.

The home is far removed from the Thai refugee camp and Toronto, where Trung spent his early, hectic days in Canada. But no matter how far he physically moves from the journey, it never leaves him. His most recent sculpture, a cracked wooden boat with a family of three slamming up against the waves, is a tribute to journeys similar to his. According to some estimates, just half of all families who made that trip survived.

Trung Pham creates a bust of Lincoln Alexander, Ontario’s first black Lieutenant Governor. © UNHCR/Annie Sakkab

Canada has given him the refuge he needed to focus on his work, he says. His paintings and sculptures have been displayed in some of the country’s most prestigious institutions.

In tribute to the nation that welcomed and resettled him and his siblings, Trung created busts of 10 famous Canadians, including then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and environmental advocate David Suzuki.

“When you die you are buried,” says Trung. “But the soul – the spirit – is still alive. I want to make sculptures that we can look at, so people can remember any day, any time. It lasts forever.”

Trung Pham has spent years as an artist in Canada and much of his work has received accolades.  © UNHCR/Annie Sakkab

Inside the exposed pine ribs of Trung’s studio, a dusty haze of plaster settles over the large busts congregated around his table. The diversity of his subjects is testament to his passion and vision – a former Canadian prime minister rests opposite Vietnamese generals. On the far edge of one row, Trung’s late mother watches over his work.

The City of Mississauga, near Toronto, is currently working with Trung to cast a large statue in commemoration of the many Vietnamese residents now living in the area.

“Younger Canadians don’t understand why our people came to Canada,” says Trung. “But now, this figure – this statue – will show them the boat that carried the Vietnamese to freedom.”

He hopes his work conveys the tragedy, as well as the dreams of those who fled Viet Nam.

“Artists, they have their special soul,” says John. “His expression is through art – sculpting and painting. That’s his life. And he will continue to do that until his last days.”

Trung at work in his studio. © UNHCR/Annie Sakkab

Then and Now is a series of stories profiling refugees who have come to Canada over the years, in search of safety, stability and a chance at a better life. Starting from 1956, when Canada accepted its first major intake of refugees, the project uses archived images and family photos to tell the stories of refugees from Hungary, Viet Nam, Uganda, Somalia, Colombia, Cambodia, Burundi and El Salvador

When Trung fled Vietnam, he brought his paintings and sketches in a satchel. © UNHCR/Annie Sakkab

Meeting on-site May 3, 2016: Updated Master Concept Plan

On Tuesday May 3rd, 2016 members of VNBPMM had a meeting with Mississauga City Staff to review the process of Vietnamese Boat People Memorial Monument project.

The meeting was taken place at the site of Burnhamthorpe Library where the future monument will be located.

This project is scheduled to be completed in 2018

hinh-02 Meeting on-site


Sculptor with the model


The model sculpture at the site (scale: 1/5)



Review the sculpture model at the Library meeting room



Review the landscape design








Presented by Sculptor Pham Thê Trung


– Trained for 6 years in Sculpture at The National College Of Art in Saigon, former Republic of Vietnam.
– Came to Canada as a “boat people” refugee (1980)
– Competition Winner of “Refugee Mother and Child” Monument in Ottawa on the occasion of 20th Anniversary of Vietnamese Boat People in Canada (1995)
– Winner of Award of Merit for the Art, Gold Medal, City of Toronto (1997)
– Lieutenant Governor of Ontario & Multicultural History Society of Ontario Award (1998)
– Ontario Art Council Award (1993)
– Ontario Art Council for Education Award (1990)
– Selected member of Sculptors Society of Canada (1996)

1. Site Plan


2. Floor Plan up-to-date (artist concept)


3. Seating Place (Granite Seating Benches)


4. Stainless Steel Stand (City’s suggestion / sample provided by Mississauga City Staff)



5. Location ( Future monument)


Location of the future VNBPMM





Proposal submitted to City of Mississauga Council

Kiet Cao
1 Lockington Crt.
Toronto, Ontario
M9M 2C4
May 14, 2015
Councillor Ron Starr
City of Mississauga
Subject: Application for a land site for the Vietnamese Boat People Memorial Monument in City of Mississauga
Dear Sir,
After April 30th, 1975, when the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) fell to the Vietnamese Communists (North Vietnam), millions of people have risked their lives in the quest for freedom by small boats. Hundreds of thousands of them have perished at sea. Facts about their horrendous ordeals have been recorded in books and documentaries. Numerous plaques, monuments, memorials have been erected in many cities around the world: Washington D.C., Santa Ana CA, Westminster CA, Bankstown, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne Australia, Hamburg and Troisdorf Germany, Hauts-de-Seine France, Geneva and Grand-Saconnex Switzerland, Liège Belgium, Ottawa Canada….
Bill S-219 The Journey to Freedom came into effect last April 30th is an Act respecting a national day of commemoration of the exodus of Vietnamese refugees and their acceptance in Canada. Our initiating Committee is widely supported by various Vietnamese-Canadian organizations in Ontario and elsewhere. We are respectfully seeking for your support and approval for a land site for the Vietnamese Boat People Memorial Monument in the Mississauga area with the following purposes:
1. Enriching the diversity of Canada’s multiculturalism.
2. Further enhancing the beauty and attraction of the City of Mississauga
3. Symbolizing the gratitude and appreciation from the Vietnamese Boat People to Canada and Canadians who have opened their doors and arms to accept thousands of Vietnamese boat people as refugees.
4. Reminding future generations of the true value of Freedom for which their ancestors fought.
As for the construction cost of this monument, with the wide support of over 200,000 Vietnamese Canadians throughout Canada and particularly with around 70,000 Vietnamese – Canadians living in Mississauga and GTA area, we are confident that we can raise sufficient fund for this project.
With your support and particularly your approval of the land site, we strongly believe that this project can be achieved in time to mark the 40th Anniversary (1975-2015) of the Vietnamese Boat People in Canada.
Please accept our sincere appreciation and gratitude.
Kiet Cao
On behalf of the VNBPMM Committe members
Can Nguyen
Phan Dam
Han Trinh
Doanh Vu
Duy Nguyen
Khiem Vu
My Phan
Bao Nguyen
Ky Nguyen
Hoang Nguyen
Thanh Nguyen
Trung Pham
VNBPMM advocacy team members meeting with City Councillor Ron Starr

Vietnam boat people: tragedy history

Original Vietnamese text:
Thuyền nhân Việt Nam: thảm trạng lịch sử chưa thể sang trang / Contribute a better translation

A boat journey from northern Vietnam / Một chuyến vượt biển từ miền bắc Việt Nam
imageFiles Photos
According to UN statistics, from 1975 to 1997, a total of about 839,000 people were crossing Vietnam on fragile boats, rushed into the camp of the countries in the region. Still according to estimates by the High Commissioner for Refugees United Nations, in which some 839,000 refugees, killed at least 10% off, never permanently to the promised land.

A tragic period of history

1979 UN international conference on Indochinese refugees, admit asylum for refugees next to the residential camp in Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines …, paving the way for Batch persons resettled in a third country.

On the wave of refugees Vietnam rise in that period, the VOICE lawyer Hoi Trinh, non-governmental organization with offices in the Philippines specializing in helping Vietnam refugees, said.

From 79 to 89 years have a clear legal framework is the Indochinese refugees were resettled. That is why there is the road. That’s why many people go. More specifically the early ’80s, Vietnam’s economy down very well. At that time no innovation. Meanwhile the repression, oppression to the highest place in the early 80. Later it was massively gone.

Not only Southerners, so do not live that in the new regime, seeking to escape from the water, but the late ’70s to early’ 80s turned on, the Northerners from Hai Phong and Quang Ninh, home to two seaports of the North, also merged wave sail in search of freedom:

I see life depressed too, everyone must go, so I went. Strictly speaking then himself in Vietnam, where they have papers. At that time I did not have papers, like heir. Please identification difficult, please do not be. I just do fishermen, has found life boring trafficking.

It is the Swedish word he has with his parents, brothers all 12 family members who merged wave crossing three times in 1981. Two offshore, waves undergo before stamping buried lucky to be Hong Kong 1981, now has a stable family life in California, USA:

Flights missing out, there are acquaintances, and her son, his father was police em in Bach Long Vi Island shot dead, police shot dead 28 people sank.

Flights missing out, there are acquaintances, and her son, his father was police em in Bach Long Vi Island shot dead, police shot dead 28 people sank

he Swedish

Already a Vietnamese boat people, who also have a memory, an unforgettable adventure story to narrate. Storms, waves, pirates, famine, to shore or were pushed back out to sea are common tragedy of the boat people two regions.

Boat People is also a historical period can not to the page, not to the page, which must be recorded in any way, is the word journalist Wei Dance with Journey Boat People work began in 2001, completed in in 2003, translated into English titled Boat People 2013:

How done is rediscover the ancient witnesses, including relatives or friends of them died on the East Coast or raped, then I formed a group to accompany me compiled. I want to move the story through English, the aim is put into the Library of Congress, however, is the youth of the latter have to study that document. Boat people is a tragic historical period so for me 40 years was not enough, that is particular to refugees only.

Whirlpool area, Dictionary Uat Gào And echoing On China Sea, is the title of the most recent work on Vietnam’s boat people Chau Swedish author, known for painting pen Boat People through graphic art. Starting in 1979 when fleeing from their younger age, after a couple of failed attempts to get Thai Chau Thuy 1980. Work Areas readers Whirlpool launches Orange County, Southern California last Sunday, the anniversary of memories 40 years in exile:


Ông Talbot Bashall và cô Carina Hoàng trao tặng bộ sưu tập Thuyền Nhân VN ở Hong Kong cho tiến sĩ Thụy Võ Đặng của đại học Úc Irvine In California. (từ trái ông Talbot Bashall, tiến sĩ Thụy Võ Đặng , ông John Renaud, và cô Carina Hoàng.
Mr. Talbot Bashall and Carina Hoang awarded her collection VN Boat People in Hong Kong for Dr. Dang Thuy Vo of Australian University California Irvine Print. (From left Mr. Talbot Bashall Dr. Dang Thuy Vo John Renaud, and she Carina Hoang.

As a victim of the regime and to leave the country, the head always deeply imbedded in sadness. When entering the Pen art paintings, paint the picture of boat people, the past began to return. Then like motivation triggers emotions, thereby Chau Thuy sat down to write about his trip.

This year celebrates 40 years, for people to settle before or settled after the anniversary of such sessions mention the suffering never be able to forget. Through Regional Whirlpool, Chau Thuy want inserted all the pain of a young man crossing the road, one is released or is dead, but if alive, still find their freedom.

Boat people is a tragic historical period so for me 40 years was not enough, there are particular about severance boat

journalist Wei Dance

The wound never healed

Four decades ago, apart from the books written about the boat people are also short stories, novels, memoirs, autobiography, not to mention movies, voice heartbreaking tragedy of the boat people of Vietnam. But can say a heavy book’s research boat, the most elaborate and costly as the English on Boat People of female authors from 2011. The Carina Hoang Vietnamese Boat People title, Tears Sea, she just finished from Perth, Australia, to southern California in Orange County last week.

Artwork by Carina Hoang Oanh Hoang ie, filled with vivid images that she has put a lot of effort collecting or trustee:

The first image in the book, after the formation of the cover, the 152 boat people of Vietnam German ship rescued Amamur Cap on the East Coast in 1982. Within a few hours again if not saved, then it will be buried 152 people in mass graves is their boat.

First, the Oanh want this book available at the National Library and the library of the school, this Oanh Australian side has done before. Now the Australian school for high school students.


Tác phẩm Vực Xoáy của tác giả Châu Thụy và tác phẩm Boat People bằng tiếng Việt với tựa đề Thuyền Nhân của Carina Hoàng
Areas of work Whirlpool Asia Swedish author and work with Vietnamese Boat People Boat People entitled by Carina Hoang
Or Boat People Boat People, Water Eyes China Sea, including the 38 story told from those who fled to the shores lucky freedom, is a work document and Hoang Oanh also the hearts and minds of a boat in 1979 when he was 16. Away with two children and mother to stay to feed the soldiers announced that the South was in prison, and witnessed how the scenes of death, separations, pain each and every day, Oanh Hoang not a choice but to embark on the extenuating circumstances as auxiliary midwife for a woman crossing into labor minute Take advantage of the burial an 8 month baby dying when the delegation left on deserted islands.

I think it is a great tragedy of humanity that I was fortunate to witness. I have seen firsthand what happened, things that no one can imagine, unimaginably

Talbot Bashall

Oanh across America this time there are two reasons. One is attending the 40th commemoration program, while introducing the book in Vietnamese Boat People Boat People entitled, Tears SCS. This is the right time to talk about the tragedy of the boat people, the consequences of later date April 30, 1975.

Since 40 years is starting the third generation and, if you are not equipped with the knowledge to their children, the second generation, the third generation is even more difficult.

How to Boat People Boat People, Tears SCS get the picture vivid and real that was hit with viewers in finding so:

When I started the book, then go find images Oanh, Oanh find on the Internet before, said the owners of the pictures then contact Oanh started to ask permission to use.

High Commissioner for Refugees United Nations, the Oanh touch via their own library in Switzerland, they have for a long Oanh image of the research program of Oanh.

And beginning that Oanh contact the Hong Kong government, the Indonesian government and the newspaper have such images.

The success of the book of historical value and cultural value, Oanh Hoang matter further, was a chance for her to know and to add many humanitarian organizations or the media attention to the booklet printed document beautiful and sophisticated publication that:

After the launch of this book Oanh then even the Australian government, most state parliaments are invited to talk Oanh and introduce this book. Because they worked for the government, they make policy for the boat people, refugees or immigrants, but they do not know much about the boat look like, why they leave, they go for something. From then onwards the book is more popular, not only with Vietnam reader but not for school, college and government.

At the 40 year anniversary of the Freedom Journey Outreach And in Southern California last week, the book’s Boat, Sea of ​​Tears author Carina Hoang was first introduced to readers here.

The compilation of the book in English Boat People, Boat People Vietnamese East Sea Tears later, gave Hoang Oanh author knew he Bashall Talbot, a British former chief Management Centers Hong Kong refugee camps from 1979 to 1982, a time when the number of Vietnamese refugees pouring into this territory highest.

In four years with his wife, working through the Hong Kong refugee camp, he told Thanh Truc Bashall that he can be sure when that Hong Kong has never push a ship to sail back yet.

He said he still remembers well the 10th of June 1979, he and all staff have received 4315 Vietnam boat people from 43 different ships. That time he Bashall under a lot of pressure, sometimes worked to exhaustion but in return are peaceful sleep every night.

On Monday 27 April, in the Vietnamese newspaper office in the city of Westminster in Orange County, California, he Bashall 89 years old was the author of Boat People Imperial Carina, Tears SCS, given the collection that his wife perform during his life to UC Irvine in California.

This is a collection of six books, previously awarded to her Carina Hoang, gathered almost full records, correspondence, articles, photographs, newspaper clippings, government figures climax Hong Kong time Vietnamese refugees pouring into this land. Bashall said Mr Talbot:

The pain, the wound of boat people VN will never heal. Some families whose relatives died in the sea or die in refugee camps without a grave. But most painful were kidnapped today take that to the family also do not know whether to mourn … and still hoping to find them

Carina Hoang

This may be a collection of extremely concise in Vietnam boat people in Hong Kong, also reflects an intense phase of the crossing to other countries outside Hong Kong. The collection reveals a painful period of history must be protected, for showing how Vietnamese people go in sequence from the water by the boat amorphous fragile. When the decision to entrust the collection that my wife painstakingly made ​​for Irvine university of California, we think it is no longer a private collection, but instead an open file, an open document will be flipping out Research in stature a prestigious universities of the United States, which has received countless boat people of Vietnam.

I think it is a great tragedy of humanity that I was fortunate to witness. I have seen firsthand what happened, things that no one can imagine, did not imagine that …

After April 30, 1975, boat, sail, Vietnam refugees, suddenly became the focus of world attention. Forty years have passed, but the story has yet to be boat people into the page. For those who sit down and rewrite or collect the documents or records Vietnamese boat people over the years, it is impossible not to do the work as to whether further swung the knife in the wound still bleeds. Word Carina Hoang author of Boat People Boat People Tears SCS:

The pain, the wounds of Vietnam refugees will never heal. Some families whose relatives died in the sea or die in refugee camps without a grave. But most painful were kidnapped today take that to the family also do not know whether to mourn for the wife or keep hoping to find them. There are many things that each of their stories show the tragic aspects of the Vietnam boat people. Oanh never thought himself into the page, history page will exist forever.

Section Life Vietnam Worldwide The suspension here. Thanh Truc your appointment Thursday evening next week.

News and articles related

Institution AASuccess: three generations of a dream

Mississauga recognizes Journey to Freedom Day

RON STARR- Recognition of Coun Ron Starr, Ward 6 hoithuduc-tochuc-chaoco.1 (1)

MP LIZON -Greeting from MP Lizon for Mississauga Commemoration attendants

QH - 04


Resolution 0096-2015 recognizes April 30, 2015 as Journey to Freedom Day

Moved by: R. Starr Seconded by: C. Parrish


WHEREAS Bill S-219, the Journey to Freedom Day Act, was passed in

the Senate on December 8, 2014 to recognize April 30 of every year as a

national day of commemoration;

Council Minutes – 23 – April 15, 2015

AND WHEREAS this special day will mark the 40th anniversary of the

exodus of Vietnamese refugees in search of freedom, pay tribute to

Canadians who welcomed thousands of refugees and celebrate the

contributions that Vietnamese refugees have made to building Canada;

AND WHEREAS “Journey to Freedom Day” also recognizes the efforts of

thousands of Canadians and the leadership, support and co-operation of

federal, provincial and municipal governments, Canadian and international

refugee agencies, non-governmental organizations and religious groups

who helped to move large numbers of people under such difficult


AND WHEREAS Canada is now home to more than 300,000 Vietnamese-

Canadians who contribute to our society’s growth and prosperity, many of

whom have become valued and integral members of the Mississauga


NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of Mississauga will

recognize April 30, 2015 as Journey to Freedom Day to commemorate the

40th anniversary of the plight of Vietnamese refugees and to celebrate the

contributions of the Vietnamese community to Mississauga and Canada.


Thank you Canada


Vietnamese Boat People Memorial Monument in GTA is a project that has been longing for by Vietnamese-Canadian community. Over ten organizations in GTA and elsewhere in Canada have endorsed and pledged their support to this project. Our Advocacy Team is formed to carry the mandate.

When built, this monument will be a tribute to Canada, also will remind the next generations and the public about the ordeal that millions Vietnamese refugees ‘boat people’ went through on their escape of communism’s oppression and their plight to freedom. Canada admitted over 60,000. Statistics Canada indicates there were about 67,000 people of Vietnamese origin living in Ontario in 2001.

We are ever grateful for the Canadian government and the Canadian society who have embraced us all this time. A multicultural country, Canada accept us, we are so happy being able to retain our culture while integrating into broader society with harmony.

The monument means dearly to us. It symbolizes our gratitude to this wonderful country and to our sponsors who opened their doors, their arms and their hearts to welcome us. We refugee ‘boat people’ were accepted in Canada as a result of a one-of-a-kind Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program developed and implemented by government in partnership with more than 7,000 private groups of regular Canadian citizens who sponsored us. How proper it is also called the Operation Lifeline because it casts a line to rescue our lives, giving us freedom, safety and opportunity.

P1010006operation lifeline BP 5 welcome-to-canada-sign-canadian-border-alberta-32295088

Our saying two words “THANK YOU’ seems to be never enough. We owe a lot to Canada and Canadians, like York University philosophy professor Howard Adelman who spearheaded the national campaign of Canada’s boat people rescue operation in 1979, like diplomat Mike Molloy, the campaign chief co-ordinator, like Naomi Alboim, chair of the Public Policy Forum at Queen’s University and head of federal refugee resettlement programs in Ontario in 1979, like Immigration Minister Ron Atkey, like civil servants André Pilon and Bob Parkes from the Ontario Settlement Office of the Federal Department of Immigration, like Ottawa mayor Marion Dewar known for her “Project 4000”, the list goes on and on, and we just name a few here. This is our way of saying “THANK YOU” again and again.

We Vietnamese boat people and descendants always feel deeply indebted and won’t forget our duty to contribute for this country.

We are proud to be in our new homeland and we are proud to be Canadians. Thank you Canada!

P101001 3John Smith -Mountain fund to help and save vnboatpeople

President John Smith (Mountain Fund to help and save Vietnamese Boat People – Hamilton, Ontario) and Sculptor Pham Thê Trung ​at the Ceremony of the Award of Merit for The Arts – Gold Medal (City Hall of Toronto- March 6,1997).

Vietnamese Boat People in Canada

Between 1975 and 1976, Canada admitted 5,608 Vietnamese immigrants. In 1979 and 1980, another 50,000 people from Vietnam, refugees who later became known as the “Boat People,” settled in Canada. Unlike earlier groups of Vietnamese immigrants, the “Boat People” were internally diverse: they included a variety of social classes and both urban and rural dwellers. The majority did not speak English or French and had no relatives in Canada. They also arrived during a period of economic downturn in Canada. These factors led to a struggle to integrate in Canada and to achieve economic independence. They also settled in many places in Canada where there was previously no Vietnamese community. The largest groups are in Toronto and Montreal, with significant communities in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

This collection chronicles the lives, struggles, and achievements of the “Boat People” and those who assisted them. It includes hundreds of hours of oral history interviews conducted by volunteers, community members, and professionals. The interviews cover the topics of migration from Vietnam to Canada, and life in both countries, including their adaptation to Canadian society and their links to Vietnamese traditions and religious practices. Approximately 30 per cent of the content is in English and 70 per cent is in Vietnamese.

Collection contributed by: Multicultural History Society of Ontario

Link to the Vietnamese Boat people collection 

April 30 to mark Vietnamese ‘boat people’ acceptance in Canada


OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail


This group of Vietnamese boat people set out to sea in the exodus that followed the fall of Saigon (K. Gaugler/UNHR)

There were cheers and applause as Stephen Harper stepped on stage at a Mississauga convention centre in early February, facing a room filled with South Vietnamese flags and surrounded by Conservative parliamentarians.

Parliament was considering a new proposal, Mr. Harper told the crowd at the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration. Known as the Journey to Freedom Day Act, the proposed legislation would establish April 30 as a day to commemorate the acceptance of some 60,000 Vietnamese “boat people” in Canada after the end of the Vietnam War.

“It is a story that more Canadians should know,” Mr. Harper said.

That bill came into effect last Thursday, to the delight of some Vietnamese-Canadian associations and the frustration of the government of Vietnam. On Friday, Vietnam’s foreign ministry summoned the Canadian ambassador in Hanoi and publicly denounced the bill as a “backward step” in relations between the two countries.

Ottawa’s support for the controversial legislation was widely viewed as an effort to win support from the members of Canada’s 220,000-strong Vietnamese community, many of whom left their home country as refugees after South Vietnam was defeated. Such a strategy could become increasingly apparent as the Conservatives look to secure votes from immigrant communities in Canada ahead of an expected fall election.

Much of the bill’s controversy concerns its choice of date and the language that was first used to describe it. Senator Thanh Hai Ngo introduced the bill as the Black April Day Act and said it was meant to mark the day South Vietnam fell “under the power of an authoritarian and oppressive communist regime.”

The title was changed to the Journey to Freedom Day, and references to the communist regime were removed, but Hanoi still opposes the choice of April 30. Vietnam’s government has said that April 30 – the day in 1975 when Saigon fell – should be celebrated as marking the end of the war and the beginning of reconciliation between North and South Vietnam.

Julie Nguyen, director of the Canada-Vietnam Trade Council, told a House of Commons committee earlier this month the bill could divide the Vietnamese community and impose a history that favours the former South Vietnam regime. She and other groups have called for the date to be changed to July 27, to coincide with the day in 1979 when the first planeload of Vietnamese refugees landed in Toronto.

Louis-Jacques Dorais, professor emeritus at the Université Laval, who has studied the Vietnamese community in Canada, said it is likely a majority would support April 30. That’s because many who live in Canada today fled Vietnam after the war or have parents or relatives who did, he said.

James Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese Association Toronto, said he sees no reason to choose another date. “April 30 is significant because that’s the date we lost our country and we fled for freedom. And that’s what this bill is all about,” said Mr. Nguyen, whose parents sent him to Canada in 1981, as a six-year-old refugee. Mr. Nguyen said he and others will travel to Parliament Hill on Thursday for an event to commemorate the first Journey to Freedom Day since the bill’s passage.

Phil Triadafilopoulos, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said the Conservative government has been highly strategic in its efforts to gain new Canadians’ votes. While no political party is going to win 100 per cent of a community’s support, he said, “I think what the Conservatives are trying to do [with the bill] is compete for a part of that vote.”

The strategy could become an increasingly prominent feature of federal politics as the next election approaches – even though researchers say it is difficult to assess whether the Conservatives’ past ethnic outreach efforts have translated into votes.

“That doesn’t matter,” Prof. Triadafilopoulos said. “What matters is that the Conservatives think it’s very important.”

A chance at a new life after the fall of Saigon 40 years ago

Tu Thanh Ha

The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Apr. 24 2015, 5:57 PM EDT

Last updated Friday, Apr. 24 2015, 6:03 PM EDT



The Globe and Mail’s Tu Thanh Ha at 11 holding his three- month- old Sister in a photo take in the spring of 1975, just before the fall of Saigon.

Forty years ago this week, my parents rushed my three-month-old sister and me onto a plane, and brought us to the New World. Like many newcomers to the West, we eventually arrived in Southern California. Unlike many others, we chose to keep moving to Canada – to escape the cold.

That joke has been part of our family lore, a lighthearted jest in what was our otherwise unfunny cameo in a dramatic historic upheaval. We flew out of Saigon just days ahead of the arrival of North Vietnamese tanks.

I was 11 when my parents decided that we would become refugees. It was a path that led us, via much upheaval, including two nighttime flights on military transport planes, to a resettlement camp at a U.S. Marine base outside San Diego.

There, lying in a massive tent, on cots placed directly onto a dirt floor, we shivered at night, bundled in military blankets and jackets over our thin tropical clothes. During the days, me still in Vietnamese sandals, we fretted about the health of my infant sister. And so when Canada offered us a place to settle, my parents leaped at the opportunity.

My memories of the inclement California weather were confirmed recently when I spoke with Joyce Cavanaugh-Wood, a Canadian immigration officer who had arrived at the camp at about the same time my family did. As I spoke with her from North Carolina, where she has retired, Europe was grappling with a swelling humanitarian crisis. Last Sunday, an estimated 850 migrants died when the boat smuggling them out of Libya capsized in the Mediterranean.

The following morning, three more asylum-seekers lost their lives when their boat ran aground off the Greek island of Rhodes. On the other side of the globe, Australia has for years been turning away migrants arriving by sea, detaining them on the remote Pacific atoll of Nauru – and now paying Cambodia to accept them.

Back in 1975, by contrast, many people helped the Vietnamese resettle. Through the Canadian Immigration Historical Society, I recently got in touch with some of them.

There was Ms. Cavanaugh-Wood, who spent that spring processing applications from South Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong, the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, and California.

There was Charles Rogers, another immigration officer. He remembers rifles being pointed at him during a fruitless two weeks in which he tried to get people with Canadian connections out of Saigon.

I also reached Paul Jacobs, a retired U.S. Navy captain. The frigate he commanded guided a flotilla carrying tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees to safety, a major rescue success that has only recently come to light. He still remembers parents throwing their children from a helicopter hovering over his ship, his sailors waiting below to catch them.

After Saigon fell, Canada, the United States and other countries helped resettle between 125,000 and 140,000 South Vietnamese people on very short notice. Eventually, more than a million of us would leave. Now I see my son approaching the age when, as a boy, I became aware of the sights and sounds of war. Entrusted with the future of a child, I can look back and appreciate the risks and hardships my parents took to make sure their children had a better life.

A country, and a family, interrupted

My family comes from a small village named Khe Hoi, south of Hanoi, where my ancestors settled four centuries ago.

But the path that led us into the belly of those military planes first began to unspool in the 1940s. Vietnam had been a French colony, but was occupied by Japanese troops during the Second World War. After the Japanese capitulated to the Allies in 1945, communist revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh proclaimed Vietnam’s independence. Though it was not to be that simple: The French returned, and the First Indochina War began.

Some of my more distant relatives supported the Vietminh, the movement led by Ho Chi Minh; they included two of my father’s cousins, who joined the underground resistance to the French in 1946. My father’s immediate family, however, didn’t believe in communism. And so, in 1954, when the French were defeated and the country was partitioned, my grandparents, father, uncles and aunts resettled in South Vietnam.

The conflict between the two Vietnams – the Second Indochina War – which was famously joined by the United States, was the backdrop to my childhood. My earliest memories are of rocket shellings; nighttime scrambles to mosquito-infested bomb shelters; and, the morning that the North launched the Tet Offensive in 1968, the sound of gunshots, which to my young ears sounded like firecrackers.

By the spring of 1975 – I was 11 by then, and just finishing elementary school – the South Vietnamese military was collapsing and the North was ascendant. Letters from relatives in France – who had access to uncensored news reports – warned in veiled words what my parents already suspected: A catastrophe was imminent.

Still, I was detached from the concerns of adults, and I didn’t grasp what was going on – even on the morning when our classes ended early after a rogue South Vietnamese air force pilot bombed the presidential palace.

That air strike, which added to the confusion of the last days of the country, took place on April 8. Charles Rogers also remembers it. He was in charge of immigration at the Canadian High Commission in Hong Kong, but had been sent to Saigon to aid in the departure of relatives of Vietnamese residing in Canada.

The mood in the final days, Mr. Rogers recalls, was chaotic. Artillery fire could, at times, be heard in the distance. One night, he and a colleague ventured outside to get some relief from the tropical heat. It was past curfew and militiamen held them at gunpoint. They placated them with money and cigarettes. The gunmen especially appreciated the smokes: Paper currency was losing value by the day.

Mr. Rogers’s mission ended with the Vietnamese government stopped issuing exit permits, and Ottawa ordered the closing of the embassy.

Around that time, my mother and father had decided the future was going to be grim if we remained in our country. Warfare had also been the backdrop of their childhoods: When he was a teen, my father had once been detained by French soldiers during a roundup at our ancestral village (although he managed to talk his way out of it). During those years of war with the French, my mother’s family endured a harrowing flight into the jungle, hiding from the French – and, in the process, losing all their possessions.

With the spectre of more troubles approaching now, they weren’t going to let someone else decide their fate. We needed to leave.

In those last days, my parents liquidated their life savings and busied themselves with errands that, to my 11-year-old eyes, were confusing, intense and mysterious. They also sought out an acquaintance who worked for an American airline and got our names added to the list of people to be airlifted out of Saigon. Their savings would bribe our way through the paperwork and the police checkpoints.

They explained to me that we would be leaving our home – that our journey could be dangerous, and that we might be separated. For me, this was a lot to process. After living in a tiny flat in the hospital where my father worked, we had been in the process of moving to more comfortable quarters on another floor. I was starting to settle into a new school, make new friends. I had been looking forward to the future. Now those dreams of happier days were fading away.

Suddenly, we were hiding in a series of strangers’ houses, bringing with us only small carry-on bags with a few spare clothes. Mine was the size of a lunch bag. I have no idea how my parents managed to pack the formula and diapers that my infant sister would need.

After a few nights on the run, we made it to the tarmac of Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat airport. Next to a darkened runway, we waited with other families until an American military turboprop transport plane landed with a deafening roar. I don’t think the plane even stopped its engines as we all scrambled up its back ramp, my mother holding my sister to her chest. We dropped to its metal floor before taking off in a steep climb.

“This is it,” I thought, as I peeked at the orange-and-yellow glow outside, taking my last glimpse of Saigon.

The next morning, groggy, we found ourselves sitting in a noisy, cavernous hangar at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. I spent a lot of time scrutinizing the unfamiliar faces and uniforms of American military personnel. My parents spent their time filling out paperwork. One form required my height and weight; my parents gave it in metric. The air force clerk had a chart to make the conversion to imperial units, but it obviously wasn’t set for scrawny Asian boys: My weight fell below the chart.

Then, having been processed, we waited. A big part of life as a refugee is that you wait.

Babies tossed through the air ‘like basketballs’

Back at home, things were unravelling at a rapid pace. Within days, the communist forces came close enough to Saigon that Tan Son Nhat airport came under fire.

The evacuation mission now turned to helicopters. Off the Vietnamese coast, a task force of the U.S. Seventh Fleet was waiting in the South China Sea. Among its ships was the frigate USS Kirk. Its captain, Paul Jacobs, who is now retired, recently shared with me his memory of seeing the South Vietnamese military helicopters “stacked up” in the sky, crammed with people desperate to leave.

The Vietnamese pilots of those copters were army personnel who had never landed on the heaving deck of a ship. But, somehow, 18 helicopters managed to get down safely. Repeatedly, sailors ditched the arriving choppers overboard to make space on the small landing deck for other ones.

One aircraft, a twin-rotor Chinook, was too large to land at all, but the pilot managed to hover low over the Kirk while keeping clear of its structures. Babies were tossed out “like basketballs” to be caught by sailors, before the adults jumped, Mr. Jacobs recalls. The pilot then steered the Chinook toward the starboard side of the Kirk, took off his flight suit and bailed out before the helicopter smashed into the sea, its rotor blades snapping and cartwheeling into the air.

In all, the Kirk picked up about 150 people that day. Frightened, in shock, but relieved to have escaped, they were transferred the next morning to a larger ship.

Mr. Jacobs was then ordered to turn the Kirk around, head back toward Vietnam and rescue remnants of the South Vietnamese Navy, which by then had fled to Con Son, an island 100 kilometres off the mainland. There, the Kirk found about 30 Navy vessels, along with fishing and commercial boats. They were crammed with about 30,000 people.

Sailors from the Kirk visited the ships to refuel them and carry out repairs. They brought fresh water, looked after the sick and transferred pregnant women to the American frigate. Then, the Kirk and a handful of other U.S. naval vessels led the ships toward the Philippines. Their passage was slow and tortuous: The Vietnamese boats were overloaded, and barely seaworthy. “God looked after us,” Mr. Jacobs says.

On May 7, after six days, through mercifully mild weather, the refugees landed safely at the Subic Bay naval base, their voyage a major humanitarian success that went unnoticed at the time.

Some refugees died during the journey but one death in particular deeply touched the crew: a one-year-old boy named Bao, who had come down with pneumonia. They gave him a burial at sea.

One month later, the Kirk docked in Guam, where the refugees had been resettled in a camp. Mr. Jacob remembers with evident pride that the crew, on receiving their pay, went to the commissary to purchase food and clothing for the refugees.

They met Bao’s mother, who thanked Mr. Jacobs and his sailors. “I’ll never forget,” she said, “what you already did for my son.”

A numbing journey and a new life

The ships saved by USS Kirk weren’t the only ones sailing out of Vietnam that spring.

On May 2, a Danish freighter, the Clara Maersk, picked up an SOS signal and saved more than 3,600 Vietnamese crammed onto a sinking cargo ship, the Truong Xuan. The Clara Maersk transported the refugees, including three babies born during the journey, to Hong Kong – where Ms. Cavanaugh-Wood had been dispatched from Canadian immigration headquarters in Ottawa, after it had become clear that the end of South Vietnam would create an outflow of refugees.

When she got to the Sek Kong camp, at a military airfield in the New Territories, the rainy season had started. “Conditions there were really bad. People were living in tents. It was really muddy. People were very, very traumatized,” she recalled.

Soon she was redirected to Guam, where even more people were arriving, and where she joined Mr. Rogers, who had been trying to get people out of Saigon the previous month. Working out of a trailer, they were part of a team of Canadian officials screening potential immigrants, filling in forms, performing medical and security checks, and then arranging flights to Canada.

Ms. Cavanaugh-Wood spent three weeks there, just after my family had transited through. We were at a camp called Asan, housed in former U.S. Navy hospital buildings whose interior walls had been knocked down to make room for long lines of army cots. The barracks were crowded and there was little privacy either in the sleeping areas or the showers. I spent a lot of time wandering by myself.

Then one evening, a bus picked us up and drove north, to Andersen Air Force Base, from which B-52 bombers had launched strikes on Vietnam during the war. There, another military transport plane awaited us. We sat in rows on the floor, with canvas straps stretched across each line of passengers in lieu of seat belts. Then the plane took off for the long, numbing transpacific flight.

Finally we arrived in Camp Pendleton. A Marine base near San Diego, it had been turned into one of the main hubs receiving tens of thousands of Vietnamese into North America. We were issued military jackets to help ward off the cold. I had to roll the sleeves well above the elbows for mine to fit.

The adults around me had lost their homes, their jobs. They didn’t know what lay ahead. One woman sharing our tent sobbed and complained angrily.

Ms. Cavanaugh-Wood had also arrived at Pendleton. She remembers the camp as a place less dusty than Guam, with better sanitation. “There was not a lot of gaiety,” she says. “Many people were confused. Standing in line, waiting to be interviewed, there was a lot of apprehension. Even after they were accepted, they were not sure what it meant. … They had stepped off a cliff into the unknown.”

She found that most of the first wave of newcomers were quite qualified to immigrate to Canada: skilled, educated and with a good command of English or French.

One was a woman who had been a receptionist at the Canadian embassy in Saigon. She was in her early 20s and was with her two younger sisters. Their parents hadn’t been able to leave. “They were very, very fearful for their parents,” Ms. Cavanaugh-Wood recalls. “Being the eldest, she was taking responsibility for her younger sisters. She was very brave.”

Months later, Ms. Cavanaugh-Wood was visiting her own family doctor in Ottawa when she bumped into the young woman – who was now the clinic’s receptionist.

About 7,000 Vietnamese came to Canada in the five months after the fall of Saigon, my family among them. After we landed in Montreal, with $350 as our entire net worth, my parents started anew. Their professional credentials weren’t recognized, so my mother, a pharmacist in her 30s, worked as a parking-lot attendant and then as a clerk in a clothing store.

My father, in his 40s, studied so that he could practise medicine again. Together with fellow Vietnamese-refugee doctors, he sat on the floor in our one-bedroom apartment, reviewing textbooks and exam papers. Eventually, he was able to work as a family doctor. Later, my mother earned her licence and opened a pharmacy next door, offering advice to Vietnamese newcomers.

Another sister was born. A new life started.

Clouds back home, but open arms abroad

For those who remained in Saigon, life became very bleak.

Hundreds of thousands of men and women associated with the old regime, or even merely deemed untrustworthy, were sent to re-education camps.

Those who remained in the cities led a regimented existence. Neighbourhoods were divided into cells of 20 families that were monitored by a security officer. Owning a typewriter was illegal. At school, teachers were replaced with new instructors whose classes included mandatory political indoctrination sessions.

One of my friends told me that her father, a doctor, was arrested because he was suspected of being a former collaborator of the South Vietnamese government. The accusation was false, but he was jailed for eight months before he was released without trial. In the ensuing years, it took her five tries before she was able to leave Vietnam covertly aboard a boat.

Another friend, a student in his 20s, also had paid smugglers to get him out of the country. His group included three young boys who had been sent alone by their parents. At one point in their journey, in order to reach the little junk ship that would sneak them out of Vietnam, they had to crawl through a pigpen. They got scared and had to be gagged by the other boat people so they wouldn’t scream.

Once at sea, they hoped to be picked up by merchant ships, but were ignored. Eventually, they reached Malaysia. When they got to the shore, my friend, having worked on the boat engine, tried to wash his hands in the seawater, and saw a piece of human scalp floating there. He learned that, a week before, another boat of Vietnamese refugees had run aground on a sandbar. Thinking they were on safe ground, people jumped out and drowned when the tide rose.

By the late 1970s, more and more people were fleeing by boat, despite the threat of high-seas pirates and the risks of sinking. Thousands of boat people were arriving each month in rickety vessels that managed the journey to Hong Kong, Thailand or the Philippines, where they languished in overcrowded camps.

A key moment came in the fall of 1978 when Malaysia tried to turn away the Hai Hong, a freighter packed with 2,500 people, mostly Vietnamese of Chinese ancestry. Quebec immigration minister Jacques Couture, a Jesuit and former worker-priest, and his federal counterpart, Bud Cullen, played a key role in breaking the standoff, by accepting hundreds of the Hai Hong passengers.

Their arrival also touched the public’s heart. Under new legislation, churches, community groups, and private citizens could sponsor boat people and help them settle in. By the end of 1980, 7,675 groups had sponsored nearly 40,000 people to come to Canada.

In 1986, for the first time, the laureate for the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award, which honours those who have helped the forcibly displaced, wasn’t an individual or an organization. The United Nations Refugee Agency awarded the Nansen to a country – Canada.

A past whose echoes continue

In 1997, as a reporter for The Globe and Mail, I went on assignment to Vietnam to cover an international summit. While there, I met the other branch of my family – the one that had sided with communism, and whose ranks now included cabinet ministers, diplomats and party functionaries. One of my father’s cousins had a framed photo of herself with Ho Chi Minh. Another joked: “Maybe we should have been more forceful on the propaganda; that way your uncle and your father would have never left.”

But we talked more about family matters than politics. My relatives remarked that I looked like my grandfather. I realized there was a reason they didn’t say I looked like my father: It had been half a century since our clan had been divided by war – they had never met my father as an adult.

The Vietnamese government had by then loosened its hold on the economy, but the country remained a tightly controlled state. Yet even today, although there is Internet access and TV reality shows, although some gay rights are being recognized, and former refugees have returned to exploit business opportunities, Vietnam remains one of the world’s last one-party Communist states. Political dissidents, land-rights activists, bloggers and religious groups repeatedly face harassment and jail time.

And Vietnamese refugees are again in the news.

In recent years, most of the seafaring asylum seekers being turned away by Australia have been Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, Tamils from Sri Lanka or Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. But Vietnamese boat people have also reappeared by the hundreds, their numbers surging since 2013.

A week ago, an Australian Navy vessel, HMAS Choules, arrived at the Vietnamese port of Vung Tau, returning 46 asylum seekers who had been intercepted at sea and denied entry, earlier this month. In a video released this month, the Australian government warned that “If you come to Australia illegally by boat, there is no way you’ll ever make Australia home.”

Four decades after the fall of Saigon, the exodus hasn’t ended. In a world awash again with refugees and boat people, it is worth remembering a time when nations gave desperate people a chance to start a new life, in a new country.

Artist concept of the Memorial Monument in Misissauga

Consideration to build the Vietnamese Boat People Memorial Monument

Although Monuments are often perceived simply as another form of public sculpture they are first and foremost reminders. We build the Memorial Monument to the Vietnamese Boat People because those people are important to us for the values of the meaning “Freedom ”

In addition to communicating our beliefs and values from generation to generation, the monument also helps us to come to terms with the unknown, the unexplained and the mysteries of life- as well as with our deepest emotions, such as the pain we feel at the death of the “Vietnamese Boat People”.


‘The past is not dead history’ one man has written. “It is the living material out of which man makes himself and builds the future.” From our past comes the timeless, universal, and elemental truths that governed our earliest evolution determined our gradual development as human beings over aeons of time.

The monument welcomes all tourists and visitors to walk around, there, they can see the allegory a sculpture of the tiny boat carrying a young family fighting with big wave on the ocean
The inscriptions in front of the sculpture base , read as follows: ” Vietnamese Boat People Memorial ”

It will be 6 feet tall bronze statue, cast on the base 3 1/2 feet tall by black granite and set on a nice piece of land in front of the Burnhamthorpe Library ( Dixie & Burnhamthorpe ) City of Mississauga , Ontario – Canada.

A Memorial Monument is influenced by the naturalist school of arts, created by a well- known Vietnamese Canadian Sculptor named Pham, Thê Trung. The artist escaped from Vietnam by boat to a refugee camp in Thailand and was later granted immigrant status by Canada in 1980 .Please visit his website: