Journey to Freedom Day Act

An Act respecting a national day of commemoration of the exodus of Vietnamese refugees and their acceptance in Canada after the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment designates the thirtieth day of April in each and every year as “Journey to Freedom Day”.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

March 25, 2015 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Motion in AmendmentJourney to Freedom ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2015 / 7:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

moved that Bill S-219, an act respecting a national day of commemoration of the exodus of Vietnamese refugees and their acceptance in Canada after the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Motion in AmendmentJourney to Freedom ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2015 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to rejoin the debate on Bill S-219, the journey to freedom day act, and to speak in support of the proposed legislation.

As members know, the journey to freedom day act would designate April 30 to mark the day that began the flight of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese in a mass exodus from their homeland. April 30 is the right day to be designated to commemorate the beginning of that exodus. I respectfully disagree with my colleague, the member for York West, and before her, the NDP member for Brossard—La Prairie, in the use of the word “divided” to describe the sentiment of the Vietnamese Canadian community.

On Saturday night I attended a very large celebration banquet in Toronto, which was attended by between 600 to 800 Vietnamese Canadians. The evening was titled “Thank You Canada”. This represents the majority faction of Vietnamese Canadians who support this bill and recognize that April 30 was indeed a tragic day. It marks the communist capture of the South Vietnamese capital after decades of civil war in the country. The final capture of Saigon really was the end of the 1954 Geneva peace accord, which divided the country in hopes that there would one day be reconciliation, but instead, we saw the domination and oppression that followed with the North Vietnamese regime.

For me, April 30 is of particular importance. I was among the 7,000 who were airlifted out of Saigon on April 30 by the American military Operation Frequent Wind. The overwhelming majority of those 7,000 were Vietnamese who had reason to fear for their lives and the lives of their families. They were lucky to have joined that final airlift as the American embassy in the centre of Saigon was abandoned. However, even as we left from the embassy, we could see people gathering at the riverside boarding all types of tramp steamers and smaller boats. They began immediately to flee for their lives. They were the first of hundreds of thousands over the next half decade who would leave their homeland in desperation, seeking new lives abroad.

There were 840,000 souls who fled Vietnam in the mid to late 1970s following the fall of Saigon seeking refuge and new homes. In her Governor General's award-winning novel Ru, members may recall Kim Thuy describing in vivid detail the experience of these Vietnamese refugees escaping by boat to an uncertain future, something she herself had done as a child. I will read briefly from her writing:

Heaven and hell embraced in the belly of our boat. Heaven promised a turning point in our lives, a new future, a new history. Hell, though, displayed our fears: fears of pirates, fear of starvation, fear of poisoning by biscuits soaked in motor oil, fear of running out of water, fear of being unable to stand up, fear of having to urinate in the red pot that was passed from hand to hand, fear that the scabies on the baby’s head was contagious, fear of never again setting foot on solid ground, fear of never again seeing the faces of our parents, who were sitting in the darkness surrounded by two hundred people.

Miss Thuy continues:

Before our boat had weighed anchor in the middle of the night on the shores of Rach Gia, most of the passengers had just one fear: fear of the Communists, the reason for their flight. But as soon soon as the vessel was surrounded, encircled by the uniform blue horizon, fear was transformed into a hundred-faced monster who sawed off our legs and kept us from feeling the stiffness in our immobilized muscles.

The reality is that 250,000 people would not survive the difficult sea journey. They fell victim to illness, piracy, and dangerous seas. Those who did survive made their way to refugee camps in neighbouring countries, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong, which created a massive humanitarian crisis. This crisis required action on the global scale and the world responded.

With the aid of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, government officials began the process of resettling the refugees in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, the United States and, yes, Canada. Of those who survived the perilous sea voyage, more than 60,000 were welcomed by Canada. Approximately 34,000 were privately sponsored, and 26,000 were assisted by the Government of Canada.

These people, these refugees, became known as the boat people. They were welcomed with open arms by communities and religious congregations. Canadians helped these newest arrivals in Canada to find jobs, to make lives for themselves, and to educate their children and grandchildren. In fact, the outpouring of support here in Canada was so strong that the private sponsorship of refugees program became enshrined as a fundamental part of Canada's refugee resettlement program. It is a program whose strength is still recognized around the world.

Today, there are over 220,000 Canadians of Vietnamese origin. They contribute to all aspects of Canadian life: culture, sport, the economy, and academia. We value these contributions. Canada must continue to acknowledge what the Vietnamese refugees of the 1970s experienced to get here.

We must remember that April 30, 1975 was the trigger. The final capture of the South Vietnamese capital by the communist North Vietnamese was the beginning. While there is sadness to be commemorated, and it is commemorated every year on April 30, there is joy and celebration within the South Vietnamese community at the new life that they found here in Canada. I have seen it regularly on the anniversary.

As a result of Canada's efforts in assisting the boat people, members will remember that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees awarded the people of Canada the Nansen medal in 1986. The only time in history that an entire country has received such recognition.

To this day, Canada has one of the fairest and generous immigration and refugee systems in the world. In fact, we welcome more resettled refugees than almost any other industrialized country in the world. On a per capita basis, Canada leads the way.

In conclusion, the designation of April 30 as journey to freedom day would be a significant day for all Canadians, not just the Vietnamese Canadian community. It would also be a fitting way to mark the eve of Asian Heritage Month, which we celebrate every year in May. With the passage of the bill, April 30 would be a special day of commemoration for the Vietnamese Canadian community. All Canadians deserve a day to remember with pride their considerable efforts to show the world that we are a caring and truly compassionate nation.

Motion in AmendmentJourney to Freedom ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2015 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak about Bill S-219. I just listened to what the sponsor of the bill said, and I would like to clarify something. The member said that he speaks on behalf of the community. Being a member of Vietnamese origin, I can say that I have listened to what the community has said. To be honest, I think the member is not listening to what everyone has to say.

It is a divisive bill. I am not saying that April 30 is not the right date. What I am saying is that it is not unanimous. It has created a division. I find it very unfortunate.

One of the ways we could have gone forward and brought the Vietnamese community together was by doing something more concrete. I have listened to a lot of people in my riding from the Vietnamese community who have told me that one of the main issues for them is human rights issues in Vietnam. What we are doing here is not even addressing that issue.

I heard a lot of comments when the senator talked about the bill. There were no specific things brought forward to deal with the issues that affect people in Vietnam. There is a subcommittee for international human rights that is actually looking into the human rights situation in Vietnam. It heard from Viet Tan, for instance, an organization that spoke about some of the issues the Vietnamese have to deal with.

I will read something from my colleague on the other side, the member for Fleetwood—Port Kells, a Conservative member, who yesterday at the committee said, “The Vietnamese government continues to be a violator in a broad area of human rights and is among the worst violators of religious freedom in the world. The international community must exert pressure on the Vietnamese government to cease these abuses against its own citizens”.

Even when we hear alarm bells coming from the Conservatives, the only thing they can come up with is this bill.

There are only three articles. I will read from the bill. The first one is:

This Act may be cited as the Journey to Freedom Day Act.

That is the short title. The second one is:

Throughout Canada, in each and every year, the thirtieth day of April shall be known as “Journey to Freedom Day”.

Article three, the last one, is:

For greater certainty, Journey to Freedom Day is not a legal holiday or a non-juridical day.

These are the only articles that will stay after the bill is adopted. All the discussion about the preamble, with all the divisiveness that has come up, and the issues we heard from all sides, will not be in the final text of the legislation. Instead of using a bill to bring Vietnamese together, what the Conservatives have done is divide the Vietnamese community.

To be clear, I will be supporting the bill. I voted for it at second reading and I will vote for it at third reading.

There is a big fundraising rally for the Vietnamese boat people museum. This is a way of learning about the history of Vietnam and what happened after April 30. It will actually be the 40th anniversary this year. There are so many stories of Vietnamese boat people leaving Vietnam.

I invite all members to watch the documentary Bolinao 52. It is a documentary that follows a group of boat people through their journey. Why 52? It is because 52 out of 110 people survived. The rest of them died.

There are a lot of ways for us as members of Parliament and for the government to bring forward tools for other generations to know what happened.

I saw the documentary with my mother. It was organized as a fundraiser for the Vietnamese museum. I think that is one way of bringing people together. Everyone agrees that we have to remember our roots. In my case, my Vietnamese roots are part of who I am, and it is really important for me to learn about them.

However, we have a bill that actually does not say much and actually does not do much. I agree with the member when he said that April 30 is already a day when people in the community are celebrating. For instances, this weekend I will be in Montreal celebrating April 30. For me, it is different. Everyone sees the day differently. For me, it is a day to remember my roots and to commemorate all the sacrifices my parents made to come to Canada and for me to actually be here today in the House.

I mentioned human rights in Vietnam. Right now what has been done is basically that an issue has been brought up that is divisive but does not bring anything in return. We have seen what happens when the current government deals with trade agreements. I will give the example of Honduras. The reason the NDP opposed it is that when the government actually negotiated the agreement, it never talked about human rights. Honduras is not the best place on earth in terms of protecting human rights. When the government could actually talk about human rights and negotiate human rights, it did not do it. It is the same thing with the Liberals, who actually supported it.

What we get from the other side is basically, “Let's negotiate a trade agreement. Let's help develop it. After that, eventually everything will be cleared up and the human rights issues will be resolved”. However, at the end of the day, we have to negotiate now.

The reason I am talking about this, if members would listen, is that right now there are negotiations regarding a trans-Pacific partnership agreement, and we have not heard the government talk about human rights when it talks about negotiations.

What people in Vietnam and people from the community are saying is that we need to help people in Vietnam. What we are talking about is a bill that is divisive and is not bringing things forward. It is not helping people in Vietnam. That is why what we are offering on this side are solutions. Right now, the solution is negotiations and talks.

I invite the member who is heckling over there to listen to what was said at the subcommittee meeting yesterday. There was a subcommittee meeting in Parliament regarding human rights in Vietnam. Before coming here, I actually watched the whole thing and listened to it. For me, it is important. It is a way of bringing things forward and making sure that we do not forget our past. For me this is really important, because it is part of who I am. That is why I mentioned to the member who is heckling on the other side that instead of bringing forward something that is so divisive, why not help the Vietnamese museum of boat people? Why not help people in Vietnam right now? That would have been a way to bring people together. That would have been a way to move forward. That would have been a way to actually improve things, not just here but in other countries.

Again, the bill we have here today is being used sort of as a tool, and it is unfortunate.

It is too easy to generalize by saying that the community is united for it or against it. We understand the differences. As I said, for me it is a way to remember my roots, to remember my origins, to remember where my parents came from, and to remember the people from Vietnam. It is a way for me to see how great it is for us to live in Canada, where they actually open the door and where people of different origins are welcome.

Motion in AmendmentJourney to Freedom ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2015 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to Bill S-219, journey to freedom day act. I am co-sponsoring this bill with Senator Ngo from the other place.

It is important, however, contrary to what we just heard earlier from the other speaker, that April 30 is designated as journey to freedom day. It is important that this is the date the community has agreed upon. This is the date the community wants.

I presented a petition in the House of Commons signed by 2,620 people of Vietnamese Canadian origin just a little while ago. In addition, we had committee hearings at the heritage committee where we heard from various members of the community, including James Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese Association Toronto. He said:

As a leader of the biggest Vietnamese community in Canada, I attend many events on a weekly basis. There is overwhelming support for this bill whenever the conversation comes up. This bill is important to me and to those I encounter in the community, because it acknowledges our heritage. April 30 is a day for Vietnamese Canadians to come together to express our gratitude to Canadians for welcoming us with open arms.

The community wants April 30. This is the day the saga of the Vietnamese boat people began. Let us not forget that April 30, 1975 was the day the communist forces from North Vietnam occupied and conquered the south. They took over Saigon and as a result almost two million people fled South Vietnam. They fled persecution. They fled political imprisonment. They fled, in a lot of instances, death.

Some 250,000 boat people who went on rafts, that were put together with logs and rope, and crossed the seas succumbed to murder by pirates, rape, sexual assault, drowning, thirst, and hunger.

In 1980, some 120,000 were accepted here in Canada. In 1986, Canada was awarded the Nansen medal. There are 300,000 Canadians of Vietnamese origin now living in Canada. It is important to Vietnamese Canadians, who all agree, that April 30, journey to freedom day, is the day that is recognized by the community and by this House of Commons.

It is important. I have many people in my community of Vietnamese origin who have told me that April 30 is the day. Canada is a country made up of people that have all come from somewhere else. We all come here for pretty much the same reasons: to escape persecution, to escape hatred, and to escape violence. We come here because we want the opportunity and the hope that Canada has to offer us, for ourselves and more importantly, for our kids.

In the late 1970s and 1980s when Canada opened its doors to so many Vietnamese boat people, that boat became a symbol. It is a metaphor for freedom, for a journey to freedom. That is why April 30 is the date the community wants, the date that Saigon fell to communist forces.

Many Canadians do not know the story of Vietnamese boat people. This day, April 30, is the day Saigon fell, the day when the exodus of people from South Vietnam began, the day that Canadians will learn what people will do and to what extent they will go to escape persecution, to embrace freedom for themselves and for their families.

This is so significant. This is an important date. The young people here in Canada must know April 30 as the date. This bill will serve a pedagogical purpose. It will educate young Canadians and Canadians alike of the importance of what we have here in Canada, the great Canadian values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

This is also a celebration. This bill is a celebration of Canada. It is a celebration of Canadian values that we here in Canada, in 1980, opened up our arms to welcome boat people, people who had absolutely nothing. My dad was a survivor of the Holocaust and he came here with only the shirt on his back.

Many people, not just Vietnamese, have come to Canada with the very same, just the shirt on their backs and some change in their pockets to make Canada their home because Canada offers hope and opportunity for people.

I will tell the House that people in my community want April 30 as the day to mark this. Forty years have gone by now and we have an opportunity in the House to do the right thing, to say to the Vietnamese Canadian community that, yes, Saigon fell on April 30. That is the day that the journey to freedom began, which ended up here in Canada, where now some 300,000 Canadians of Vietnamese origin live.

On the weekend, I was at the North York Vietnamese seniors club. There were many people there, both young and old alike, who came on these makeshift boats. Some came as babes in arms. All remember the experience and all are so grateful to Canada. This date is very important for them. We must do the right thing here in Canada.

People say we have not heard from the community, but the community has been heard. The community has spoken. The community has said April 30 is the day. Some say we need to hear from the government of Vietnam or its representatives. It is not the practice of this Parliament or any other democratic parliament around the world to hear from representatives of foreign governments when it comes to passing domestic legislation, and we should not bend to the pressure from that embassy or any other embassy. When we pass legislation in the House, it is because the will of the people has tasked us to do that. We are responsible to the Canadian people, not to people in another country.

Vietnamese Canadians have spoken. They have sent many of us here, just like other Canadians, to get the job done, and the job in this piece of legislation is to designate April 30 as journey to freedom day.

Motion in AmendmentJourney to Freedom ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2015 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Independent

Massimo Pacetti Independent Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

, seconded by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, moved:

That Bill S-219 be amended by deleting Clause 2.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I understand that the bill is slightly controversial but I think everybody is in favour.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to my proposed amendment. I know I had proposed various amendments and they were all for the same reason.

We are speaking on Bill S-219, the journey to freedom day act. From the outset, I would like to say that I am not opposed to this bill. All of my proposed amendments, deleting lines 7 to 13 of the preamble on page 1, deleting lines 16 to 30 of the preamble on page 2, which you ruled out of order, and that which you have accepted, deleting clause 2, are due to the fact that these clauses all contain April 30 as the date to mark the journey to freedom day. As we heard in committee, there is no consensus within the Vietnamese community that the date is appropriate.

The purpose of these deletions is to allow the bill to pass while providing the government an opportunity to go back and consult with the Vietnamese Canadian community and select a date upon which a broad consensus exists. The reasons that a consensus does not exist are because: April 30 is the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, which would make journey to freedom day synonymous with a historical event that Canada did not play a significant role in; it would take away the focus from Canada's role in settling displaced Vietnamese people and place it on the many points of contention surrounding the Vietnam War; and, it risks making journey to freedom day political when it should not be.

It would be unfortunate if Parliament passed this bill only for it to sow division. We instead seek to create a uniquely Canadian day to commemorate the Vietnamese community's acceptance into Canada and its achievements thereafter.

I can propose a few dates, but they are dates that we got from reading the minutes at committee and through speaking to some constituents.

For example, July 27 is a possible alternative because it is the day that the Department of National Defence's Operation Magnet II began making its flights of displaced Vietnamese people, also known as boat people, to Canada.

May 1 is also a possible alternative because it is the day that the Canadian government declared it would sponsor refugees with relatives already in Canada.

June 20 is a possible alternative because every year the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees marks World Refugee Day on June 20, which I think is important. On June 20, 1986, the Nansen Refugee Award was awarded to the people of Canada by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees due in large part to Canada's role in welcoming Vietnamese refugees into Canada.

I do not want to say that I have a preference for any of these dates because that would be contradictory to my first statement, that I would prefer to have the Vietnamese community, along with government, decide on a consensual date where everybody would be happy.

I have always believed that one of the greatest humanitarian contributions we can make in times of international crisis is to open our borders in order to welcome those who are forced to escape perilous circumstances abroad. Journey to freedom day has the potential to celebrate such noble actions quite admirably. It can also highlight the positive impact that Canada made during a time of crisis by virtue of being a welcoming and compassionate nation while celebrating the numerous achievements by Vietnamese Canadians who have enriched Canada ever since. Making these the exclusive focus of the journey to freedom day act would be the most beneficial. The day could then serve as a reminder to Canadians that our generosity in difficult times can make a lasting impact that betters our country and the world we live in. This is why I believe it is important to choose a date that does not obscure these goals in any way or divide Canadians, especially those of Vietnamese origin, and that we can move on constructively.

On a personal note, I have received correspondence from Vietnamese in my community who are in favour of the bill. However, the controversy is the date. That is one of the reasons that I propose that we go back and try to have my amendments passed in the House as well as have the bill approved at third reading in the next couple of weeks before the House rises.

Speaker's RulingJourney to Freedom ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 2015 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

There are three motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill S-219.

Motions Nos. 1 and 2 will not be selected by the Chair, because they could have been presented in committee.

Motion No. 3 will be debated and voted upon.

I will now put Motion No. 3 to the House.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 2nd, 2015 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in relation to Bill S-219, Journey to Freedom Day Act. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

April 1st, 2015 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gord Brown

Good afternoon once again.

We will call the meeting back to order. We are studying Bill S-219.

Monsieur Dion, sept minutes.

April 1st, 2015 / 4:25 p.m.
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President, Montreal Region, Communauté Vietnamienne au Canada

Dr. Ba Ngoc Dao

Thank you.

He is but one of 840,000 individuals called “refugees”. It is estimated that during this exodus, more than 250,000 Vietnamese lost their lives at sea and roughly 100,000 in the forests at the borders, due to drowning, disease, starvation, violence and acts of piracy.

The Vietnamese diaspora designates April 30 as Black April Day or Journey to Freedom Day to commemorate the lives lost and the suffering experienced during the exodus of the Vietnamese people. This day also acknowledges the warm welcome by Canadians and the Government of Canada of the Vietnamese refugees and the gratitude of the Vietnamese people overseas for that welcome.

It was not just Canada but many others who extended this extraordinary gesture to the Vietnamese refugees: so did the United States, Australia, France, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, and others. In 1986, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees awarded the Nansen Medal to Canada, an honour on par with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yet how many Canadians are aware of this honour? That was the impetus for Bill S-219. We Canadians, whatever our background, are proud to be recognized by other countries, by citizens around the world through this legislation.

Now let’s continue the story of the former prisoner. After arriving in Montreal, in March 1985, the family immediately found work. The mother worked in a furniture factory, and then in a factory that made car brakes. The father studied for an equivalency exam.

In November 1985, after passing the exam, he worked at St. Luke’s Hospital as an orderly for more than three years. During that time, thanks to the generosity of the department heads, he worked in the mornings as a trainee and in the evenings as an orderly. Between 1991 and 1993, he had his rotating internship and has been a practising family doctor since 1994. He was awarded the Prix des médecins de coeur et d’action.

April 1st, 2015 / 4:20 p.m.
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Dr. Ba Ngoc Dao President, Montreal Region, Communauté Vietnamienne au Canada

Honourable Members, Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, allow me to introduce myself. I am Dr. Ba Ngoc Dao, and I have been the president of the Vietnamese community in Canada for the greater Montreal area for four years. I was the president of the association of Vietnamese physicians of Canada from 2005 to 2009.

It is a great honour for me to represent the approximately 30,000 members of the Vietnamese community in Canada in the greater Montreal area—there are 42,500 in Quebec—and to speak to Bill S-219.

We will never forget the participation of the Canadian Forces in the International Commission of Control and Supervision of the armistice and the 1973 Paris Peace Accords. Despite the armistice, South Vietnam was invaded by communist troops from the north. The war ended on April 30, 1975, and from that day onward, the increased terror, repression and atrocities carried out by the new regime against the South Vietnamese led to many more refugees.

We will never forget the words broadcast on the BBC or the VOA, sometime around 1980–1983, of a 75- to 80-year-old Vietnamese man: “If these electric rods and sticks could walk they too would flee the country.”

I invite you to listen to the story of a prisoner of war who witnessed the situation from 1975 to 1985.

Before April 30, 1975, this man was a medical officer in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. We can all agree that the role of the doctor is to alleviate human suffering, no matter the politics, location, time or the patient's race. It is a noble and fine profession.

With the takeover by the communist regime, he had to report to brainwashing concentration camps like so many other soldiers, officers and government workers. Almost all southerners were found guilty, and many were considered to have blood debts to public. Doctors were especially guilty because they healed and relieved the suffering of members of the People’s Army. The doctor in this story made a very big mistake. He saved the lives of members of the People’s Army, who were very moved, quit the army and sought political asylum in the south.

In the concentration camps, he performed forced labour: planting food crops, cutting down trees for wood to be sold for frames, writing self-critical texts, and attending lectures steeped with revenge and jealousy. Camp changes were frequent. After two and a half years in the brainwashing camps, he was released, but continued to be closely watched by managers, police and local authorities.

He was forced to work in a hospital for sick children under the control of poorly educated, non-professional administrative staff or go to the new economic zones, which were deserted regions with little or no resources. He had to stay with friends. At the slightest suspicions, the local authorities would often knock down doors at night to take people away to undisclosed locations.

Faced with this dangerous situation, he had no choice. He had to leave the country at any cost. He tried to seek freedom and flee with his wife and his 10-year-old and 11-month-old sons as boat people. He tried 13 times but never succeeded.

Finally, through some dealings involving the black market for gold bullion, his family caught a plane in March 1985, and fulfilled a promise that his brother-in-law, a student in New Brunswick and Montreal, made in February 1975.

He is but one—

April 1st, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.
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Van Hoang Nguyen Member, Toronto Section, Canada-Vietnam Friendship Association

Hello, everyone.

My name is Hoang. I represent a younger generation of Vietnamese in Toronto and also a part of Canada.

I'm here today to make only one point, which is the date of this bill.

When I came to the Hill today, I came across an article in Embassy news that came out this morning, April 1. I'm going to quote a sentence written in this article about Bill S-219, and the quote comes from the Conservative member, Mark Adler. The quote says, “This is a historical fact that we’re talking about here..”. He went on to say that “the historical fact is there was an invasion. There were two separate countries in 1975, and there was an invasion.”

As I said, I was born after the war, and, of course, I didn't witness the war. For me, the history comes from history books. I was taught by some of the well-known professors here, for example, Professor Gabriel Kolko, from York University in Canada, who has written a book about the Vietnamese war called Anatomy of a War. It's about the Vietnamese war, from 1940 to 1975.

I'm going to read one sentence that I learned from this book: “South Vietnam is a geographic expression only for the sake of convenience” because legally Vietnam, south of the 17th parallel, under the Geneva Accords of 1954, was an integral part of one nation, transitionally divided prior to reunification.

They key word here is “reunification”, ladies and gentlemen. April 30, 1975 is the day that reunited Vietnam. April 30, 1975 is not the day that commemorates refugees from Vietnam coming to Canada. That is one thing I want to make clear. This is what I learned from university, from textbooks. my point today is very clear: The day to commemorate the Vietnamese refugees in Canada should be July 27, 1979. April 30 is the day that reunited Vietnam, my country.

Thank you very much for your time.

April 1st, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.
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Trac Bang Do President, Toronto Section, Canada-Vietnam Friendship Association

Honourable Gordon Brown, chair of the House committee on heritage, honourable members for the House committee on heritage, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted and excited to be called as a witness regarding Bill S-219.

My name is Do Trac Bang. My Canadian friends call me Chuck, because I have been in Canada for 35 years.

I am the president of the Canada-Vietnam Friendship Association, and the friendship ambassador for the City of Toronto in Vietnam. I tell you this to show that I have a long experience of serving the community. From 1986 to 1992, for three consecutive terms, I was the appointment in council for the Ontario government on multiculturalism.

I am here to be a witness for Bill S-219, because I think the bill expresses our support for the recognition of the Vietnamese community in Canada.

As a Vietnamese refugee who came to Canada in January 1980, I am one of the members of the Vietnamese boat people. I don't want to talk about the bill for long, but every member around the table has a letter written by me in which I express my point of view on behalf of the Vietnamese community.

I would like to make the point to the committee today, with regard to the wording of this bill, that I believe up to 90% of the Vietnamese community would support choosing July 27 to commemorate the Vietnamese boat people's first exodus to Canada. In this spirit and with due respect, I am calling on the honourable Senator Ngo Thanh Hai to adopt July 27 as the commemoration day to be proposed in Bill S-219 as this day is perfectly meaningful and realistically acceptable to our community.

I represent the older generation, those who first arrived in Canada. However, with me is Mr. Van Hoang Nguyen, who is from the younger generation, those who have also come from Vietnam but who were born after the war ended in 1975. He represents the younger generation and can express the will of the community before the members of the parliamentary committee today.

I would like to ask Mr. Van Hoang Nguyen to take the floor, please.

April 1st, 2015 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Gord Brown

Good afternoon, everyone. I call meeting 39 back to order.

Today we are studying Bill S-219, an act respecting a national day of commemoration of the exodus of Vietnamese refugees and their acceptance in Canada after the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War.

On our second panel today we have Mr. Trac Do and Mr. Nguyen from the Canada–Vietnam Friendship Association. From the Communauté vietnamienne au Canada we have Mr. Dao, who's the president of the Montreal region.

Both groups will have up to eight minutes.

Mr. Do, you have the floor for up to eight minutes.

April 1st, 2015 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Chair.

Thanks to all the witnesses for being here.

I have one question that I want to preface by saying, Senator Ngo, that it's an honour to co-sponsor this bill with you. As you know, I'm doing so in the House of Commons. Last week I presented a petition in the House that contained 2,619 signatures from people in the Vietnamese community who are supporting Bill S-219.

There's a question I want to address to you, Senator Ngo. Last week, on March 23 specifically, the deputy critic for Canadian Heritage suggested that we should consider adopting July 27 as the new commemoration date for the bill, on the grounds that this was when the first Vietnamese refugees were brought into Canada by the Canadian Forces on Operation Magnet II. Can you let us know what this proposed option means to you and the people of the Vietnamese Canadian community, who clearly commemorate their grief and thank Canada every year on April 30?