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Vietnamese in Canada

Canada and Vietnam: Peeling back the layers

On paper, we couldn’t be more different. The reality is much more complex.

Step into the dynamic world of Vietnam and you will immediately discover a country of incredible progress, a people with a vibrant and exhilarating culture, and youth with tremendous hope for the future. Peel back the layers and it will dawn on you that most things are not quite what they seem.

Canada and Vietnam have a lot in common. Both are unabashedly proud beer-drinking cultures: Canadians might object to the tendency of Vietnamese to put ice in their beer, but if they experienced the heat and humidity they’d understand. Both were forged out of a struggle between two peoples: the French battled the English in Canada, the south battled the north in Vietnam.

Finally, both are small but industrious countries living next to giant military superpowers with 10 to 15 times their population: Canada’s 35 million people to the United States’ 315 million, and Vietnam’s 90 million to China’s 1.3 billion. And as both of those superpowers slowly tilt towards one another, Canada and Vietnam are both seeing each other as more of a strategic partner.

On paper, on the ground

Yet on paper and in the minds of many of us, we couldn’t be more different. Canada is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, while Vietnam is a communist one-party state. Canadians boast of their freedoms, while reports out of Vietnam sound the alarm over jailed bloggers. Canada has a longstanding close friendship with the US, while the Americans fought the Vietnamese in a bloody war that left an indelible mark on our neighbours’ psyche.

Even so, what’s on paper does not necessarily represent what’s in reality, in both countries. Canada has had more than its fair share of democratic scandals recently, for example, while the Communist Party of Vietnam is not as monolithic as it appears. That difference between what’s on paper and what’s on the ground is what I attempted to investigate in this series, From the Tundra to the Jungle: Canada and Vietnam in the 21st century.

I started with what’s on paper, looking at government reports and press releases, and filing many access-to-information requests. I then travelled to Vietnam for about a month this fall on a media fellowship from the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, sponsored in part by Cathay Pacific Airways. After returning to Canada, I interviewed more people.

The result is this series. You’re reading Part One, the introduction. Part Two, to be published Dec. 17, will focus on Canadian connections to Vietnam’s development. Part Three, to be published Jan. 14, will explore Canadian and Vietnamese business and trade interests. Part Four, to be published Jan. 21, will expand on energy and environment ties. Part Five, to be published Jan. 28, will look at education ties. And finally Part Six, to be published Feb. 4, will examine the political and human rights situation.

You can read more at:

PM celebrates Tết
Prime Minister Stephen Harper participated in a special event celebrating the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, also known as Tết. The celebration, hosted by the Vietnamese Association of Toronto, took place at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. The Prime Minister was joined by Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, and Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, who is the first Canadian Senator of Vietnamese descent.

During the celebration, the Prime Minister delivered a speech in which he highlighted the many contributions of the Vietnamese-Canadian community to our great country.

The Vietnamese Lunar New Year is a time to gather with family and friends to reflect on the year that has just passed, and to look forward in anticipation of all that the year ahead may bring. In 2015, Tết officially begins on February 19, and marks the start of the year of the goat.

Today, Canada is home to more than 220,000 people of Vietnamese descent who contribute greatly to the prosperity, culture and social fabric of our country.

Canadian Navy Vietnam Boat People Rescue 1990
On our Far East Deployment with the Canadian Navy in 1990 we stumbled across a boat filled with Vietnamese Refugees adrift at sea. We ended up rescuing them after their boat broke down in a storm and were adrift for many many days. Sadly, a couple of people died the evening of the rescue... Most happily now reside in Canada

Navigating our Identities as Vietnamese-Canadians
Join Tiffany Dang, Jennifer Tran, and Will Doan as they discuss about Vietnamese culture and Vietnamese lifestyle. This week's topic is about how they navigate through their dual identity as Vietnamese-Canadian.

See also...

HuongTran - Daily Life
My name is Huong. I was born and raised in a very peaceful and beautiful village of Vi Xuyen district, Ha Giang province. Every day, I harvest fruits, vegetables and tubers grown on my small farm, or buy them from local farmers and bring them to the market to sell to make money for daily living. Because I love the countryside where I was born and raised, I make HuongTran Daily Life channel to save moments of the countryside where I live and daily life.

Presentation on the Vietnamese Community in Canada

A Vietnamese Canadian Experience

The Vietnam Boat People
Malaysia has been flooded in recent months with tens of thousands of Vietnam refugees from across the South China Sea - the Boat People. Temporary camps have been set up, but they're now overflowing. There have been incidents of boats being pushed out to sea again by angry local people, causing the death of hundreds of people. World attention was captured when a freighter, the Hai Hong, arrived off Malaysia with 2,500 refugees aboard. The authorities wanted to send it out to sea again, but relented after several western countries agreed to accept the Hai Hong passengers. The general situation of Indo Chinese refugees, numbering hundreds of thousands, is expected to get worse, and steps are being taken to co-ordinate international action.

Live Fully in Vietnam
Their official tourism site.

Canada-Vietnam relations
Learn more from Canada's web site.

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