As we come together to celebrate Canada’s 152nd birthday on July 1st, it’s time to go back through history to understand what makes up this country called Canada, especially how it has recognized the Vietnamese community through the years. In the past, people did not have a clear answer to the question “Who are Canadians?” What most people knew about Canadians was that they were not British, American or Australian.
Canada has evolved as it established and asserted itself. From Red Ensign (featuring the British flag in the corner), the country’s flag has become the Maple Leaf. Today Canada is famous for certain values – being harmonious, respectful and humane. People also know Canada to be multi-cultural, where the diversity of races is one of the most notable in the world. Canada has opened her arms to welcome refugees during many of the world’s historical upheavals, including those in Vietnam.
Vincent Le Hoang Long, the author of the article What Does It Mean to Be Canadian?, written in July 2017 and published in Culture Magazin, mentioned that in 1979 the Canadian government made a world-shaking decision by officially accepting 50,000 Vietnamese Boat People in an unprecedented program. The action led to the Nansen Medal being awarded to the People of Canada in 1986 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The action of accepting Boat People led to the definition “Vietnamese-Canadian.”
Canada continues to support and celebrate the Vietnamese-Canadian community by building a designated park called Saigon, located on Matheson Blvd. in Mississauga. “The purpose of the park is for the City of Mississauga to recognize the contributions and achievements of the Vietnamese-Canadian community to the city. Many Vietnamese-Canadians settled in Mississauga when they first arrived in Canada and contributed to businesses, the community, and charities,” said Executive Director of Saigon Park Working Group (SPWG) James Nguyen. The story of a community overcoming difficulties in order to look forward to a brighter future has become part of the greater Canadian story. According to Dr. Nguyen Hoanh Khoi, chairman of SPWG, there will be some plaques about the history of the Vietnamese community in Canada placed at the park. “Currently, we are doing a fundraising campaign to purchase four plaques for the official grand opening. The four plaques proposed are Saigon Park, City of Saigon, Journey to Freedom Bill S219 and Refugee Resettlement Program,” explained James Nguyen.
Dr. Khoi added that SPWG also planned to have a commemorative magnolias program. “This tree blooms on Mother’s Day and is in accordance with the Vietnamese tradition of treasuring motherhood.”
There will be two opening ceremonies. The first, in mid-to-late August, will be for members of the Vietnamese community. The second, in early October, will be the official one with members of the community, the mayor of Mississauga, city councillors and city staff.
Readers can donate through several methods:
- Visit saigonpark.org
- Email transfers to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Send cheques payable to:
Saigon Park Inc.
1065 Canadian Place, Suite 307
Mississauga, ON. L4W 0C2
By San Hoa
This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt