Backward Bill Passed, but Vietnamese-Canadians Move Forward - New Canadian Media

Backward Bill Passed, but Vietnamese-Canadians Move Forward

How would Canadians feel if July 1 was called Black July Day? What would happen if fictitious governments that no longer exist–such as the old…

How would Canadians feel if July 1 was called Black July Day?

What would happen if fictitious governments that no longer exist–such as the old Saigon regime–continue to be recognized in Canadian legislation?

Bill S-219 is a very troubling precedent. Any unhappy faction can not only celebrate its own private version of right and wrong, in parades and heritage societies and the like, but also in actual legislation.

We understand the importance of recognizing the heritage of ethnic groups in Canada. But Bill S-219 is not about commemorating the exodus of refugees, not about showing appreciation to Canada for accepting them, or acknowledging their contribution to this country. This bill is to get votes for the Conservatives in the upcoming election.

We will celebrate this day as the day when we feel free to have our own views, despite the Conservative government’s attempt to take the side of the old Saigon group with this vote-grabbing bill.

Bill S-219 does not add anything good to the community, and it will continue to divide it. How backward that the bill still has a we-were-victims mentality rather than focusing on moving forward. Furthermore, this bill is an obstacle for Canadians who work in sectors or are interested in promoting Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan, International Education Strategy, or aid effectiveness agenda in Vietnam.

Let’s put Bill S-219 in an international context. After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, the US normalized relations with Vietnam in 1995. In 2015, the US is ready to build a better relationship with the government of Vietnam. A recent US policy prohibits the flying of the old Saigon flag and singing the old national anthem on federal property.

To the opposite, Canada decided to be friendlier with the old Saigon group, at the risk of upsetting a partner of more than just trade, and the minister of defence has draped the old Saigon symbol around his shoulders at Vietnamese events.

April 30 as a dark day is the view of only a few thousand South Vietnamese who lost their power and privileges. On the other hand, April 30 is North-South reunification day for ordinary Vietnamese-Canadians, including many refugees who arrived in 1979-80 and over 100,000 economic immigrants who landed after 1981, who longed for peace and prosperity.

We agree that the experience of 60,000 boat people from Vietnam and the generosity of Canadian people in accepting them should be acknowledged as part of Canadian history. Refugees would want to remember the date when they are accepted and land in a safe place. The appropriate date of commemoration is July 27 when the first flight landed in Toronto in 1979, and the title should be along the line of an appreciation of Canada by Vietnamese refugees.

What would happen if fictitious governments that no longer exist–such as the old Saigon regime–continue to be recognized in Canadian legislation?

Canadians who are interested in freedom and democracy might want to take a look at our community. The few thousand South Vietnamese who fled in 1975 seek to impose their old Saigon political view on the refugees and immigrants who came later. All other voices are suppressed using threats of red-baiting. Members who are not outspoken about their anti-communist view or who have any contact with the government of Vietnam are singled out and labelled “communist.”

But because of Bill S-219, many members who have put up with this old group for so long, now for the first time in 40 years, have mobilized among themselves and become active in their political life.

On April 30, we will celebrate our own journey to freedom day as we understand it. We understand that even in a democratic country like Canada, the Senate can deny opposing views to be heard; that our community has been imposed a political view by a small group for 40 years.

But after 40 years, our journey has reached a critical point to achieve the freedom we look for. We will celebrate this day as the day when we feel free to have our own views, despite the Conservative government’s attempt to take the side of the old Saigon group with this vote-grabbing bill.


Dai Trang Nguyen is a co-founder and director of the Canada-Vietnam Trade Council and a representative of the Canada-Vietnam Association. She is a college professor in international business and international development in Toronto.

This piece originally appeared in Embassy News. Re-published with permission.

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