Vietnamese people started to learn about Canada through the academic scholarship programs in the 1960s. Due to Vietnamese-Canadians’ background in the French language during this time, most Vietnamese students came to Quebec for post-secondary education. However, the majority of them returned to Vietnam after the completion of their programs. Only a minority of them became permanent residents in Canada during this time period. Thus, between 1960 to 1975, most Vietnamese people in Canada were university students in various post-secondary schools in Quebec.
After April 30, 1975, over one million Vietnamese refugees fled the Vietnamese Communist government in Vietnam. They were prepared to risk everything, including their own lives. Those who took to the ocean in tiny, overcrowded ships were dubbed the “boat people.”
Between 1975 and 1976, Canada admitted 5,608 Vietnamese immigrants, including many university students who were in the middle of their studies in Quebec. Due to the public outcry, in 1979, Canadian government continued to admit more Vietnamese refugees through the support of the public, including church, private groups of five, and corporations.
By 1985, approximately 110,000 Vietnamese refugees had settled in Canada. The majority of the Vietnamese “Boat People” did not speak English or French, and they had no relatives in Canada. The Canadian government continued to admit more Vietnamese refugees until 2016.
Today, according to the Statistics Canada, approximately 200,000 people of Vietnamese origin lived in Canada, representing less than 1% of the total Canadian population. Approximately 96% of all Canadians of Vietnamese origin lived in four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta. Ontario is home to 45%, 19% live in Quebec, 18% in British Columbia and 14% in Alberta.
The Vietnamese-Canadian community in British Columbia was formed by the first wave of the Vietnamese “Boat People” between the period of 1976-1990. Similar to other Vietnamese “Boat People” in other provinces, the “Boat People” in BC were diverse; they included a variety of social classes and both urban and rural dwellers. They arrived in BC during the period of economic downturn and these factors led to a struggle to integrate into Canadian society and to achieve economic independence. However, despite all these hardships, many Vietnamese “Boat People”, including 2nd and 3rd generations, are successfully integrated into the Canadian society. They can be found in many different professions ranging from laws, education, trade, medical, engineering, technology, government, politics, trade, business, sports, military, law enforcement, national security, and so on.
Compiled by Que-Tran Hoang