HOF168: MARGARET TEBBUTT

In 1972, Margaret, then 24, joined Canada’s Foreign Service and undertook training as a Visa Officer.  She was posted to Canada’s Commission in Hong Kong from 1973 – 1975, and had area responsibility, which meant travelling to Kuala Lumpur and Kwangchow to interview and select immigrants.  She also travelled in China to Beijing, Shanghai, Hangchow, as well as to Thailand, Myanmar (then Burma), Nepal, etc.

In April 1975, the Commission in Hong Kong received telexes detailing names of Vietnamese whose family members in Canada wished to sponsor them for immigration.  Given the situation, the Officer in Charge, developed a “Promise of Visa” letter.  Margaret and a team of local staff worked into the night to prepare hundreds of such letters.  Along with others, she flew on a Canadian Forces aircraft to Saigon’s airport surrounded by bomb craters to evacuate Canadians and their Vietnamese families. A later flight brought orphan babies and toddlers whom the visa officers bathed, fed, put to bed; and then the officers worked through the night to prepare Minister’s Permits to allow the children to fly the next day to Canadian adoptive parents.  In May 1975, an initial boatload of refugees arrived in Hong Kong and was housed at Sek Kong camp.  Canada was the first country to send representatives to interview and select refugees, and Margaret was one of those.

After postings in Haiti and Ottawa (where Margaret helped develop and deliver training on the new Immigration Act which included provisions for refugee immigration), Margaret travelled to Singapore in September 1979 to join the team led by Al Lukie at Canada’s High Commission.  She interviewed and selected refugees (all from Vietnam) in camps in Kuantan, Cherating, Pulau Bidong (off east coast of Malaysia), and Galang (Indonesia), as well as dealing with refugee movement logistics from the office in Singapore.

Transferred to the BC office of Employment and Immigration Canada as a Foreign Branch Liaison Officer from late 1979 to early 1981, Margaret contributed to the Immigration Refugee Committee; liaised with the BC government, local Canada Employment and Immigration Centres and non-profits; selected and trained Refugee liaison Officers in BC, as well as collaborating with colleagues across Canada.