HOF069: Nguyen Duc Hieu

A former police lieutenant in the South Vietnam government, Nguyen Duc Hieu was sent to re-education camp when the war ended in April 1975. His wife left him during that period, taking their young daughter with her. When Nguyen was released six years after, he started looking for a way to escape the country.

After a failed attempt, he decided to team up with associates to organize a boat leaving the country by the Bach Dang River, from the very heart of Saigon. It was a complex and risky undertaking, one involving customizing the boat for a sea voyage, stocking up on the supply and fuel, organizing the comings and goings of more than 100 passengers—all while trying to avoid detection by the authorities.

Upon arriving at a refugee camp in Indonesia camp, Nguyen volunteered with the UNHRC to help screen new arrivals. Shortly after arriving in Toronto, he found work at manufacturing car seats, a job that he kept for 25 years.