HOF121: Doan Trang Phan/Anh Tan Phan/Therese Francoeur

The mother of Doan-Trang and Anh-Tan managed to pay for a place for the two oldest of her seven children on a small fishing boat that clandestinely left the city of Ho-Chi-Minh in January 1980, with sixty people aboard. The eldest daughter and her brother were 15 and 14 years old at the time. The mother hoped that the whole family would eventually join them in their new country.

The five-day trip at sea went well, without major storms or pirates. But many suffered from seasickness while confined to the boat’s hull. A meeting with a Norwegian freighter on the fourth day allowed them to stock up and head to an island in Indonesia.

After three months in refugee camps, Doan and Tan met with officials from Immigration Canada, the first country to offer them asylum. They arrived in Montréal, and were welcomed by their sponsors. They learned French and pursued their studies from high school to university. Meanwhile, they attempted to bring in the rest of the family with the help of Families Without Borders, but political obstacles prevented the family from leaving Vietnam.

It was the publication of the adventure story that Doan had written “L’eau de la liberté” that facilitated a network of contacts among Québec politicians that allowed the rest of the family to come to Montréal in December 1988. The adaptation to a new land was not easy for all the members of the family. The needs of new arrivals go far beyond food security. Over time, relationships have evolved with their share of happiness and difficulty as in all families.