HOF168: MARGARET TEBBUTT
In 1972, Margaret joined Canada’s Foreign Service and trained as a Visa Officer. She was posted to Canada’s High Commission in Hong Kong from 1973 to 1975, where she had ‘area responsibility’, which included travels to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Guangzhou, China to interview and select immigrants. In China, she also travelled to Beijing, Shanghai, Hangchow, as well as to Thailand, Myanmar (then Burma), and Nepal.
In April 1975, the High Commission in Hong Kong received telexes detailing the 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, which was surrounded by bomb craters, to evacuate Canadians and their Vietnamese families. A later flight brought orphan babies and toddlers whom the visa officers had bathed, fed, and put to bed. The officers worked through the night to prepare Minister’s Permits to allow the children to fly to Canadian adoptive parents the next day. 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 them.
After postings in Haiti and Ottawa (where she 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 the east coast of Malaysia), and Galang (Indonesia), and she also dealt with refugee movement logistics from the office in Singapore.
When she transferred to the BC office of Employment and Immigration Canada as a Foreign Branch Liaison Officer from late 1979 to early 1981, she was involved in many activities, including: contributing to the Immigration Refugee Committee; liaising with the BC government, local Canada Employment and Immigration Centres and with the non-profit sector; selecting and training Refugee Liaison Officers in BC; and, collaborating with colleagues across Canada.