HOF173: HUYNH Chau (F) / HUYNH Hieu (M)

Huynh Chau was born in Da Nang, Vietnam, the eldest daughter of Chinese parents and had four siblings. Her father worked in the pharmaceutical industry and her mother was a seamstress. Her family lived with a limited income in a Chinese community in the suburbs of the city. She attended a Chinese school, taught in Cantonese and Mandarin.

After the Vietnamese government was overthrown by the Communists, Chau’s family’s lived in constant fear of the Communist occupation. In 1979, Chau and her siblings decided to escape while her parents chose to stay behind. They boarded a boat with 192 other passengers and managed to reach the shores of Hong Kong where they were relegated to a refugee camp. They endured the poor conditions of the camp while awaiting an opportunity to immigrate to Canada.

After several months in the refugee camp in Hong Kong, Chau and her family flew to Canada and settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Upon her arrival, one of Chau’s first actions was to learn English. She was assisted by Immigration Canada officials who helped her to settle in her newly adopted country.

Huynh Hieu was also born in Da Nang, Vietnam where he and his brother lived with their parents on a property with a large garden. His father worked as a chef, a taxi driver and a farmer. His mother stayed home to care for the family. Hieu’s mother died when he was 7 years old. At the age of 17, her was drafted into the Vietnamese military and was a member of the army until 1975. After the Communist occupation, he and his brother were sent to a reeducation camp for 2 years. After they were released, they remained under constant surveillance by the local authorities. He worked as a labourer and found work in the construction industry to earn income for the family.

Concerned about his future, he escaped Vietnam with friends in July 1979. They boarded a boat that reached Macau in the South China Sea but were refused entry by Portuguese officials. They encountered a ship that provided them food and towed them to Hong Kong. After 6 months in the refugee camp, Hieu was offered asylum to Canada. In December 1979, he remembers flying from the very hot and humid Hong Kong to the very cold and damp Edmonton, then on to Halifax, Nova Scotia where he was greeted by sponsors who helped him to settle in the town of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. He later moved to Halifax where, in 1983, he met and eventually married Huynh Chau, a Chinese refugee who had also settled in Halifax in the December of 1979!