Canada’s 1976 Immigration Act added the category of convention refugee and enabled the Minister of Immigration to designate groups of people as refugees. In late 1978 the Government of Canada created the Indochinese Designated Class for Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian refugees. As well, the highly successful private sponsorship of refugees was introduced in the 1976 Act and became crucial in selecting many thousands of Southeast Asian refugees for resettlement in Canada.
Between 1975 and 1980, Canada resettled 69,200 of these refugees. During the 1980s many more came to Canada through refugee resettlement programs and family reunification. By 1991, there were 94,255 Vietnamese Canadians, 18,620 Cambodian Canadians and 14,840 Laotian Canadians.
This project ensures that this period in history between 1975 and 1985, when Canadians and their governments were acting together and cooperated in the rapid transfer of more than 100,000 refugees from the former Indochina, will also be preserved for generations to come and become part of the Canadian historical narrative.
The outcomes of this project are the preservation of the historical memory of the refugees from the countries of the former Indochina and the dissemination of the record of their experiences as widely as possible in Canada and globally. Specifically, here are some the activities we are engaged in which are intended to accomplish these tasks:
- Through interviews with many former refugees, we are documenting the experiences of those people who were involved in the journey to Canada as refugees from the turmoil of the former Indochina during the period from 1975 to 1985 and those Canadians who were involved assisting them.
- Interviewees were asked to assist us with photos, artifacts and documents of their experience which has given us access to a wide range of cultural and historical materials, further contributing to the documentation of the period’s events.
- Through the project, we are helping to foster a network between Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian associations, Carleton University, Menno Simons College (a College of Canadian Mennonite University) at the University of Winnipeg and participating community organizations to further assist in the preservation of the memory of the events of that time period.
- A major focus of the project is the widespread dissemination of the results of the research to educational institutions and their students at all levels and in both official languages, to the Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian Canadian Associations and their many members, to the many members of the public of all ages who want to know more about what occurred during our shared recent past, and to members of government and non-profit organizations that continue to work towards the support of refugees around the world.