The man who delivered the ‘boat people’

He was tasked with bringing 60,000 refugees to Canada after the Vietnam War. Now, Michael Molloy says it’s time to do the right thing again.

Mike Molloy at his home in Ottawa September 10, 2015. (Photograph by Blair Gable)

In the summer of 1979, Joe Clark’s minority Conservative government made a now-historic announcement: horrified by daily images of desperate Vietnamese “boat people” fleeing for their lives, Canada promised to welcome 50,000 of those refugees over the next 18 months. (That target was later increased to 60,000.) Michael Molloy was the civil servant chosen to lead the monumental resettlement effort, culminating in 181 charter flights full of new Canadians. More than half of those refugees (33,000) were sponsored by private citizens. Molloy, who went on to open the Canadian embassy in Syria and serve as ambassador to Jordan, spoke to Maclean’s about his team’s success—and how, with the right mix of political will and bureaucratic sweat, history could repeat itself.

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