hide You are viewing an archived web page, collected at the request of University of Alberta using Archive-It. This page was captured on 16:52:35 Dec 08, 2010, and is part of the HCF Alberta Online Encyclopedia collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page. Loading media information
Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia


Vietnamese have come to Canada since the early 1950s. The first of these came to study in Quebec, an attractive destination as the French colonial presence in Vietnam made the language and aspects of the culture familiar.

Early Arrival in Canada

The significant presence of Vietnamese in Alberta begins in 1975, at the end of the Vietnam War with the North Vietnamese army moving towards the South Vietnamese Vietnam Warcapital of Saigon. Fearing persecution at the hand of the North Vietnamese, several thousand Vietnamese fled their homeland, many of these employed or supporters of the United States Government. With American assistance they reached holding camps in the United States. The Canadian government admitted a total of 3,000 Vietnamese refugees in the crisis, with most settling in Quebec and Ontario. Approximately 100 people came to Alberta, mostly from the camps in the United States. Few had heard of Alberta but through immigration officials had heard that employment prospects in Western Canada were very good.

Most of those who came settled in Edmonton and Calgary, usually living in the same neighbourhoods or apartment buildings to help each other find work and adapt to the dramatic change in culture and climate. For example, thirty Vietnamese arrived in Calgary in June through December in 1975, several of these former naval and air force officers. Many of the new arrivals took residence in the area of 15th Avenue and 11th Street South West. Few found work which met their level of skill and education. A teacher became a seamstress, university educated engineers studied at technical schools to obtain certification. From 1975-78, Canada admitted just over 9000 immigrants from Vietnam, as well as neighbouring Kampuchea and Cambodia.

Although some degree of economic stability would be reached quickly, separation from families in Vietnam and lack of communications was not so easily overcome. As well, many of those newly arrived worked more than one job and were able to relay money to family in Vietname to alleviate the difficult circumstances of day to day life.

The Boat People

The exodus from Vietnam grew as political and economic conditions deteriorated, although international attention was minimal. This changed with the plight of the Hai Hong in 1978. Carrying some 2500 South Vietnamese refugees, the ship was refused permission to dock in Indonesia and Singapore. In Malaysia, the ship docked but its passengers could not disembark. This drama at sea brought international attention concern to the difficult situation in Vietnam. The Canadian government agreed to take 604 of the Hai Hong refugees, of whom 50 came to Alberta.

More importantly, the federal government agreed to take 8000 government-sponsored refugees and another 4000 privately sponsored individuals. The response to this private sponsorship is one of the remarkable stories of Canadian life. Led by church organizations, groups willing to sponsor blossomed and this momentum resulted in an increase of the number of privately -sponsored immigrants from Vietnam (as well as from other Indochina regions) to 21,000. Many of these people settled in Alberta, because of the strong economy at the time, compared to other provinces. By the end of 1984, there were approximately 22,000 Indochinese immigrants in Alberta alone, with most of these Vietnamese or ethnic Chinese who had been living in Vietnam.

Establishing Life in Alberta

This dramatic arrival was a challenge for both immigrants and the receiving and sponsoring organizations. On one hand, the provision of clothing, food and shelter and the basics required to re-establish life could be achieved, even with large numbers of those arriving. However, given the circumstances of the Vietnamese departure from their homeland, the cultural and social aspects of the settlement process were staggering. Griesbach Barracks, part of Edmonton's Canadian Armed Forces garrison, was a key reception centre for those coming to Alberta, along with the sponsorships provided by many local organizations. Initially, 30 % of the refugees settled outside of Edmonton or Calgary.

Cultural societies were informally established by those who arrived in the mid-1970s and by 1978, both Edmonton and Calgary Vietnamese associations were formally registered. The most important celebrations are associated with Tet, the lunar New Year. For children, the Mid-Autumn Festival is an important celebration. Religious life in the community is diverse. Vietnamese Buddhist associations have formed. Many Vietnamese are Roman Catholic and others are connected to missionary churches such as the Alliance. In several instances, Vietnamese congregations have been established. The Buddhist associations have also reestablished monastic communities, represented by monks who serve the community.
Back |  Top
Visit Alberta Source!
Heritage Community Foundation
Canada's Digital Collections

This digital collection was produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital Collections initiative, Industry Canada. timeline » 

Albertasource.ca | Contact Us | Partnerships
Copyright © Heritage Community Foundation All Rights Reserved