Indochinese Refugee Book Project

The Indochinese Refugee crisis which began with the fall of Saigon in April 1975 resulted in Canada’s largest resettlement operation. Books and studies on this event focus on the experiences of the refugees or on the groups that sponsored them. The herculean task of selecting the refugees in camps from Macau and Hong Kong, to the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, ensuring they met health and security requirements, transporting them to Canada, matching them with sponsors or destinations, receiving them on arrival and sending them on to their destinations and providing settlement assistance to the refugees and support to the sponsoring groups has been largely ignored by scholars.

For the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon in 2015, the Canadian Immigration Historical Society plans to tell the story from the point of view of the men and women who worked directly with the refugees and the sponsoring groups in Canada and in the refugee camps in South East Asia. While the refugee movement continued into the early 1990s we plan to focus primarily on the five year period from the fall of Saigon in 1975 to the end of Canada’s 1979-1980 commitment to resettle 60,000 refugees.

The project will collect memoirs, documents and artefacts that pertain to the experiences of our colleagues from:

  • The fall of Saigon including the Promise of Visa Letters and expedited family reunification, the baby airlift, and the initial resettlement from camps in Thailand, Hong Kong, Guam, Wake Island, Camp Pendleton, Fort Chaffee, Indian Town Gap  and the General Quang controversy.
  • The “Boat People” and the increasing Canadian involvement in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines etc. 1975 -78 including the “Hai Hong” and other “large” boats and how the refugee measures in the 1976 Immigration Act were deployed to meet the growing challenge.
  • The 1979-80 Commitment to accept 50,000, then 60,000, refugees: operations in SE Asia, the selection and processing systems; sponsorships; matching and destining; the Reception Centres; supporting sponsors and resettling government sponsored refugees, strengthening the resettlement system, the Refugee Liaison Officers, special groups and initiatives and the Family Reunification Program.

To date the project team has been in touch with 70 potential writers and we are looking for more. If you were involved in the resettlement of Indochinese refugees at a post abroad, at the Griesbach or Longue Pointe Reception Centres, at the national or a regional matching centre, or in any capacity at National Headquarters, a Regional Office and especially at a CIC or CEC we are interested in hearing from you. If you would like to be part of this important project please contact us.