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Role of Vietnamese Immigrants in Canada

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Vietnamese boat people

Many immigrants entered Canada during the 1960s to 1980s, in hopes of having a better life, filled with opportunities and resources. The boat people were immigrants coming into Canada post 1975 to flee from the new communist government in Vietnam, after the Vietnam War had ended. They travelled on crowed, unsafe boats through terrible conditions to reach Canada. The Vietnamese boat people brought compassion and sympathy from some Canadians, and anger and resentment from others.

Several Canadians had positive attitudes toward immigration and multiculturalism in Canada, especially for the boat people. Vietnamese refugees were supported by the Canadian Vietnamese community and by church organizations in Canada. They were given homes and jobs, and were helped to adjust to the Canadian society, since the majority did not speak English or French, and they did not have relatives in Canada. Canadians, who were moved by compassion, also applied to sponsor the arrival and settlement of Vietnamese refugees under the refugee sponsorship provisions of the new legislation. In September 1979, benefits were organized to fundraise for the boat people. CBC broadcasted a “three hour prime time coast-to-coast entertainment extravaganza” to support the Vietnamese boat refugees by collecting money and finding more sponsors for them. The Toronto telephone responses indicated that twenty-five Canadians said that they “like the show and were for the show”. Because of the supportive attitudes of some Canadians, it allowed the Vietnamese boat people to finally immigrate to Canada. In any case, a handful of compassionate and sympathetic Canadians were, in fact, supportive of the Vietnamese boat people.

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Although, some Canadians supported the boat people, others were opposed to their presence in Canada. As mentioned previously, quite a few Canadians supported the benefits that were organized to raise money and to find sponsors for the boat people, but many others were strongly against it. The project received hostile mail even before the show was on air, saying that the show shouldn’t go on and that CBC shouldn’t use its facilities in this manner. Twenty-seven Canadians also responded to the show, saying that they didn’t like the show or they were against the show. Moreover, critics feared that the government was spending too much money on the refugees, according to another 1979 Radio segment. These Canadians suspected that unemployment rate would increase, and that Canada was ignoring its own poor to help the refugees. Likewise, they felt that Canada’s immigration system was too lenient and that Canada could suffer from a “racial imbalance” due to the immigration of the boat people. The opposing attitudes of other Canadians have caused a delay in the immigration of the boat people because eventually the boat people were allowed to come to Canada. All in all, Canadians’ resistance of welcoming the Vietnamese boat people was evident through their anger and resentment attitudes.

As Canada continued to accept Vietnamese refugees in the future, the Vietnamese population increased significantly, adding to Canada’s diverse multiculturalism. According to the Vietnamese Canadian Federation, there were barely one thousand Vietnamese in Canada in 1975, yet in 2006, there were approximately 176 thousand Vietnamese boat people in Canada. These boat people settled in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton, which helped make these provinces become more multicultural. Due to the mass immigration of the Vietnamese boat people, Canada got to experience the Vietnamese culture today.

Despite the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, tragedy for the people of Vietnam continued as they were forced to flee from the new communist government that ruled their country. Thousands of these people, also known as the Vietnamese boat people entered Canada as immigrants. These people travelled for months on crowded, unsafe boats to come to Canada in hopes of having a better life filled with opportunities and freedom. Moreover, the arrival of the boat people aroused mixed emotions in Canadians; compassion and empathy from some and anger and hatred from others.

A lot of Canadians were very supportive and sympathetic of the Vietnamese Boat people. The majority of the Vietnamese refugees did not speak English or French, and they did not have relatives in Canada. Fortunately, throughout 1979, many Canadians were touched by the plight of the boat people. Canadians came out in large groups to help sponsor refugee families, providing them with food, shelter and clothing for up to a year. Furthermore, the government also announced a goal of sponsoring 42.000 refugees over two years which was reached in merely 4 months. The Vietnamese refugees were also sponsored by the Canadian Vietnamese community and several church organizations throughout Canada. They were given homes and jobs, and were helped to adjust to the Canadian society. Moreover, CBC organized a benefit show for the refugees called “The Boat People: Operation Lifeline.” This show consisted of 6 concerts across the country with proceeds of ticket sales going towards helping refugees settle in Canada. Therefore, even though the cultural differences, the compassion and support of Canadians helped Vietnamese refugees find a new home in Canada as more than 60,000 refugees were resettled within 1980.

Even though many Canadians supported the boat people, many others were clearly opposed to their presence. The CBC benefit show received hatred mail before it was even on the air saying that the show shouldn’t go on. Furthermore, according to a 1979 CBC Radio segment, critics feared that the government was spending too much money on the refugees. Canadians were worried that unemployment rate would increase and felt that Canada was ignoring its poor to support the refugees. Likewise, they were also concerned about the leniency of Canada’s immigration process and that Canada could be racially imbalanced due to the immigration of the Vietnamese.

Nevertheless, as time passed by, Canadians grew more supportive of multiculturalism and immigration as more Vietnamese immigrants were accepted, thus increasing their population significantly. According to the Vietnamese Canadian Federation, the Vietnamese population in Canada went from 1,000 in 1975 to 175,000 in 2006. The largest groups are in Toronto and Montreal, with significant communities in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. Due to the mass immigration of the Vietnamese boat people, Canadians have had a chance to experience their cultures and traditions today. In conclusion, Canada’s increasing support and acceptance towards multiculturalism and immigration has help Canada become a very diversified nation consisting of cultures and people from all around the world.

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