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Vietnamese in Canada

Canada and Vietnam: Peeling back the layers

On paper, we couldn’t be more different. The reality is much more complex. Part one of a six-part series.

Step into the dynamic world of Vietnam and you will immediately discover a country of incredible progress, a people with a vibrant and exhilarating culture, and youth with tremendous hope for the future. Peel back the layers and it will dawn on you that most things are not quite what they seem.

Canada and Vietnam have a lot in common. Both are unabashedly proud beer-drinking cultures: Canadians might object to the tendency of Vietnamese to put ice in their beer, but if they experienced the heat and humidity they’d understand. Both were forged out of a struggle between two peoples: the French battled the English in Canada, the south battled the north in Vietnam.

Finally, both are small but industrious countries living next to giant military superpowers with 10 to 15 times their population: Canada’s 35 million people to the United States’ 315 million, and Vietnam’s 90 million to China’s 1.3 billion. And as both of those superpowers slowly tilt towards one another, Canada and Vietnam are both seeing each other as more of a strategic partner.

On paper, on the ground

Yet on paper and in the minds of many of us, we couldn’t be more different. Canada is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, while Vietnam is a communist one-party state. Canadians boast of their freedoms, while reports out of Vietnam sound the alarm over jailed bloggers. Canada has a longstanding close friendship with the US, while the Americans fought the Vietnamese in a bloody war that left an indelible mark on our neighbours’ psyche.

Even so, what’s on paper does not necessarily represent what’s in reality, in both countries. Canada has had more than its fair share of democratic scandals recently, for example, while the Communist Party of Vietnam is not as monolithic as it appears. That difference between what’s on paper and what’s on the ground is what I attempted to investigate in this series, From the Tundra to the Jungle: Canada and Vietnam in the 21st century.

I started with what’s on paper, looking at government reports and press releases, and filing many access-to-information requests. I then travelled to Vietnam for about a month this fall on a media fellowship from the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, sponsored in part by Cathay Pacific Airways. After returning to Canada, I interviewed more people.

The result is this series. You’re reading Part One, the introduction. Part Two, to be published Dec. 17, will focus on Canadian connections to Vietnam’s development. Part Three, to be published Jan. 14, will explore Canadian and Vietnamese business and trade interests. Part Four, to be published Jan. 21, will expand on energy and environment ties. Part Five, to be published Jan. 28, will look at education ties. And finally Part Six, to be published Feb. 4, will examine the political and human rights situation.

You can read more at:

PM celebrates Tết
Prime Minister Stephen Harper participated in a special event celebrating the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, also known as Tết. The celebration, hosted by the Vietnamese Association of Toronto, took place at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. The Prime Minister was joined by Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism, and Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, who is the first Canadian Senator of Vietnamese descent.

During the celebration, the Prime Minister delivered a speech in which he highlighted the many contributions of the Vietnamese-Canadian community to our great country.

The Vietnamese Lunar New Year is a time to gather with family and friends to reflect on the year that has just passed, and to look forward in anticipation of all that the year ahead may bring. In 2015, Tết officially begins on February 19, and marks the start of the year of the goat.

Today, Canada is home to more than 220,000 people of Vietnamese descent who contribute greatly to the prosperity, culture and social fabric of our country.


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