Friday, February 24, 2012

A Year in Five Minutes: Vancouver 1978

The first 15 Vietnamese refugees from the Hai Hong arrived in Vancouver in November 1978. The Hai Hong, journalist Kevin Griffin wrote, was a “rusty old  freighter anchored off the coast of  Malaysia, unable to unload its human cargo. Hung over the side of the boat was a sign in English: ‘Please Rescue Us.’ Captured by television news cameras, it was an image that showed up on TV sets in living rooms in Europe, the U.S. and Canada. Images of hungry and homeless refugees stuck on what amounted to a floating casket also tweaked the conscience of thousands of Canadians. Vancouverites were no different . . . Former Saigon resident Tzee Kok Wu told of leaving in such secrecy that he was contacted about the boat’s departure only an hour before it left. Wu and his four brothers and sisters made it in time but their parents were delayed a half hour and were left behind. Wu told of being so crowded aboard the boat, he could only sit because there wasn’t enough space to lie down. Of the 2,500 refugees crammed aboard the Hai Hong, about 600 arrived in Canada; 150 eventually arrived in Vancouver.”

Downtown East Side - Van. 1978, photo by Mikey G Ottawa

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