Academic journal article Refuge

The Indochinese Refugee Movement: An Exploratory Case Study of the Windsor Experience

Academic journal article Refuge

The Indochinese Refugee Movement: An Exploratory Case Study of the Windsor Experience

Article excerpt

Abstract

Following the fall of Saigon in 1975, thousands fled Indochina in small boats to attain political asylum in neighbouring countries. Canada played a leading role in the resettlement of thousands of Indochinese refugees, and a significant part of this national effort was led by the city of Windsor, Ontario. This article examines Windsor's local efforts to sponsor and integrate Indochinese refugees into Canadian society. In late 1977, Windsor Mayor Bert Weeks established an ad hoc committee on Indochinese refugees. Together with volunteers from local faith communities and non-governmental organizations, the city created a vast resettlement network and assumed the sponsorship of several families, well before the wave of refugees arrived in 1979. As an exploratory work, this article provides evidence of Windsor's pivotal role in shaping the Canadian response to the Indochinese refugee crisis and may challenge the national narrative that large Canadian cities led refugee resettlement efforts. This study is timely, as important lessons can be drawn from the Windsor experience.

Resume

A la suite de la chute de Saigon en 1975, des milliers de refugies ont fui l'Indochine dans des petites embarcations en quete d'asile politique dans les pays voisins. Le Canada a joue un role de premier plan dans la reinstallation de milliers de refugies indochinois, et une partie importante de cette initiative nationale etait menee par la municipalite de Windsor, en Ontario. Cet article examine les initiatives locales de la part de Windsor en matiere de parrainage et integration des refugies indochinois a la societe canadienne. Vers la fin de l'annee 1977, Bert Weeks, maire de Windsor, avait etabli un comite special pour les refugies indochinois. En collaboration avec des volontaires issus de communautes religieuses locales et des organismes non gouvernementaux, la municipalite avait cree un vaste reseau dedie a la reinstallation et entrepris le parrainage de plusieurs familles, bien avant l'influx des refugies en 1979. En tant que recherche exploratoire, cet article fournit des preuves du role determinant de la municipalite de Windsor dans la fortnulation de la reaction canadienne a la crise des refugies indochinois, et pourrait mettre en question le discours national selon lequel le role principal pour les initiatives de reinstallation des refugies revenait aux grandes metropoles canadiennes. Cette etude est donc pertinente, etant donne qu'il y a des lecons importantes que l'on pourrait tirer de l'experience de Windsor.

Introduction

On 30 April 1975, the South Vietnam capital of Saigon was captured by Communist forces, marking the end of the Vietnam War. Cambodia and Laos quickly followed suit, and soon after, all of Indochina was ruled by Communist regimes. (1) It was the beginning of a new, capricious regional order, which sparked a mass exodus of refugees. Approximately 135,000 Vietnamese fled the country before Saigon collapsed, sparking a humanitarian crisis of global proportions.

Over 2 million people fled the Indochinese countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia over the next decade, and approximately 20 million were displaced at one point or another. (2) Thousands fled in small boats, crossing pirate-ridden waters in hopes of finding safety in neighbouring countries. In this context, Canada played a leading role in the resettlement of thousands of Indochinese refugees, accepting an estimated 60,000 between 1979 and 1980, and anywhere from 130,000 to 150,000 refugees in total. (3) At the forefront of this national initiative is the small city of Windsor, Ontario.

In late 1977, Windsor Mayor Bert Weeks established an "ad-hoc committee on Indochinese refugees." Together with volunteers from the local faith communities and non-governmental organizations, the City of Windsor created a vast refugee network and assumed the sponsorship of several families, well before the "flood of refugees" arrived in 1979. …

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