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Monument unveiled at a southeast Calgary park to honour Vietnamese boat people

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Members of Calgary’s Vietnamese community gathered Friday at The Journey to Freedom Park to celebrate the unveiling of a meaningful monument.

It is now erected near the entrance to the city’s International Avenue in the southeast and honours the Vietnamese people who lost their lives escaping Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Tu Lien Thurston says her family tried to escape the country twice and was finally successful in 1978.

“It was frightening because there were 500 people on this wooden boat and in the rough seas and we were lucky enough to avoid the pirates and Vietnamese navy,” said Thurston.

Her family arrived at the shores of Malaysia and lived in a refugee camp for more than a year before being sponsored by an Alberta church in the village of Linden.

Thurston and her husband are one of several sponsors that donated money to help make The Journey to Freedom Park and the monument a reality.

“It’s important to our family because I want my children and the future generation to understand where we have come from and the sacrifices my parents have made and my grandparents have made.”

FINDING REFUGE

The United Nations estimates more than 250,000 Vietnamese boat people lost their lives at sea from 1979 to 1995. Those who did survive found refuge in many countries around the world.

According to the Red Cross, more than 120, 000 came to Canada between 1975 and 1982, which was considered the country’s largest humanitarian undertaking at that time.

“Canadians opened up their homes and their hearts and these folks from the community have amazing work ethic, they saved every dollar they made to make sure there was a future for their kids,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

“This is a truly beautiful love story between the refugees from Vietnam and Canada. I can’t think of a better example of what makes Canada great so it’s wonderful to celebrate this on Canada Day.”

'WE THANK CANADA'

Do Truong, a chair on the committee with the Calgary Vietnamese Canadian Association in charge of the monument project, said he was grateful for Canada’s generosity.

“We thank Canada and all the Canadians and Calgarians to help us to settle on the first day,” said Truong.

The project cost S1.2 million. Because of the pandemic, in-person fundraisers were not possible but the community was still able to raise the bulk of it with the province providing $300, 000.

“That is very good news we don’t have to do fundraising anymore because that will cover the rest,” said Truong.

The monument is located at 1907 26 Street S.E.

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