Bill S-219: Adverse blow to Vietnamese - Canadian relationship


Recent years, Vietnamese - Canadian relationship has been exaggerating for both countries’ interests. But still, there’s a setback in this relation, Vietnamese Canadian-related issues. The most recent and regrettable incident is the passage of Bill S-219.
The Senate Bill S-219 “Journey to Freedom Day” (initially “Black April Day”) and its hate-inducing view that was passed by the Canadian Parliament in April 28th, 2015, tries to bring back war conflicts. The Bill was sponsored by Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, a former member of the Saigon regime defeated in April 1975, who holds an extreme and prejudiced view on the Vietnam’s Communist Party and State.
The way the Bill was rushed through the Senate – without allowing witnesses with opposing views to express their concerns – and then again through the House of Commons seriously undermines the Canadian democratic process.
The commemoration of April 30th as "Journey to Freedom Day" is regrettable. The choice of date and title is meant to confound the general public, and serves as a false advertisement for what really lies within. S-219 is not about refugees or freedom, but about one Senator’s malevolent attempts to enshrine his personal past history as a member of the Saigon regime – which has been defunct for 40 years – into law.  Not only does the Bill strain what has been an excellent long-time relationship between Canada and Vietnam, but it also has highly significant and explosive implications.
Firstly, it’s undermining Canada's interests. Bill S-219 reverses decades of Canadian-Vietnamese friendship and threatens both countries’ national interests in terms of trade – including the negotiation of the critical Trans-Pacific Partnership, critical projects in research and development, intellectual property, educational exchanges, etc. The quick passing of this highly controversial Bill by the Conservative Party was a disservice to Canada by (1) breaching Canadian democracy, (2) marring Canada's reputation as a country that promotes peace, tolerance and reconciliation, and (3) undermining Canada's intellectual integrity by having this Bill passed in a complete ignorance of Vietnam’s history.
Secondly, it’s further dividing the Vietnamese Canadian community. Bill S-219 alienates Vietnamese Canadians and aggravates the division amongst them, since more than half the population were neither refugees nor the type of refugees seeking freedom as stated in Bill S-219, thus many in this group oppose it. This Bill also perpetually rekindles the pain and animosity of those who consider themselves losing the war in Vietnam.
And, thirdly, it misrepresents the history of Vietnamese boat people – an important part of Canadian history. Bill S-219 misleads Canadians and the Government of Canada with its title "Journey to Freedom Day." This title is true only for a small group of Vietnamese Canadians who served the U.S. military and its war objectives in Vietnam. They fled Vietnam on April 30th, 1975, fearing reprisals for the acts they committed during the war – but no reprisals did ever actually happen. To these people, the end of the war was the cause of great personal loss and a failure in their desperate attempt to maintain and prolong the war. On the other hand, Vietnamese boat people left in 1978-79 for many different reasons, mostly to look for a better future for their children, not for political reasons.
The Bill appears to have divided Canada’s Vietnamese community. While the committee heard supportive testimony from the Vietnamese Canadian Federation and the Canadian Immigration Historical Society, the chair received letters from a number of others — including representatives of the Canada-Vietnam Friendship Association and the Canada-Vietnam Trade Council — who said it would create tension among Vietnamese Canadians, many of whom have put the past behind them and now want cordial relations with Vietnam.
The Bill S-219 is also the cause of another rift, between the Conservatives on the one side and the Liberals and NDP on the other. When it was initially tabled in the Senate last fall, some Liberal senators voted against it, though it ended up passing. In the House of Commons last month, Bill S-219 passed first and second reading but not without opposition from MPs recommending that it be referred to committee in the hope that it would be amended.
That is because, soon after the relatively obscure bill, which may have initially looked like a no-brainer, was debated in the House, oppositions MPs such as NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan say they started receiving emails and phone calls from people saying the bill did not represent the views of the whole Vietnamese-Canadian community.
NDP MP Anne Minh-Thu Quach, one of the two Vietnamese-Canadian MPs to ever sit in the House of Commons, explained to iPolitics that the community is generationally divided, mainly between those who left when Saigon fell — including some associated with the old regime — and were welcomed to Canada as “boat people” in the 1970s, and those who’ve come to Canada more recently as students or economic immigrants and maintain ties with the communist state.
As a result, Julie Trang Nguyen, who leads the Canada-Vietnam Association — a group opposed to the bill and in favour of maintaining ties with Vietnam — says that people like her feel ostracized. “You are not supposed to do anything with Vietnam. That is the attitude. Even the flag, when you have an event then it must be the old Saigon flag. If not, they will come and question you on how come you don’t have that flag up there” Nguyen told iPolitics.
Nguyen and other representatives of the association told reporters in a press conference that they felt insulted by the fact that the bill advocated for April 30th as a commemoration date, fully knowing it’s the same day as Liberation Day in Vietnam. They were in Ottawa to ask the House heritage committee, which was studying the bill, to consider an alternative date and to change the wording of the bill to remove references to the war.
MP Anne Minh-Thu Quach, who supported the bill, said she had hoped that the committee would indeed consider dissenting voices, but only two opposing witnesses were heard and no alternative suggestions were deemed acceptable. “It’s regrettable, I find that it’s a bill that divides more than it unites people” Minh-Thu Quach says.
Some observers say the bill is a textbook case of targeted political pandering for ethnic votes ahead of what is shaping up to be a close-fought federal election.
Alberta-based political strategist Stephen Carter says, “This is being done in essence to gather support from those people in the first generational subset. It absolutely is being done for votes, there is no other way around it.”
Veteran poll analyst Paul Barber says that, among multiple strategies that parties use to woo ethnic votes is the use of “overarching symbolic things that are connected to their homelands.”
Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs vehemently objected to Canada’s passage of the Bill S-219 or the so-called Journey to Freedom Day Act, as it distorts Vietnam’s struggle for national liberation and reunification. Vietnam’s spokeman emphasized that the Bill S-219 is an absolutely wrong law, whose contents distort the Vietnamese people’s past struggle for national liberation and reunification, which had been supported by the international community, including Canada.
This is a step backward in the relationship between the two countries, adversely affecting the developing ties between Vietnam and Canada and hurting the feelings of Vietnamese people as well as a large part of the Vietnamese community in Canada./.
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All comments [ 11 ]

LawrenceSamuels 18/8/15 21:26

We hope that Canada will be aware of the negative impact of the passage of Bill S-219 and will take measures to remedy it and prevent similar occurrences.

Love Peace 18/8/15 21:29

It is adversely affecting the growing ties between Vietnam and Canada and hurting the feelings of Vietnamese people.

John Smith 18/8/15 21:30

We believe that passage of this Senate Bill S-219 would send the wrong message to the international community and the people of Vietnam.

Only Solidar 18/8/15 21:32

Vietnam hopes Canada is aware of the negative impact of the passage of S-219 and takes repairing measures and prevents a recurrence of the problem.

Jane smartnic 18/8/15 21:34

It's undermining Canada's intellectual integrity by having this Bill passed in a complete ignorance of Vietnam’s history.

MaskOf Zero 18/8/15 21:44

The Canada-Vietnam Trade Council warned in a letter to the Senate’s human rights committee that the bill would negatively affect the government’s economic aspirations.

Gentle Moon 18/8/15 21:46

To these people, the end of the war was the cause of great personal loss and a failure in their desperate attempt to maintain and prolong the war.

Deck Hero14 18/8/15 21:47

The bill reflects the view of less than five per cent of Vietnamese Canadians and promotes a view “of the past, of hatred, of negativity, resulting in neglect of the well-being of future generations.

yobro yobro 18/8/15 21:50

The bill did not represent the views of the whole Vietnamese-Canadian community.

Pack Cassiopian 18/8/15 21:54

The process of passing this bill is not democratic and violates criteria which Canada has pursued.

Thompson Catherine 21/8/15 06:07

some Canadian senators support the Bill to receive oversea Vietnamese people's support in the election

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