Vietnam protests Canada commemorating ‘boat people’ who fled communists
Hanoi has issued a stern rebuke to Ottawa after the Canadian Senate passed a bill commemorating the arrival of tens of thousands of “boat people” who fled after Saigon fell to the communists 40 years ago.
Vietnam’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the Canadian ambassador Friday to lodge a formal complaint about the move, which dubs April 30 “Journey to Freedom Day.”
Communist forces captured Saigon, then the capital of the U.S.backed South Vietnam regime, on April 30, 1975, marking the end of decades of conflict and triggering a mass exodus of refugees.
Hundreds of thousands of people linked to the South Vietnamese regime fled the country in rickety boats, many drowning along the way.
Western countries including the U.S., France, Australia and Canada collectively accepted some 1 million South Vietnamese refugees.
In communist Vietnam, April 30 is celebrated as “reunification day” and the country is preparing for an elaborate event this Thursday to mark four decades since the end of the war.
The Canadian Senate’s move was “completely wrong” said foreign ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh according to a statement posted on its official website.
The bill “distorts the history of national liberation and unification of the Vietnamese people,” he said in a statement, adding that Vietnam “resolutely opposes” the move.
“This is a backward step in the relationship between the two countries, adversely affecting the growing ties between Vietnam and Canada and hurting the feelings of Vietnamese people as well as a great part of the Vietnamese community in Canada,” Binh said.
The Canadian bill was proposed by a senator of Vietnamese descent. The Senate is controlled by Canada’s ruling Conservatives.
Canada has a large ethnic Vietnamese community and the legislation may be an attempt by the Conservatives to win votes in upcoming October polls.
The Canadian embassy in Hanoi referred questions to the government’s media center in Ottawa, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.