“BOAT PEOPLE’S” FLAG FLIES AT CITY HALL
On April 28, hundreds of Vietnamese-Canadians from across the GTA showed up in the rain to witness the raising of the Freedom Flag at city hall for the first time since 2005.
City council voted unanimously to approve the motion to allow the raising of the flag of former South Vietnam.
People outside of our community often get confused seeing two different flags representing Vietnam. There’s the flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (red with yellow star) that you see at the embassy and behind the prime minister at state visits. But in backyards here and across Canada and virtually all Vietnamese events and festivals, you’ll see the Freedom Flag (yellow with three red stripes).
It was the original flag until April 30, 1975, also known as Black April, when the capital city of Saigon, and a democratic Vietnam, fell to the communist North. After the war, a mass exodus of nearly two million people fled Vietnam, mostly by boat. They left everything behind and risked life and limb in search of a new home. An estimated quarter of a million lives were lost at sea.
In 1979, in a remarkable show of generosity and compassion, Canada committed to welcoming 50,000 Vietnamese refugees. My parents were among those accepted, stepping off the plane in winter wearing only sandals.
The Freedom Flag was raised for the first time on Parliament Hill last year in honour of Journey to Freedom Day to commemorate the boat people and honour Canada’s role in welcoming them.
It’s important for the average Canadian to understand and remember this part of our history. This includes many second-generation Vietnamese-Canadian youth who often witness division in our community. Living in Canada has brought freedom and a better future, but we cannot ignore the reasons why the boat people fled.
The Freedom Flag is an important symbol and reminder of that history. It may not have official status, but neither did the boat people, until they became Canadians.