On April 23 Royal Assent was granted to Bill S-219, Journey to Freedom Day Act, officially designating April 30 each year as “Journey to Freedom Day” in reference to individuals who left Vietnam for Canada after the victory over U.S. forces on the same day in 1975. Despite amending the name of the bill from the Black April Day Act in the face of opposition to the divisive and provocative legislation, the debate in the House of Commons and the text of the bill itself makes it clear that what is being targeted is the historical verdict rendered against U.S. imperialism and the tremendous victory for freedom and independence.
The final text of the bill claims that on April 30, 1975, “the military forces of the People’s Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front invaded South Vietnam,” which it associates with “the conditions faced by individuals in Vietnam, including deteriorating living conditions and human rights abuses.” No mention, much less any criticism is made of the millions of Vietnamese killed by the U.S. or the imperialists’ outright devastation of the country by mass aerial bombardment.
Canadians of Vietnamese nationality have been speaking out against the bill, smashing the Harper government’s historical falsification and vitriolic anti-communism. Thirty-five-year-old Canadian electrical engineer Hoang Nguyen told Embassy Magazine that the comments made by Conservative MPs do not reflect his views or the views of his peers. “After a war, every country is torn apart…when you go to a war zone, you know it’s difficult. [Vietnamese Canadians] left Vietnam for a number of reasons, not because of the Communist Party,” he said. Julie Trang Nguyen, leader of the Canada-Vietnam Association spoke at a press conference, saying the association was insulted by the choice of April 30, Vietnam’s liberation day. She stated that the Harper government is “imposing their view on the rest of the community.”
The bill proved to be so controversial and divisive among Vietnamese Canadians and Canadians of all backgrounds that last minute attempts were made to amend it during third reading and final debate on April 22. The most important consideration among Vietnamese Canadians was to remove any mention of April 30 from the bill, a day celebrated with pride and joy in Vietnam and around the world as National Reunification Day. MPs said that while many Vietnamese in Canada would like to celebrate the government’s acceptance of refugees after the end of the war, doing so on April 30 divides the community in an unacceptable way. Liberal MP Judy Sgro pointed out that the government is “pitting one part of a community against another.” Dismissing these important considerations, Conservative MPs cynically declared, “Vietnamese Canadians have spoken.”
Despite the serious concerns raised, no MP was willing to take a stand against dishonouring the Vietnamese people’s victory over foreign occupation or imposing an anti-communist narrative on Vietnamese Canadians. The bill was adopted unanimously on April 22, the day before receiving Royal Assent.
The Foreign Ministry of Vietnam issued a response to the bill’s passage on April 24, making it clear that the bill amounted to falsification of the history of the Vietnamese people’s struggle for national liberation and reunification, which won the support of Canadians and people around the world. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Hai Binh said, “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.” The same day, the Canadian ambassador to Vietnam was summoned to the Foreign Ministry and was made aware that the passage of Bill S-219 will have a negative impact on Canada-Vietnam relations.
Canadians will not stand for anti-communist falsification of history and futile attempts by the Harper government to overturn the glorious victory of the Vietnamese people. The Canadian working class and people, who gave their undying support to the just struggle of Vietnam for freedom and independence, will forever celebrate April 30 as a day which affirmed the right of the Vietnamese people to control their own destiny. The Harper government’s crusade against everything the people have won cannot take it away.
Source: TML Weekly, April 25, 2015, No. 17