The Journey to Freedom Park at the entrance to Calgary’s International Avenue on 17th Avenue in the SE will honour the Vietnamese people who left their country in search of a better life.
For the so-called “boat people,” the desperation of fleeing their country outweighed the fear of escape. They risked their lives crammed on rickety fishing boats, endured over-crowding and danger from pirates.
Some didn’t survive the passage and lost their lives at sea. But those who lived to tell that part of history, like Do Truong, have called Canada home.
Truong arrived in Calgary in 1979.
“This is a real thing that happened, so many people lost their lives,” Truong said.
There was a groundbreaking Friday for the Journey to Freedom Park.
“This park means a lot to community and to us and we want to thank Canada and Calgary, who helped us the first day we came here,” Truong said.
There will also be monument to honour those refugees who didn’t survive.
Anne-Marie Pham helped organize this special space.
“It’s been 46 years since the fall of Saigon and we want to make sure this history is passed down from generation to generation as a place for education and fostering mutual understanding between community members,” Pham said.
The Journey to Freedom Park will be designed to give thanks to Canada.
“This monument is a symbol of a gratitude, as Vietnamese-Canadians, for Canadians opening their arms and generosity to the plight of Vietnamese refugees,” Pham said.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi was there for the ceremony.
“It’s emotional. I grew up in this neighbourhood and my elementary school changed because all these people came from this place across the ocean,” he said.
“I didn’t know what refugee or ‘boat person’ meant.
“As I learned what they had been through to get here, to this little taste of freedom, I realize it exemplifies the Canadian story.”
The Calgary Vietnamese Community Association is still raising funds to make the park a reality. It’s almost halfway to its goal of $1 million. It’s hoped the park will be unveiled in the spring of 2022.