‘I owe this country’: London, Ont.’s new top cop came to Canada as Vietnamese refugee

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London, Ont.’s new police chief came to Canada as a Vietnamese refugee
WATCH: London, Ont.’s new police chief came to Canada as a Vietnamese refugee – May 25, 2023

Thai Truong, who is set to become the first-ever visible minority police chief in London, Ont., says his entire policing career has been driven by two major life events: seeking asylum in Canada and his father’s death.

In an interview with Global News’ Tracy Tong, Truong recounted how his parents fled their homeland after the Vietnam War.

“At the time, my parents were teenagers, and my father had said to my mother that he didn’t want to raise his children in a communist country,” Truong said. “All that was on their mind was, ‘We need to go to America or Canada, those countries are free.’”

Truong was born in a refugee camp in Bangkok, Thailand, and was named “Thai,” after the country. He was two years old when his family finally received news that Canada would receive them.

In 1981, Truong, his parents and two siblings arrived in Ottawa and settled in northern Ontario where they received support from the community and the Roman Catholic Church.

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“We had the community come together and support, protect, help refugees that they didn’t even know,” Truong said. “I’m always grateful for that.”

When Truong was 11 years old, his father, a fast food delivery driver, was killed in a car crash while returning home from work. Truong’s fondest memories with his father include watching police movies together.

“He never understood and couldn’t speak English, but he was fascinated with police movies,” Truong said. “He watched the show ‘Cops,’ it had first come out back then. And I just remember sitting next to him looking at him. I knew he was in awe of police. He loved what police officers stood for.”

“You hear that term, ‘policing is a calling.’ I knew what I wanted to do my whole life. It was cemented when my father died. That was my call. That is my calling.”

Thai Truong’s family when he was young.
Thai Truong’s family when he was young. Contributed.

Truong was sworn in as a York Regional Police constable in 2002 and has spent more than two decades with the service, with extensive experience in human trafficking and organized crime enforcement. He rose through the ranks over the years, most recently holding the position of superintendent in the city of Richmond Hill.

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When the 44-year-old is sworn in as the London Police Service’s chief in June, he will also become one of the youngest top cops in the country, and what’s believed to be the first Vietnamese Canadian police chief, though the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police does not track data on member ethnicity.

Chief Designate Truong says he shows up to work every day with reason and purpose, and that the same will be true in London. “Sometimes you have bad days, right? I put my mind back there and I remember, I owe this province. I owe our community. I owe this country a lot. Not just for me, but for my family.”

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