Throughout the city, Vietnamese-owned jewelry stores, printing shops, real estate agencies, and auto collision companies mirror a sprouting community. Intermingled with the fruit markets and restaurants of Toronto’s Chinatown, Vietnamese restaurants have added to the pleasure of dining out, with the exotic new flavour of fish sauce and the adventure of drinking specially filtered and prepared Vietnamese coffee. More than 60 Vietnamese-owned restaurants, cafes, and specialty stores have opened since 1981.
Many Vietnamese immigrated to Canada after Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975. About 45,000 Vietnamese have made Toronto their home. The first newcomers were students who attended the city’s universities during the 1950s and ’60s. Professionals, bureaucrats, and military personnel were among the few thousand refugees who settled in Toronto in the late 1970s. In the early 1980s, 120,000 Vietnamese immigrated to Canada. Toronto became the welcoming city for some 18,000 South Vietnamese “boat people”—so named for fleeing their homeland in tiny boats for refugee camps in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Members of the community have been successful in adapting to a new life. Vietnamese now own homes in Mississauga, Etobicoke, Scarborough, and other areas close to the manufacturing industries where many are employed.
The Vietnamese value education and the pursuit of excellence in their chosen professions. This is reflected by the numerous Vietnamese dentists, doctors, and pharmacists practicing in the city, and by students who excel in computer science programs.
The Vietnamese follow the lunar calendar and as a result holidays fall on different dates from year to year.
NEW YEAR’S DAY, celebrated in January or February, is one of the most important events. Celebrations organized by various groups include cultural activities such as music, dancing, fashion shows, food displays, poetry, and Vietnamese art exhibitions. Families visit each other to exchange gifts and share in a New Year’s meal. It is regarded as a time to forget past mistakes and plan a better future.
WOMEN’S DAY falls in March and pays tribute to the Trung Sisters, two heroines who fought the invading Chinese in the year 40 A.D. One of the sisters, Trung Trac, reigned as Queen of Vietnam for three years. On this day, women’s groups meet for a ceremony, refreshments, and entertainment.
FATHERLAND FOUNDER’S DAY is celebrated in March or April in honour of the First Dynasty, which ruled the nation more than 4,000 years ago.
BLACK APRIL, on April 30, commemorates the collapse of the Saigon government in 1975.
A MID-AUTUMN CHILDREN’S FESTIVAL is held in September.
THOI BAO (THE VIETNAMESE NEWSPAPER), (Tel. 416-925-8607, www.thoibao.com, 1114 College St). Publisher: Dave Nguyen.
BAN VIET, (Tel. 416-536-3611, 1364 Dundas St. W). A monthly magazine.
SAIGON CANADA WEEKLY MAGAZINE, (Tel. 416-534-0989, 851 College St).
The face of today’s Vietnamese-Canadians.
THE VIETNAMESE ASSOCIATION OF TORONTO, (Tel. 416-536-3611, Fax 416-536-8364, www.vatoronto.ca, 1364 Dundas St. W). Founded in 1972 by a group of students, it is the main social and cultural focus for the community. Provides employment counselling, translations, and seniors’ services, and publishes a Vietnamese monthly magazine, a newsletter named Ban Viet, and an English bi-monthly newsletter. President/Chair: Dr. Terry Ho.
VIETNAMESE ELDERLY ASSOCIATION OF ONTARIO, (Tel. 416-588-8532, 2001 Dundas St. W). President: Lam Nguyen.
VIETNAMESE YOUTH AND WOMEN’S CENTRE OF TORONTO, (Tel. 416-534-8842, 1313 Queen St. W).
VIETNAMESE WRITERS ABROAD P.E.N. CENTRE, ONTARIO CHAPTER. An association of Vietnamese poets, playwrights, essayists, editors, and novelists, (Tel. 905-607-8010, P.O. Box 218, Station U). President: Cung Vu.
THE VIETNAMESE PROFESSIONALS’ ASSOCIATION, (Tel. 416-784-5660, 85 Varna Dr).