Vietnamese Boat People and the Founding of MISA

As part of our 35th Anniversary celebrations, ISANS will do a web post about our history once a week for the next 35 weeks. Follow along and learn about the development of services to immigrants in Nova Scotia, from 1980 up to today.

Following the Vietnam war, from 1975-95, 2 million people fled Vietnam. Many of them left by sea and about 800,000 arrived safely in other countries, while hundreds of thousands died in the attempt. Canada took in approximately 55,000 Vietnamese refugees, many of whom were sponsored privately by churches and community groups.

misa_officeIn 1980 a small group of community members founded Metropolitan Immigrant Settlement Association (MISA) to support Vietnamese refugees in Halifax. They rented a small room at the YMCA on south Park Street as an office with two chairs, one desk and a phone. They hired 2 full time staff: Nancy Tough as coordinator, and later the first Executive Director, and David Frail as secretary.

Today, the world is witnessing the most serious refugee crisis since World War II. 4 million Syrians have fled their country as a result of war. Canadians, Nova Scotians, helped in the 80s, by sponsoring and welcoming Vietnamese refugees to live here.

We can once again step up to privately support refugees. If you are part of a group of friends or neighbours or colleagues who would like to make a difference by becoming private sponsors, please contact ISANS. The Refugee Sponsorship Program at ISANS supports people living in Nova Scotia to sponsor refugees.




Tuyet Nguyen

tuyetTuyet’s story in Canada begins with an aunt who sponsored her father as one of the “Vietnamese Boat People” in 1985. He worked here and then in Toronto making car parts. Five years later the entire family – eight children from 17 to 28, including 24-year-old Tuyet — was reunited in Halifax. They lived with her aunt and her father drove taxi. “Everything was strange,” recalls Tuyet. “I wasn’t able to open my mouth and say a word in English.” She had learned English grammar in Vietnam but had little vocabulary. “I was so shy doing groceries with my dad. I just listened. I was so homesick I would dream about Vietnam every night…”

Read Tuyet’s story here…