Diane Luu-Hoang with her parents in traditional dressDiane Luu-Hoang shows her pride in her parents by respecting and practising Vietnamese culture.

Staffer recalls family’s flight with pride

When she celebrates Asian Heritage Month, she celebrates opportunity and her parents’ courageous journey to secure freedom, says Diane Luu-Hoang.

Employment equity manager in the Office of Human Rights, Equity, and Accessibility, she was nine months old when her family fled their homeland of Vietnam.

“My parents had to make an incredible choice to either stay and suffer with the possibility of no future or take the risk and flee from their country with only hope and faith in their hearts to find a land with opportunities or die trying,” Luu-Hoang says.

Her parents sold coffee beans illegally to earn money for the voyage; her father was twice jailed. When the three finally set out on an overpacked boat full of people, they drifted at sea for seven days before being found by a U.S. naval vessel and escorted to a refugee camp in the Philippines.

Three months later, they received word that Canada would accept them and they flew to Montreal, where the family received a garbage bag of supplies — clothes, food, some money — and were forwarded to Saskatoon.

“It was there that they had to rebuild their lives, learn a new language, eat new foods, find employment, and live in a different environment that was so foreign to them,” says Luu-Hoang.

“They were met with so many challenges, barriers, obstacles, and frustration, but even with all of this they were extremely grateful for their unknown future, for the future of their baby girl and future children.”

She is proud of her parents’ hard work, dedication, determination, and hope and says she demonstrates it by “respecting, learning, and practising our culture, traditions, language, food, music, and more.”

This article is the third in a series featuring voices from members of the UWindsor community in celebration of Asian Heritage Month. The 2021 theme “Recognition, Resilience, and Resolve” embodies the myriad of sentiments that peoples of Asian descent in Canada have experienced and honours their contributions and their diverse stories which are rooted in resilience and perseverance.