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'They take the jobs Canadians don't want...'

They were prepared to risk everything. In the years following the Vietnam War, over one million refugees fled the war-ravaged countries of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Those Vietnamese who took to the ocean in tiny overcrowded ships were dubbed the "boat people." The survivors sometimes languished for years in refugee camps. The luckier ones were taken in by countries like Canada.

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One hundred Vietnamese boat people descend on the town of Vegreville, Alta., population 4700. Many of the refugees have been sponsored by the owner of Ezee-On Manufacturing, a farm equipment factory. Owner Eugene Denkiw has promised jobs for the refugees. He says he's had trouble keeping locals on staff. Former employees cite poor working conditions and even poorer pay. In the past, attempts to unionize have met with swift action. Locals can find other work. The Vietnamese, however, have few options.

Refugees need money to support their families, repay the federal government for their airfare, and send money to relatives remaining in Vietnam. And many refugees are high in professional skills and low in English ability. They take whatever unskilled jobs they can get. It's just as the government says, reassuring people who are worried about high unemployment: "The refugees take jobs Canadians don't want."
• A Carleton University study conducted in 1980 found that a refugee's ability to adjust to Canada largely depended on his ability to get and keep a job similar to the one he had before immigrating.
• According to an Operation Lifeline study in 1980, 93 per cent of Indochinese refugees had found jobs.
• However, a study of refugees in Ottawa concluded that most men were in unskilled jobs paying $3 per hour.

• Women tended to make slightly more, since the average wage for a chambermaid was higher than that of a dishwasher.
• The boat people sometimes found themselves caught in the centre of labour disputes. In one example, forty-two employees of Canadiana Outdoor Products in Brampton were laid off in November 1980. They claimed to have been replaced by refugees.
Medium: Television
Program: Today From...
Broadcast Date: Oct. 4, 1979
Guest(s): Eugene Denkiw, Joe Murray, Anthony Posuk, Peter Posuk
Host: Kris Purdy
Reporter: John Hanlon
Duration: 7:28

Last updated: May 26, 2014

Page consulted on May 26, 2014

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