Calgary

New park and monument will honour Calgary's Vietnamese 'boat people'

A new park and monument that will be built at the gateway to International Avenue in southeast Calgary will honour the journey of thousands of Vietnamese immigrants.

Organizers say the park is a thank you to Calgarians, as well as a memorial

More than a million refugees fled Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the years following the Vietnam War in the late 1970s and early 1980s, attempting to cross the ocean in small, overcrowded boats. Their journey will be honoured when a new park and monument is built at the gateway to International Avenue in Calgary. ( K. GAUGLER/AFP/Getty Images)

A new park and monument that will be built at the gateway to International Avenue in southeast Calgary will honour the journey of thousands of Vietnamese immigrants.

More than a million refugees fled Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the years following the Vietnam War in the late 1970s and early 1980s, attempting to cross the ocean in small, overcrowded boats. Many found a new home in Calgary through private sponsorships. Others never made it.

Now the city's Vietnamese community, including many descendents of those original families, want to mark those journeys and lives with a new park space for all Calgarians to enjoy.

"This project is really a dream for Vietnamese Calgarians," said Anne-Marie Pham with the Calgary Vietnamese Canadian Association.

"We know have a great community in Calgary and the idea came for us to create a monument and park to thank Canada, to thank Calgarians who welcomed us."

The planned park will be located at the gateway to International Ave along 17th Avenue S.E. (Submitted by International Ave BRZ)

Pham says she hopes the park can be a place of reflection and relaxation for all Calgarians.

"It will have a gateway feature, memorial walls, sitting areas, landscaping and also a viewpoint lookout to downtown," said Pham. 

Anne-Marie Pham says the park is as much a thank you to Canada as it is a memorial to those that made the journey, and to those that perished at sea and in refugee camps. (Submitted by Anne-Marie Pham)

The privately funded 1100-square metre park will be built where 17th Avenue S.E. meets 26th Street S.E. as a collaboration between the Vietnamese Boat People Monument Committee, International Avenue BRZ and the Greater Forest Lawn Communities.

"It's really about leaving a legacy, a piece of history about their arduous journey and to celebrate the story of immigrants, which is relatable to so many Canadians," Pham said. "Also, settling into a new country and succeeding, giving back."

Pham said it's also a reminder for new generations of Canadians. 

"I think it's going to be an absolutely wonderful park," said Alison Karim-McSwiney, executive director of the International Avenue BRZ. "It's going to have the most incredible history but also it's going to have incredible views and I think it's going to be a place where people can really learn a lot about Vietnamese culture."

Karim-McSwiney said the park will be a good complement to everything else going on along 17th Avenue S.E., the busy strip packed with ethnic eateries and stores from all corners of the world.

A survey is available in both English and Vietnamese to get feedback from the community on what they'd like the park to look and feel like.

The survey can be found on the International Avenue BRZ website.

The park could be open by April 2022.

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