Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997
Library and Archives Canada395 Wellington Street

Book Launch: Running on Empty

Presented in partnership with Library and Archives Canada and the Asian Heritage Month Society

Book Launch: Running on Empty

Presented in partnership with Library and Archives Canada and the Asian Heritage Month Society
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
This free event is presented with Library and Archives Canada and Society Canadian Immigration Historical Society in association with the Ottawa Asian Heritage Month Society, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Cambodia and the Vietnamese Canadian Community of Ottawa,  

From the 1960s through the 1970s Canada’s dominant value system shifted from Europe centred to a diversity based, multicultural model. One of the tangible expressions of this major change was the response of Canadians and their government to the terrible refugee tragedy, impacting millions of lives, in Southeast Asia.

Running on Empty , a new book published by McGill-Queens University Press, is the first full description of Canada’s resettlement of 70,000 refugees displaced by war, tyranny and genocide in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos between 1975 and 1980. It describes the decisions of Canadian politicians and public servants who crafted the policies and designed and delivered the programs that underpinned the extraordinary response of thousands of Canadians to the massive humanitarian tragedy that unfolded with the communist victory in Southeast Asia. It documents the exhausting work of Canadian officials who travelled to remote jungle camps, worked long days and sometimes slept on their worktables while rats and snakes scurried around them. It highlights the efforts of Canada’s officials and soldiers to smooth the difficult transition refugees faced on arrival in Canada.  It showcases the extraordinary contribution of Canadians from all walks of life to help refugees from the tropics settle in a winter land. 

While based, in part, on careful archival research,  Running on Empty  is not a dry academic book. It presents gripping first-hand accounts written by government officials tasked with selecting refugees and matching them with sponsors from churches, civic organizations, and Canadian families. Its stories, provided by participants in this adventure, are often heartwarming, sometimes tragic and occasionally humorous. Contemporary photographs provide the visual backdrop to the dramatic events in Southeast Asia.

The four authors, Michael J. Molloy, Peter Duschinsky, Kurt F. JensenRobert J. Shalka are retired Foreign Service officers. Between them, they have a wealth of experience in all parts of the world. They have organized and administered Canada’s response to many refugee emergencies, working in refugee camps in Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe, as well as committee rooms in Ottawa and with international organizations in Geneva. They have played policy making, management and hands-on selection and administration roles in responding to refugee emergencies.  It is appropriate that in the 150th year of Confederation, four officers with more than 150 years of combined experience have created this labour of love, a fitting memorial to all Indochinese refugees, who are, 35 to 40 years later, proud Canadians and valuable members of our diverse multicultural society. 

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