International Centre, Mississauga, Ontario – Saturday, January 22nd, 2011: Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival
Chuc Mung Nam Moi… Happy year of the CAT! 🙂
Last Saturday was the annual Hoi Cho Tet Festival at the International Centre in Mississauga. Usually they’d have two going on at once–one in Mississauga and the other in Toronto–but this year it was just one gigantic HCT. It was cold that day, so very cold… It even snowed some, too. But that didn’t seem to stop the usual masses from hoarding to HCT like every year.
What did stop a number of regular attendees and organizations, though, was a controversy surrounding one of the MC’s hired to host the HCT concert. I will only go over this in brief, but the story seems to be that Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen, whom you may recognize from Thuy Nga Paris By Night, became the reason for the HCT boycott after she was hired to MC a dinner to promote business relations between the Vietnamese communist government and the United States. During this dinner, she introduced an official for the Vietnamese communist embassy, while wishing him prosperity and giving him a praising welcome. Her actions quickly became subject for criticism among the North American communities of the Vietnamese diaspora. They felt that after showing her good will to the Vietnamese communists, she was in no position to be representing our community at any event, and certainly not at a festival as prominent as Hoi Cho Tet. Our community has long been advocating for Freedom, Justice, Democracy, and Human Rights in Vietnam, all of which have been non-existent since 1975 when the country fell under communist rule. Whether it is for work or money or any reason, we can in no way knowingly agree to support Vietnamese communism, which is destroying our motherland, oppressing our people, and continuing to taint the minds of its youths with its totalitarian ideals.
Our members got together before the day of HCT and together PBC decided not to boycott HCT 2011, but we do strongly share in the feelings of the Vietnamese diaspora and are fully aware of but do not in any way condone the actions of Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen. Personally I believe our choice to participate this year was justified. Our reasons for participating were to talk to and educate the community members, fly our Vietnamese Freedom and Heritage Flag, not show defeat in the face of difficulties, and support the Vietnamese-Canadian community in general.
I think at the end of the day, though different groups made different decisions, the outcome does further our cause. Having a number of regulars boycotting such a big event does make a statement, but we also needed some groups to participate in HCT, else our true cause will be utterly lost on the people. I think PBC’s youthful presence and VT’s long-standing experience made a positive difference at this year’s HCT.
For Hoi Cho Tet, PBC’s talented members made a new presentation board, business cards, and cute “cat pins” especially for the new year of the cat. I was able to speak to and meet a handful of young people with a lot of knowledge, interest, and potential. Although I spent most of my time there at PBC’s table, it was really worthwhile.
Photography courtesy of Huy Trinh and Natalie Vuong. Thank you!