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The Flag of RVN Flying Again In The Town of Sundre

vietnamVietnamese flag to fly high again – The flag of the defunct Republic of Vietnam will again be flying in the town of Sundre after the town council rescinded a motion Monday that led to the removal of the flag from town property earlier this summer.

The flag of the defunct Republic of Vietnam will again be flying in the town of Sundre after the town council rescinded a motion Monday that led to the removal of the flag from town property earlier this summer.

In a 5-1 split decision vote, Sundre town council voted to reverse the May 14 motion that called for the banner to be removed.

The May decision prompted a 40-person delegation from the Vietnamese community to attend a July town council meeting, where councillors were asked to put the flag back up.

“This means the flag will be flying again,” Mayor Roy Cummings said following Monday’s vote. “I don’t think politics should be a part of this. I think this is simply a means and a way to recognize the heritage of the people that lived in our community.”

The flag in question was originally donated to the town of Sundre, 100 kilometres northwest of Calgary, in 1984 by then-resident Nam Tran and his family. It was first flown in this 2,500-resident town that same year.

The original flag has been replaced by Tran and his supporters over the years, including a new banner this year.

About 50 Vietnamese Canadians from Calgary, Airdrie, Edmonton and elsewhere attended Monday’s town council meeting.

“We feel very happy and we really appreciate the people of Sundre for what they have done for us,” said Tran, a Calgary resident who lived in Sundre for seven years after coming to Canada from Vietnam in 1980.

“This is a love between two people. From now on the name of Sundre will be around the world. We want it (the flag) flying in Sundre because it is our heritage. Everybody around the world is watching Sundre today.”

Following council’s vote, supporters gave council loud applause, and later waved Canadian and Republic of Vietnam flags and sang O Canada and the national anthem of the former republic on the steps of the town office.

During Monday’s council meeting, Cummings said he had received communications from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Embassy in Ottawa this week asking that council not rescind the May 14 motion.

In a letter sent to Cummings in July, embassy officials said, “We could not accept the flying of this defunct, obsolete flag at any state establishment in Sundre” and that flying the flag “will probably sow divisions, rekindle the past hatred and painful pages of the war in Vietnam.”

Alberta town orders removal of Vietnamese ‘freedom’ symbol

When Nam Tran fled South Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, he presented his new home — the small town of Sundre, Alta., population 2,500 — with one of the only things that connected him with his home country: the flag of the former South Vietnam.

When Nam Tran fled South Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, he presented his new home — the small town of Sundre, Alta., population 2,500 — with one of the only things that connected him with his home country: the flag of the former South Vietnam.

Now, after 24 years of flapping in the winds of Southern Alberta, that important symbol has been removed.

The yellow flag with three red stripes, now known as the Heritage and Freedom flag, has represented freedom to Vietnamese-Canadians for decades, but is the cause of a controversy in Sundre over what the town calls proper flag protocol.

The town has captured the attention of Vietnamese-Canadians across the country, who say removing the flag is like putting to rest the fight for freedom of the South Vietnamese.

“It was the only thing we had — we had to keep it up to remember the lost lives in the struggle,” said Mr. Tran.

“When we fly the flag, it shows that the fight for freedom in Vietnam is still alive,” said Vo Truong, a Calgary doctor who also left Vietnam after the Communist regime took power.

The flag controversy began in June, when an unidentified individual informed the parks and recreation foreman of Sundre that it was against federal flag protocol to fly the flag of a state not recognized by the Canadian government, said Roy Cummings, the town’s Mayor. Since Vietnam became a Communist state in 1975, its official flag has been red with a yellow star.

The parks and recreation foreman raised the issue at a town council meeting in late June, and councillors voted to remove the flag. They then informed Mr. Tran, who now lives in Calgary, and other interested members of the Vietnamese-Canadian community.

At this week’s council meeting, Mr. Tran and several other Calgarians made the 90-minute drive to Sundre to protest the town’s decision.

“Everybody around the world knows this flag, that’s why it flew there for 24 years,” Mr. Tran said.

He worked as a propaganda officer in Vietnam before he left in 1980 with his wife and two brothers. They stayed at a Malaysian refugee camp for four months until a Sundre church sponsored their move to Canada.

After seven years in the small Alberta town, Mr. Tran moved to Calgary, where he opened an auto body shop. But every July 1, he returns to the town where he first landed to celebrate Canada Day by the flagpole.

Every year since 1984, he has purchased and presented a new flag to the town.

The first few years after the flag was raised along with a dozen or so other international flags representing residents of the town, hundreds of people came to Sundre from all over the continent to participate in the festivities. He said this was because it was the first time the flag of South Vietnam was being flown since the fall of Saigon.

Mr. Cummings suggested the flag be placed in a museum, but Mr. Truong and Mr. Tran said they were strongly opposed to the idea, because it would close the book on the struggle of the South Vietnamese.

Mr. Truong followed the same route as Mr. Tran to Canada, although his journey was much more tumultuous.

After completing medical school, Mr. Truong was sent to work with the South Vietnamese army in 1975. After two years as a military doctor, Mr. Truong and some of his colleagues were sent to jail with indefinite sentences. For a year and a half, his family wondered where he was.

When he was finally released after 27 months for good behaviour, he was denied Vietnamese citizenship. After six months, he and his wife escaped to Malaysia.

In 1979, he, like Mr. Tran, was sponsored by a church and landed in Calgary, where he was eventually able to settle back into his career as a family doctor.

“We certainly don’t want to offend anybody,” said Mr. Cummings. “What we’re trying to do now is be respectful to everybody, including the people who believe the proper protocol.”

But what exactly that protocol is remains unclear.

The Department of Canadian Heritage has a document that contains flag etiquette, but it does not specify which international flags can be displayed.

The Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity, Jason Kenney, has publicly recognized the importance of the Heritage and Freedom flag.

Earlier this year in Toronto, a group of Vietnamese-Canadians took the city to court after civic officials said they could not fly the flag at City Hall for their annual ceremonies recognizing the struggle in the country. The Vietnamese-Canadian community lost the case based on the grounds that the flag was not the official flag of Vietnam.

Hoang Le, the deputy chief of mission, said the Vietnamese embassy has never stopped the display of the flag of South Vietnam, but the official flag of the country is the one that Canada  recognizes and is representative of the friendship between sister cities Toronto and Ho Chi Minh — the former Saigon.

Outside of Mr. Tran’s auto body shop, the Heritage and Freedom flag still flaps as he waits to hear if the flag he gave as a gift to the town of Sundre will be permanently removed.

“We will still come up [to Sundre] every year even if the flag is not there,” he said.

BY THE CALGARY HERALD, AUGUST 28, 2007

May 3, 2016

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