Country of Origin:
Adjusting to Life in Canada
The Vietnam War is what prompted Phan Dam to leave his home. In this clip, Phan Dam describes that so much of his early life was affected by conflict, yet was able to find peace in Canada.
Phan Dam was one of the first 50 Vietnamese immigrants to Toronto in 1969. He then went on to teach for 32 years in the Civil Technology and Environmental Protection Technology programs at Centennial College in Toronto.
In 1989, he was one of the three creators of the Environmental Protection Technology program at Centennial College where he taught in this program for 8 years before retirement.
Dam's involvement in the Engineering Technology field and volunteer community work was honored by the Skills for Change to recognize for his provision of leadership and example for Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese immigrants to Canada. In 2001, he also received the Teaching Excellence Award organized by Centennial College and University of Texas at Austin in recognition for his teaching successes in the Environmental and Civic Engineering disciplines.
Phan Dam retired from Centennial College in 2002.
I was studying and working in Australia as a civil engineer. In 1969, my homeland of South Vietnam was at war in it’s critical stage. I desperately looked for a country to accept me as an immigrant, where I could live in peace to raise my children, and to get on with my career as an engineer.
I was lucky enough to become a Canadian landed immigrant in August 1969. After eleven months of job hunting in both Toronto and Vancouver, I found a job at last. I became a college professor, teaching civil engineering technology at Centennial College. I had never planned to become a teacher in the first place, but I eventually loved teaching, as I was able to teach the program that I was trained for. Fascinating indeed – I was born and brought up in Vietnam, totally in Vietnamese. I went to university in Australia, and I end up teaching in Canada, totally in English.
I have found peace in my life at last here in Canada. In the early years of my life, my life had been so much affected by the war. The French troops came back to Vietnam in 1945. My family and I had to run away from the French Vietnamese war when we were living in the north. There were many nights as a young child when I was so hungry and sleepy, yet we had to walk and run away from the war, for miles and miles at night just to survive.
After the 1954 Geneva agreement was signed to divide Vietnam into North Vietnam and South Vietnam, my father took the whole family to Saigon as refugees, just to run away from the Vietnamese Communists in the north. He had known the danger of living under the Communist rule in the north. I was twelve years old then.
In the ‘60s, when I was busy with my studying in Australia, the American South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese war became bloodier and bloodier. I realized that I could never live in peace, had I gone back to Vietnam. With God’s help, I was able to come to Canada from Australia as a landed immigrant.
I am very grateful to Canada for sheltering me. Here in Canada, I always have good shelter, I do not have to face gunshots or bombshells, bomb explosions, land mines, terrorism. I would not have to live in fear like when I was young back in Vietnam during the wartime. I have the opportunity to fully utilize my potential as an educator, and in return, I was able to positively contribute my part to the Canadian society.