Running on Empty: Canada and the Indochinese Refugees, 1975-1980

October 29, 2018

In 1979, Canada opened its doors to thousands of Indochinese refugees fleeing their homelands, often at enormous peril. Eventually, over 100,000 refugees established new lives in Canada to the long-term benefit of this country.
The story of how Canada launched this major refugee program is told in Running on Empty: Canada and the Indochinese Refugees, 1975-1980. The book, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press, was written by four retired federal immigration officials. It describes the efforts of their colleagues working under difficult conditions in Indochinese refugee camps and in Canadian communities to resettle those displaced by war and oppression.
The lessons learned and new programs launched in this Indochinese refugee movement informed later refugee movements to Canada.


Michael Molloy, co-author of “Running on Empty: Canada and the Indochinese Refugee Movement 1975-80”, has 40 years’ experience in international and refugee affairs. He was Ambassador to Jordan (1996-2000) and Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (2000-03). As Director Refugee Policy, 1976 -1978, he led design of the refugee provisions of the 1976 Immigration Act including the Convention Refugee and Designated Classes, the private refugee sponsorship program and the WUSC refugee student program. In 1979 and 1980 he co-ordinated the Indochinese refugee program that brought 60,000 refugees to Canada. He was directly involved in the Czechoslovakian (1968) and Uganda Asian (1972) refugee movements, was Counsellor for Humanitarian Affairs at the Canadian Mission in Geneva 1981-84, and managed immigration and refugee operations in Jordan, Syria, East Africa and Ontario. He is President of the Canadian Immigration Historical Society.

As a Foreign Service Officer (1974-89), David Ritchie served in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India & Sri Lanka, The Netherlands, Singapore, Malaysia & Indonesia, Austria and the USA. As a refugee specialist, he worked in the Indochinese Refugee Program in Southeast Asia. He selected Polish “Solidarity” refugees in Vienna. He worked in refugee policy and humanitarian affairs desks at External Affairs. He also assisted in the review of refugee claimants within Canada. As Program Manager in Dallas, Texas, he managed Canada’s largest refugee program within the USA, the selection of Central American refugees over five American states.

Since arriving in Canada as a Syrian refugee, Mohammed Alsaleh a former medical student, has been building a new life in Vancouver as an advocate and public speaker; raising awareness and helping other newcomers settle in British Columbia. Currently, he is the BC Trainer for The Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP). Mohammed recently received the 2018 RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award.


Monday, October 29, 2018


SFU Harbour Centre
515 West Hastings, Vancouver
7000 Earl & Jennie Lohn Policy Room

Registration for this SFU-CIC-Vancouver event is FREE. Please register here.

  • SFU David Lam Centre
  • Taiwan Studies Group, Department of History