Vietnam: A Fascinating Visit in a Rapidly Changing Country
November 19, 2011
Vietnam is known for its friendly people and its rich culture. I therefore could not wait to land in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and its effervescent, cultural epicentre. And throughout my journey, I have been so struck by the harmony of the old and the new in Vietnam.
One of my first stop was The Temple of Literature, built in 1070 in homage to Confucius. This temple has been standing for almost 1,000 years with a continuous university presence rivalling Bologna as the oldest university in Europe; it is a constant reminder of the importance of learning.
Speaking about learning, I had the privilege to address two universities. First, the Canadian delegation and I went to the Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanities, where we had a very interesting discussion on cultural diversity with 400 students, academics and young volunteers from the Canada World Youth program. I also had the pleasure of addressing students and professors from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Industry, which offers an instructor exchange and student internship programm with the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology. This is a wonderful example of the collaboration between our two countries and demonstrates the importance of developing a knowledge-based economy.
Yesterday, I went to the Mekong Delta, where I met Nguyen Thanh My, a Canadian of Vietnamese origin who has always strived to improve the lives of the people of his home town. He immigrated to Montreal at a young age and had to restart his life from the ground up, washing dishes and serving in a restaurant. After only seven years, and with great persistence, he earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s and a doctorate in chemistry. He now heads the Mylan group, a large employer in the province of Tra Vinh, where he generously brought us to visit state-of-the-art facilities. It was a very memorable visit, one I will not soon forget.
My short visit to Vietnam ended with visits to incredible agricultural projects. I spent some time at an agricultural cooperative harvesting vegetables grown and monitored using Canadian food inspection expertise to protect the safety of the food supply and to command a market premium. The industry and tenacity of the farmers, and their eagerness to adopt new ideas, were impressive. I saw the same willingness during my visit to the province of Soc Trang, where agriculture projects have been supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). I saw fragrant rice fields where an organic pesticide was used, as well as a Khmer dairy farm and a milk collection point that rely on cooperative work and a microcredit system. Canadian and Vietnamese ingenuity was once again highlighted, to the benefit of the people of Vietnam, who face significant challenges in terms of development and urbanization.
These experiences in Vietnam reinforced my sense of why the 250,000 Vietnamese Canadians do so well in their newly chosen country. They bring a deep and rich cultural heritage, and they work tenaciously and intelligently to improve the prosperity and the civility of the communities in which they live.
We are now leaving this magnificent country to start the last leg of this State visit. Destination: Singapore.