Interview with Wayne Cao, MLA, Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees Legislative Assembly, Alberta, Canada

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Interview Questions from the BBC World News Services Vietnamese language program, Mr. Khiem

(Note: the original questions and answers are in Vietnamese language. They were put into English by Wayne Cao for non-Vietnamese speaking readers)

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BBC: In the new year, are you optimistic about Vietnamese people in Canada, where you live and across Canada?

DS WAYNE CAO:: Greetings to you, Mr. Khiem. Before answering your question, I sincerely wish the audience of the BBC and the BBC staff: Year 2010, the Year of the Tiger, full of good health, happiness and great progress. Using the Vietnamese jargon, I wish you all : Strong like an elephant and tough like a tiger!

I am an optimistic person and I tend to see the good side in people. I believe that everyone is born with certain abilities. Those who know how to use their abilities in the right place and at the right time make great progress and lead a fulfilling life. Those who don’t use their abilities in the right place and at the right time get stuck, frustrated, angry, and tend to live in the past and become pessimistic.

People of Canada, in general, are optimistic and dynamic – the Can-Do spirit, very active and finding ways to achieve good things.

Here in Canada, people of Vietnamese heritage, are influenced by the optimism of Canadian society. Canada is a community of openness, large land and small population, and a great place for human freedoms to bloom.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with a number of Viets from the Philippines. They are some of the most recent Viet refugees to Canada. They are very happy. Within a very short time, they made good progress in making a living, buying their own houses and cars, and looking after the education of their children. I am very optimistic for them. I am very happy that I have contributed some assistance by contacting my elected counterparts in Canadian government leadership, suggesting and persuading for flexibility in immigration and foreign worker policy to allow these individuals and families to come to Canada. I must point out that the successful work bringing the Viet refugees from the Philippines to settle in Canada and other countries was started and pushed forward by a young dedicated lawyer, full of human compassion, Trinh Hoi.

From my observation, immigrants settling in Canada went through 3 stages, IN - UP – OUT. When first arriving, they live and carry on activities within their ethnic group – INSIDE their ethnic community. Thereafter, their living becomes more prosperous and their quality of living rises UP. Their final stage is to spread out and integrate with the society at large, OUTSIDE their ethnic community.

My optimism is also based on the fact that 35 years have passed since the Vietnam war ended. Only a small number of the Viets stayed on the IN stage; the majority have been through it. They are in the UP and OUT stages. They are spreading out and integrating with the Canadian mainstream, marching ahead as Canadians, shoulders to shoulders with all other Canadians, particularly the young generation. Any ethnic group, any family or individual who shorten those stages can quickly become successful and happy with life.

As to people from Vietnam, a baby born during the final stage of the Vietnam war is now more or less 35 years of age, a mature adult. These individuals now have a profession, a business, a family of their own and their own asset in this society.

Those who were adults during the war now have retired from work, having no more energy to compete, looking after their grand or great-grand children, and enjoying their leisure time of old age. Personally, I am very blessed recently with our 3rd generation of Canadians. We are very optimistic for our future!


BBC: Are you optimistic about the people of Vietnam in the new year of the Tiger ?

DS WAYNE CAO: I am optimistic for the Viet people. In my early youth, I was taught that the Viet people have 4,000 years of heritage. The existence of Viet people until today, in general, is due to a collective wisdom of a high degree. All the battling for governing power and changes of dynasties are only short periods of a few decades, within the thousands of years of the long Viet history.

In my observation, the war that devastated Vietnam for 10 years, from 1965-1975 destroyed many bodies and minds. I think this war could have been prevented by the leaders at the time using some wisdom. It created a flashing hot-point in the world at that time. This deadly conflict drew the world attention and therefore all peoples and nations in the world knew of Vietnam.

The world now knows that Vietnam is a nation, a people and a country. If any country attempts to invade and take over Vietnam, it would not be accepted by the world and even by its own citizens.

Another point, Vietnam now has over 86 million people with the culture that values high education and hard work. Vietnam has its own spoken language, own written language, different from all neighbouring countries. Since 1975, the Viet people have spread out all over the world. Since the very early legendary Hong Bang tribe, through 3-4 thousand years, it’s only now that the Viet people have the opportunity to join the waves of human migration widely populating our planet earth.

Those are points that make me optimistic.

I will be more optimistic when the leaders and government in Vietnam, and the Viet people, take advantage of these opportunities, making Vietnam more developed and progress quicker.

I have a subjective point. I am a person with Viet root. I was a refugee and became a citizen of Canada in North America continent. Like millions of other immigrants, I dare say with certainty that the reason for our successful settlement and quick upward movement is the societal environment here. Our society here allows and encourages human political freedoms and enterprising spirits. We understand and realize early these great opportunities for human aspiration. We develop ourselves further with these freedoms and make our contribution to this society.

Just imagine, if I were still stuck in Vietnam during the fateful time in 1975 or if I were a refugee from another country settling in Vietnam, I wonder what would have become of me.

In this year of the Tiger, the world is gradually moving out of the global economic recession. Appearing in the new economic order are the big nations of China and India, and a few strong emerging nations in South East Asia. I hope and wish that Vietnam will be cleverly navigated to become an economic tiger in the region. In our public policy development for Alberta/Canada, we see that the global competition, now and future, is based on the economic strength and the high value human resource, i.e. brain work, the grey matters. I don’t know what is going on in Vietnam in preparation for their global competition in the long term.


BBC: The topic of bringing workers from Vietnam to Canada is of great interest to our audience in Vietnam. What types of workers are needed, wages offered ? What types of degrees and qualifications are required. What kinds of labour force does Canada need that Vietnam can provide ? What is the reality of all this ?

DS WAYNE CAO: Canada in general and Alberta in particular is a land of large expanse, but it has small population. The objective of our immigration policy is to develop our economy and the quality of life for our citizens. According to our demographic forecast, if we don’t receive immigrants, Canadian population will decrease and get older. Annually, Canada needs around 300,000 new immigrants at working age.

Our policy is to attract skilled and talented people from all over the world to live here. This is to increase the quality and capacity of Canadian human resources in order for Canada to compete in the fast lanes of global economy.

In 2008, Canada welcomed 247,243 new residents and workers. Generally speaking, there are 5 paths for people to come to Canada.

1) Immigration : For the past 5 years, 11,039 individuals have immigrated from Vietnam to Canada, including 1645 to Alberta. After arrival, immigrants can move and settle in any part of Canada as they see fit. 90% of these immigrants belong to the family class sponsorship, such as spouses, children, parents or grandparents.

2) Foreign Skilled Workers: Very small number from Vietnam. In 2008, there were 361 from Vietnam out of the total 103,736 from all countries.

3) Temporary Foreign Workers: Working on short-term contract and going back at the end of the contract. In 2008, Canada welcomed 192,519. For the past 5 years, only 544 came from Vietnam to Canada. Alberta with its strongest economy received 117 only. Within this category, the majority worked in service industry, such as shops and restaurants, cleaning office buildings, in manufacturing industry, and cooks.

4) Foreign Students: At the end of 2008, there were 593 students from Vietnam in the total of 79,509 foreign students in Canada, in comparison with 13,942 from Korea and 13,668 from China. We have changed our policy to allow foreign students to work after school hours, and after graduation, they can find jobs to work here, and can apply for permanent residency as immigrants.

5) Immigrant Nominee Program: In 2008, Canada accepted 8,343 persons in this category. In Alberta, the strongest economy in Canada, there were only 23 persons from Vietnam, out of the total of over 3,000 persons from other countries.

Our government established a program that allows the companies to nominate their recruits from other countries. Later, we extended this nomination program to allow Canadians to nominate their extended relatives to come to work in Canada.

Nominating companies have to prove that they need workers and cannot find the workers in Canada. Nominating companies and nominating Canadians have to prove their financial capacity and guarantee to help the nominee workers to settle in Canada.

The nominee workers from foreign countries must have work experiences, graduation from post-secondary education, English or French language ability. In some fields, the skills have to be accepted and certified by the profession or trade associations or technical institutions in Canada.

Our labour law and employment standards are applied to all employees, without any differentiation between local Canadian and foreign workers.

About earnings and wages, employers have to pay foreign workers at par with local Canadian workers. This is to prevent the unfair exploitation of foreign workers. In Alberta, presently, our minimum wage is set at $8.80 per hours. According statistics, the current average hourly earnings is $23 and the average weekly earnings is $750. For workers with specialist skills or advanced technology specialty, such as electricians, mechanics, engineers, medical doctors, nurses, professors, teachers, lawyers, and so on, their annual earnings range from $50,000 to $200,000 or even $1,000,000.

Our law here forbids persons who do recruiting service to take money or charge fees from the job seekers. The recruiting service can only charge fees or take money from the employers. There were cases where job seekers got cheated, paying for the job search fees but receiving no job. Some recruiting services were brought to court and got heavy penalty for illegally taking money from job seekers, even though it was done under the table.

I have met a man who worked as a truck driver. He came from Vietnam, hired by a local company here. It’s quite simple. This local company needed truck drivers and they proved to the government authority that no local driver could be found. Through some connection, the company here knew of the truck driver in Vietnam and they did the paper work to hire him as “foreign skilled worker”.

I also know that a large number of foreign workers are employed in restaurant business, super markets, hotel and hospitality businesses.

I also saw a number of people with special skills, such as diamond cutters coming from Vietnam. By the way, besides being a global major oil and gas producer, Canada is one of the top diamond producers in the world. Because Canada has the shortage of health care workers, an institute in the Philippines, working with a Canadian institution, train and provide staff for senior nursing homes in Canada.

Also a Canadian institute in Alberta, in partnership with an institute in the Ukraine, provides training for nurses in the Ukraine. There is also a similar partnership with Qatar.

The idea is to use Canadian curriculum to train the students outside Canada. During the training period, the students can come to Canada for practical work to temporarily meet staffing need in Canada. After graduation with Canadian training curriculum, their qualification is automatically recognized by Canada, and they can apply for work in Canada through our foreign worker programs.

I know that a province in the middle of Canada, Saskatchewan, and Vietnam authority have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate in training and recruiting workers from Vietnam. The officials and people in Vietnam need to realize that even when our Canadian government authorities signed such document, the recruiting and hiring of workers are the need and decision of private businesses and companies. It may be different from situation in Vietnam that our Canadian government authorities cannot interfere in the operation of private businesses here.

Frankly speaking, it can be assured only when there is a job offer or an employment contract written by a Canadian company for an individual. All other forms of promises for employment are not certain, untrustworthy and potential cheating. So watch out and be careful.

I also have to emphasize the fact that there is currently a global economic recession, Canadian businesses and companies have to lay off staff. Therefore, recruiting and hiring is interrupted and almost stopped by the employers. The unemployment rate here was around 4%, and now hovers around 8%-9%.

As the economy starts picking up, Canada still needs more human resources from outside Canada, and the programs of recruiting foreign workers will continue and intensify. I forecast this will happen around 2012. Those from outside Canada, who plan to work in Canada, should now prepare themselves in training and gaining work experiences, and develop their language ability. They should have their qualifications and abilities ready when our Canadian employers resume hiring and our foreign worker recruiting programs pick up again in the coming years.

Because of time limit, I cannot go into details about particular jobs and occupations needed in Canada, and the wages for each.

Anyone who wants more detail and particular information can get from our government websites. Our government policy is very open to the public; everything is posted on the public websites. Everyone can get access and do things themselves if they want. A starting website I suggest is

If anyone wants, they can also contact myself at internet address

Thank you Mr. Khiem, until next time, and all the best to the BBC Team.

Wayne Cao, MLA, Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees
Legislative Assembly, Alberta, Canada.