Personal stories of Southeast Asian refugees premiere at the Canadian Museum of History

February 22, 2023


The Canadian Museum of History is pleased to be the first to host a new pop-up exhibition featuring the personal histories of refugees from Southeast Asia who came to Canada between 1975 and 1985, and the stories of people who assisted them.

Located in the Special Exhibitions Corridor, Hearts of Freedom – Stories of Southeast Asian Refugees comprises three panels that explore refugees’ reasons for leaving Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, the process of coming to Canada, and their lives in this new country. The travelling exhibition showcases digital images and documents along with quotations from oral history interviews and examines connections between Southeast Asian refugees’ experiences, the obstacles they faced in settling here, and their successful integration and contributions to the cultural fabric of Canada.

Hearts of Freedom – Stories of Southeast Asian Refugeesis based on a multi-year community project that included 175 oral history interviews from across the country and led to a website, archival documents, a documentary film, and even a forthcoming book and educational materials. The travelling exhibition will tour 10 Canadian cities.

“We have supported and advised on the Hearts of Freedom project since its inception in 2015, and now we are proud to be the first venue for this important pop-up exhibition that provides a deeply personal look into the refugee experience,” said Jonathan Dewar, Director General and Vice-President, Collections, Research, Exhibitions and Repatriation of the Canadian History Museum. “I know that Canadians will visit with great interest in learning more about this time in our recent history.”

“We are very excited to have such wide interest and support for the travelling exhibition from museums, organizations and communities across Canada,” declared Stephanie Stobbe, Hearts of Freedom Exhibition Curator and Chair of Conflict Resolution Studies at Canadian Mennonite University. “The Hearts of Freedom project tells the refugee stories through the voices of those with lived experiences. The history of Southeast Asian refugees in Canada is unprecedented, being the longest refugee movement and the largest movement that resettled non-European refugees to Canada through government and private sponsorships. This movement of collaborations led to the successful integration of Southeast Asians.”

Hearts of Freedom – Stories of Southeast Asian Refugees was created by the Hearts of Freedom Museum Exhibition Committee, in collaboration with the Canadian Mennonite University, Carleton University, Canadian Museum of History, Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, Canadian Immigration Historical Society, Vietnamese Canadian Federation, Lao Association of Ottawa-Valley, Cambodian Association of Ottawa-Valley, Pacific Canada Heritage Centre – Museum of Migration Society, and Manitoba Museum.

This pop-up exhibition will be presented at the Canadian Museum of History until April 16, 2023.

About the Canadian Museum of History
Located on the shores of the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec, the Canadian Museum of History welcomes over 1.2 million visitors each year. The Museum’s principal role is to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the events, experiences, people and objects that have shaped Canada’s history and identity, as well as to enhance Canadians’ awareness of world history and culture. Work of the Canadian Museum of History is made possible in part through financial support of the Government of Canada.

About Hearts of Freedom
The Hearts of Freedom is a multi-year community project that collects and preserves the personal histories of refugees from Southeast Asia — Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia — who came to Canada between 1975 and 1985, and the Canadians who assisted them. It documents the lived experiences of refugees through oral history interviews, archival documents, a book, and a documentary. The oral histories were completed with funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and the DeFehr Foundation. The museum exhibition is funded by Marty Maykut and Shandis Price Maykut, Carleton University’s FutureFunder, and the Rotary Club of Winnipeg, among others. For a complete list of sponsors and donors, please visit

–­ 30 –­