Operation MAGNET II

 International Operation Name: N/A

International Operation Dates:  N/A

Mandating Organization: Government of Canada

Region Name:  Asia

Location:  Malaysia

Canadian Operation Name: Operation MAGNET II

Canadian Operation Dates: 1979/07/01 – 1981/01/01

Mission Mandate:

To assist Canada Employment and Immigration Commission and Department (CEICD) in the movement and processing of Vietnamese refugees from South East Asia to Canada.

Mission Notes:

After the fall of Saigon in 1975, significant numbers of Indochinese (predominately Vietnamese, Laotian and Kampuchean) citizens fled the region for fear of retribution under the new Communist regime. The result was a refugee crisis that garnered world attention, prompting Canada to launch Operation MAGNET in November 1978, where the CF assisted in transporting and processing 604 refugees from Malaysia who had arrived on the freighter Hai Hong.

The flow of Indochinese refugees, however, continued to grow through 1978-79 to the point where the Malaysian government closed its ports to the 'boat people' and threatened to shoot any caught trying to escape from ship to shore.

Canada, now under the leadership of Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Joe Clark, once again agreed to accept refugees from the region as part of an overall policy change which called for upwards of 50,000 refugees to be allowed into Canada by the end of 1980. The Clark government called upon the CF to once again provide support to this initiative, assisting the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission and Department (CEICD) by using its experience from 1978's Op MAGNET. Op MAGNET II began on 01 July 1979.

Op MAGNET II was a significantly expanded version of its predecessor, with the Longue Pointe Barracks of CFB Montreal and the Griesbach Barracks of CFB Edmonton tasked to accommodate a flow of over 2,000 refugees per month, with the first flights arriving in Montreal on 08 August 1979 and in Edmonton on 14 Aug 1979. Eleven of these flights were carried out by CC-137 (Boeing 707) aircraft from 437 Transport Squadron, CFB Trenton (with crews augmented by personnel from CFB Shearwater), who flew refugees from Malaysia to Canada via Hong Kong, Tokyo and USAFB Elmendorf, Alaska. These flights would bring in over 15,000 refugees to Canada by late 1979, including Nguyen Kien Ahn, a Vietnamese woman who gave birth on a CC-137 en route from Japan to Alaska and who promptly named her new-born daughter Johanne Nicole Joan Ahn after the CF flight attendants and nurse who helped with the delivery.

CFB Edmonton, whose Griesbach Garrison was augmented by 68 additional personnel, received its last refugee on 22 August 1980 and was officially removed from Op MAGNET II on 12 September 1980, by which time it had accepted approximately 21,456 refugees. CFB Montreal's Longue Pointe Garrison, staffed with personnel from CFB Montreal's Medical Company, 2 Field Ambulance (CFB Petawawa), 5 Field Ambulance (CFB Valcartier) and personnel from CFB Saint-Jean, continued receiving refugees until the operations end-date of 01 January 1981. By this time, Op MAGNET II had received and welcomed into Canada over 32,000 refugees from Indochina.

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