The massive arrival of the “boat people” in 1979 brought about immediate needs in Montréal’s community, in the interpretation field in particular. Various community organisations and institutions established different services that were set up to be temporary. Refugees came in large numbers, primarily from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Thus, the Service à la famille chinoise, the Communauté catholique vietnamienne, the Communauté khmère and the Communauté Laotienne du Canada established, in 1980, the SIARI. It was then known as Service des Interprètes Auprès des Réfugiés Indochinois. The patent letters were registered in May of 1981.

After the appointment of its board of directors, the founding organisations left the newly established body to handle things as best they could. But the SIARI’s mission was not clear enough and the high staff turnover became alarming. The federal government did not want to fund the organisation anymore, claiming that its original objective had been met.

However, problems of integration from survivors of the war soon appeared. In addition to daily interpretation work, the SIARI team elaborated participation models in school environments in order to help Indochinese parents and their children to integrate into Quebec’s school system. They were mostly in schools of the Commission scolaire Sainte-Croix, which later became the Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys. They also helped in health and social services.

In 1991, the organisation modified its legal name to Service d’Interprète et d’Aide aux Réfugiés Indochinois (S.I.A.R.I.) to better portray the organisation’s expansion.



In 1996, services other than interpretation came to be offered at the SIARI. To help newcomers integrate into Quebec and Canada’s society, services such as French classes, twinning and liaison officers in schools were offered. As a result, once again, the organisation’s legal name did not reflect its day-to-day reality anymore. The SIARI’s name became Service d’Interprète, d’Aide et de Réference aux Indochinois.

As the years went by, the SIARI started to be filled with refugees from Pakistan, Eastern Europe and the old Soviet Union. For some years, most newcomers came from South-East Asia, notably from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The SIARI did not only offer its services to Indochinese refugees anymore. Its legal name was therefore modified one last time. From that point forward, the SIARI worked for all immigrants, no matter where they came from.

SIARI finally became Service d’Interprète, d’Aide et de Référence aux Immigrants. That was in 2001.

Throughout the years, the people who used the SIARI’s services diversified. Our members come from more than 60 countries. We answer them in 23 different languages.