GATINEAU, QC, June 13, 2018 /CNW/ - Dr. Norman Bethune (1890-1939) achieved international renown as a Canadian physician and social activist. He made significant contributions to thoracic surgery, writing manuals and inventing medical instruments, and was an early advocate of government-subsidized healthcare.
Today, the Honourable John McCallum, Ambassador of Canada to the People's Republic of China, on behalf of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna, commemorated the national historic importance of Dr. Norman Bethune. A special ceremony unveiling the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque was held at the Bethune International Peace Hospital in Shijiazhuang, the capital city of the province of Hebei in China.
Dr. Norman Bethune is revered by the Chinese for the time he spent in China serving on battlefields, training medical personnel, and setting up medical programs and hospitals. He was a medical advisor to the 8th Route Army of China's communist leader, Mao Zedong, in 1938-39 during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and due to his courage and medical innovations is considered a role model by Chinese society.
The Government of Canada is committed to connecting Canadians to the significant people, places, and events that contributed to our country's diverse heritage. The commemoration process is largely driven by public nominations, and to date, more than 2,000 designations have been made.
2018 also marks the Canada-China Year of Tourism – a time for Canada and China to strengthen the people-to-people ties that connect our nations. This is a tremendous opportunity for our countries to showcase the best that we have to offer and also for Canada to grow its tourism sector, which supports 1.8 million jobs from coast to coast to coast.
"Norman Bethune was and still is Canada's best known citizen in China, and he has been revered by hundreds of millions of Chinese people over the years. He is an outstanding representative of Canadian achievement internationally, and a very worthy addition to Canada's nationally significant historic persons. As we celebrate the Canada-China Year of Tourism in 2018, I encourage all Canadians to take this opportunity to learn more about Norman Bethune and his significant contributions to our country's history and that of China."
The Honourable John McCallum,
Ambassador of Canada to the People's Republic of China
- After his death at the front in China in 1939, communist leader Mao Zedong wrote "In Memory of Norman Bethune," an essay that became required reading in China.
- The Bethune Memorial House National Historic Site, birthplace of Dr. Bethune is located in Gravenhurst, Ontario, and is a site valued and revered in China.
- Dr. Norman Bethune's remains rest in North Martyrs' Cemetery in Shijiazhuang, China.
- Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of
- Environment and Climate Change regarding the national historic significance of places, people, and events that have marked Canada's history.
- The Government of Canada is celebrating families with free admission to national parks and historic sites for youth 17 and under, and free admission for one-year for new Canadian citizens, starting in 2018 and beyond. We invite Canadians to learn more about our history - from lighthouses to battlefields, historic neighbourhoods to Indigenous contributions to Canada, there is an amazing array of places and stories to discover.
Dr. Norman Bethune (1890-1939)
Dr. Norman Bethune achieved international renown as a physician and social activist. He made significant contributions to thoracic surgery in Canada, writing manuals and developing instruments, and was an early advocate of government-subsidized healthcare. Embracing communism, he led a Canadian team which pioneered the use of front line blood transfusions to republican forces in 1936-37 during the Spanish Civil War. Bethune subsequently served as a battlefield surgeon and medical advisor to Mao Zedong's 8th Route Army in 1938-39 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. After his death at the front in 1939, he became a national hero in China and a symbol of Canadian-Chinese friendship.
Norman Bethune was born in 1890 in Gravenhurst, Ontario, and had an interest in medicine from an early age. He attended the University of Toronto, but in 1911 took a year off to teach lumber camp workers at Frontier College. During the First World War, Bethune served overseas as a stretcher-bearer until he was wounded. He returned to Canada and finished his medical degree in 1916, then re-enlisted as a lieutenant-surgeon. After the war ended, he studied and worked in Britain, Canada, and the United States before contracting tuberculosis in 1926. Bethune's experience with the illness motivated him to specialize in treating tuberculosis.
He moved to Montreal and became a prominent thoracic surgeon, improving and inventing medical instruments like the "Bethune Rib Shears." He grew concerned with poverty's negative impact on people's health, and in 1935 he opened a clinic offering free treatment. A proponent of socialized medicine, he organized the Montreal Group for the Security of the People's Health and joined the Communist Party. In 1936, Bethune became involved in the Spanish Civil War as a volunteer for the republicans. He and his team pioneered a mobile blood transfusion system, bringing blood from donors in cities directly to front line casualties.
Bethune briefly returned to Canada in 1937, but the next year he left to help the Chinese Communists fight off Japanese invasion. He served with the 8th Route Army and travelled along the front lines, where he performed countless operations using a portable operating theatre he had developed. As one of the few skilled doctors there, Bethune also provided others with medical training. During a routine operation, he cut his finger and infection set in. On November 12, 1939, he died of blood poisoning. Communist leader Mao Zedong wrote "In Memory of Norman Bethune," an essay that became required reading in China. Honoured in China as a hero for his devoted wartime service, and remembered in Canada for his medical achievements, Bethune continues to be an important link between the two countries.
SOURCE Parks Canada
For further information: Media Relations, Parks Canada Agency, 855-862-1812, [email protected]