House of Canadian Doctor who Pioneered Blood Transfusion during SCW becomes Focus of Debate

July 26, 2012

Norman Bethune

The Canadian government recently opened a $2.5 million visitor’s center in the house where Dr. Norman Bethune was born.  Bethune, who joined the Canadian Communist Party in 1935, volunteered to serve the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War.  During his time in Spain, he pioneered a new mobile blood-transfusion system and new thoracic surgeries which would be used by virtually every military during the Second World War.  Bethune died of blood poising in 1939 while serving the Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communists.  However, some Canadian Conservatives have objected to the visitor’s center, saying:

In Normal Bethune I see a man who joined the Communist Party of Canada in 1935, went to Spain, and then after that went to support Mao Tse-tung for three years.  Imagine if you had a doctor who went to support Pol Pot or Joseph Stalin.  Should those people receive shrines or millions of dollars to build memorials to them?

Yet not all Canadians see Bethune as a ‘dirty Communist’:

Would it not have been better, the critics argue, to have earmarked the $2.5-million to, say, a memorial or institution honouring the millions of victims of communism?  No, it would not. Bethune, for all his failings, remains a figure of undisputed historic importance here and abroad (especially in China), and the home in which he was raised deserves care and preservation. To suggest such an investment represents a celebration of Maoism is analogous to saying the Batoche National Historic Site in Saskatchewan is a celebration of Louis Riel’s hallucinations or the Battlefields Park on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec an uncritical endorsement of 18th-century of British colonial ambitions.

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2 Responses to “ House of Canadian Doctor who Pioneered Blood Transfusion during SCW becomes Focus of Debate ”

  1. Rob Innis on August 2, 2012 at 4:08 am

    Bethune features in a recently published book – Salud by Linda Palfreeman which details the Republican medical services during the SCW. More here

  2. Sydney Chertkoff, Q.C. on February 11, 2019 at 8:06 am

    Dr. Bethune was the best ambassador for Canada to China than any Canadian could possibly be. Virtually every Chinese student has studied about him and he is venerated in China and memorialized with statues, street names, and medical colleges bearing his name. When Chinese people travel to Canada, they consider that the most important thing for them to do is to visit the childhood home of Dr. Bethune.