Parks Canada has proposed to serve the public in the Mandarin language by 2027 at the Bethune Memorial House, the birthplace of the communist Dr. Norman Bethune.

Bethune (1890-1939) was a surgeon and early member of the Communist Party of Canada, whose death in Huang Shiko, China, inspired Mao Zedong to praise him in an essay.

The Memorial House in Gravenhurst, Ontario was designated a national historic site in 1976 under Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s Liberal government and remains one of Canada’s least-visited national historic sites.

According to Blacklock’s Reporter:

…[Bethune] was adopted as a national hero by the People’s Republic in 1964 with the introduction of Bethune’s story as mandatory reading in public schools.

A state-approved 1975 Chinese biography praised Bethune as a glorious comrade. “During his work with the Chinese people’s revolutionary forces he was greatly impressed by the correct revolutionary line and policies of the China Communist Party and comrade Mao Zedong,” said the official biography.

“I now know why Mao Zedong impresses everyone who meets him the way he does,” Chinese propagandists quoted Bethune. “The man is a giant!”

Staff at Parks Canada wrote that Bethune was a “great Canadian hero” who “created Canada’s global reputation as a nation with a social conscience.” The management plan advised that the site should “capitalize on the credibility accrued by the Bethune legacy to introduce Parks Canada to a broader audience, in particular of Chinese descent”. 

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