Winnipeg renames street after local Chinese leader

A leader in Winnipeg's Chinese community is getting a street renamed in his honour.
Dr. Joseph Du, president of the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre, is also a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba. (Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre)

A leader in Winnipeg's Chinese community is getting a street renamed in his honour.

Dr. Joseph Du, 80, has been a driving force in the development and revitalization of the Chinatown district since 1975.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Sam Katz and some city councillors will declare Dr. Joseph Du Way, in the Chinatown area.

Du, who is s member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba arrived, in Winnipeg in 1962 at age 29 and the Chinatown area was little more than a handful of small restaurants.

In 1981, he formed the Winnipeg Chinatown Development Corp. and over the next decade, he lobbied governments for funding and built the Chinese garden and the gate that spans King Street, as well as the Dynasty Building that houses the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre.

Most recently, he helped open the Peace Tower, a seven-storey housing project, located on Princess Street off Logan Avenue.

Built by the Winnipeg Chinatown Development Corp., with support from the three levels of government, half of the 48 apartments are for Manitoba Housing Clients. Six of those are specifically designed for people with disabilities.

Inspired to become doctor

Du was born in 1933 in northern Vietnam to an ethnic Chinese family.

He was the youngest son in a family of 11, of which only five boys survived through childhood.

Watching his sisters die left a lasting impression on a young Du. At the age of seven, he decided he wanted to be a pediatrician and help people.

He believed that, with proper medical care, his siblings could have survived.

The family struggled after Du's father was killed by an American bomb during the Second World War, but thanks to scholarships he was able to continue his studies.

When Vietnam was divided by the Geneva Convention, Du fled the Communist north at the age of 17. He went to Taiwan, where he studied medicine for the next 10 years before moving to Canada to do his accreditation.

Du had originally intended to leave Canada and practise in Hong Kong, but a young X-ray technician at Misericordia Hospital named Jeannine caught his eye.

They married and in 1968, Du set up a successful pediatrics practice at the Winnipeg Clinic, across from The Bay downtown.

That same year, he joined a group of doctors in an outreach program in northern Manitoba. For 33 years, Du regularly flew to remote communities to treat people living there.

Polar bears and panda bears

During one of those northern trips a conservation officer told Du he often had to care for orphaned polar bear cubs, and wished he could send them to a zoo.

Du told the man about zoos in Beijing and Taipei and Chengdu that might be interested. In the end, he helped send three pairs of polar bear cubs to Chinese zoos.

In return, the zoos sent panda bears, Rong Rong and Ching Ching, to Winnipeg for six months in 1989.

Next up on Du's to-do list is build a care home for Asian seniors on the site of the demolished Shanghai restaurant.

Fundraising efforts are currently underway for that $20-million project.


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