Ming-Tat Che­ung: Doc­tor with a big heart

Long­time Toronto car­di­ol­o­gist has strength­ened Chi­nese life in Canada

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSCANADA - By CLORIE NG in Toronto For China Daily

When it comes to rep­re­sent­ing the Chi­nese com­mu­nity in Canada, Dr MingTat Che­ung is a name you can’t miss.

Che­ung was cho­sen to join the en­tourage of Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper in his two vis­its to China, the first in 2012, and the most re­cent one in Novem­ber.

He said he wasn’t there to sign any business deals or en­gage in high-level po­lit­i­cal talks, but to sim­ply rep­re­sent Chi­nese cul­ture in Canada.

That’s the role the car­di­ol­o­gist sees him­self in all th­ese years: to do some­thing that mat­ters to the com­mu­nity not just in Canada, but also in China.

Che­ung has been a doc­tor for more than 30 years, and has made Canada his home for more than 40. The soft­spo­ken Ma­cao na­tive tack­les heart re­search with the same pas­sion he puts into com­mu­nity is­sues.

Among his ac­com­plish­ments are the build­ing of the Chi­nese Cul­tural Cen­tre of Greater Toronto (CCCGT); bring­ing a pair of gi­ant pan­das to the Toronto Zoo; and or­ga­niz­ing fundrais­ing func­tions for nat­u­ral dis­as­ters around the world.

Che­ung rem­ini s c e d about the days when he was in­spired to es­tab­lish a Chi­nese cul­tural pres­ence in Canada after be­com­ing chair­man and pres­i­dent of CCCGT in 1989.

Che­ung said that when he first came to Canada, he no­ticed that the men­tion of “Chi­nese cul­ture” would in­stantly con­jure up “Chi­na­town”, whereas there al­ready was a Ja­panese Cul­tural Cen­tre and a Korean Cul­tural Cen­tre.

Boast­ing a Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion of more than 250,000 back then, it was only nat­u­ral that build­ing a Chi­nese Cul­tural Cen­ter in Canada would cre­ate en­thu­si­asm.

After fundrais­ing, lob­by­ing, plan­ning and find­ing a de­vel­oper, Che­ung and his team re­al­ized their dream with the open­ing of CCCGT in 1998, and the com­ple­tion of an ex­pan­sion in 2006.

The cen­ter is now a land­mark in Toronto, the largest of its kind in North Amer­ica, and a cul­tural hub for all com­mu­nity groups with dif­fer­ent cul­tural and eth­nic back­grounds.

be‘ I lieve that there’s got to be dif­fer­ent chal­lenges at dif­fer­ent stages in life.” DR MING-TAT CHE­UNG CHAIR­MAN AND PRES­I­DENT OF CHI­NESE CUL­TURAL CEN­TRE OF GREATER TORONTO

Che­ung at­trib­uted his suc­cess to the support of vol­un­teers and the com­mu­nity, but most of all, “you’ve got to have the right tim­ing, right place and right peo­ple in or­der to make it hap­pen”.

The ma­jor chal­lenge at CCCGT is to main­tain the op­er­a­tion and fi­nan­cial base of the cen­ter, while de­vel­op­ing new pro­grams and ini­tia­tives.

Some of the prom­i­nent events or­ga­nized by CCCGT in re­cent years in­clude the Chi­nese Her­itage Day at the Royal On­tario Mu­seum ev­ery Lu­nar New Year, and the In­ter­na­tional Pi­ano Com­pe­ti­tion – the first of its kind, held in Toronto a month ago.

Che­ung said that CCCGT needs to ad­dress a new mix of Chi­nese Cana­di­ans, in­clud­ing Cana­dian-born Chi­nese and im­mi­grants.

That se­cret of suc­cess also car­ries over to his ef­forts to bring the gi­ant pan­das to Canada.

In 2010, he be­came chair­man of the Panda Ac­qui­si­tion Task Force ap­pointed by the Toronto Zoo Man­age­ment Board.

He trav­eled to China three times in 2010, in­clud­ing a visit with then- Gov­er­nor Gen­eral Michelle Jean for di­rect talks with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Hu, who ap­proved the trans­fer of two pan­das to Canada in 2012.

The ar­rival of the pair of “na­tional trea­sures”, Er Shun and Da Mao, dra­mat­i­cally boosted vis­its to the Toronto Zoo, bring­ing cheers and won­der to vis­i­tors.

Adding to the panda story is the ex­pected preg­nancy of Er Shun.

On Sino- Cana­dian re­la­tions, Che­ung said Cana­di­ans are well aware of China’s im­pact on the world and its de­vel­op­ment over the past 30 years.

But there are is­sues that ref lect how sys­tems from other parts of the world have yet to be ap­plied in China, and it would take “time and pa­tience to see China ready.”

Dur­ing the SARS out­break in 2003, Che­ung chaired the Com­mu­nity Coali­tion Con­cerned about SARS, a group of more than 60 com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions that as­sists vic­tims, fights stigma­ti­za­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion, and raises funds for re­search.

Che­ung has or­ga­nized sev­eral fundrais­ing func­tions in re­sponse to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters around the world, in­clud­ing the Asian tsunamis and South Asian earth­quakes in 2005; Sichuan’s Wen-Chuan Earth­quake Re­lief in 2008; and Haiti Earth­quake Re­lief in 2010, in which 80 com­mu­nity groups from Chi­nese and other Asian com­mu­ni­ties raised more than a quar­ter-mil­lion dol­lars for earth­quake vic­tims. He also raised funds for the China Gansu mud­slide, Pak­istan f lood re­lief, Tai­wan f lood re­lief and Ja­panese tsunami re­lief.

Che­ung lately has been try­ing to find bal­ance in life, as he runs the CCCGT, cares for his pa­tients and finds qual­ity time for his fam­ily. He also is re­vis­it­ing a long­time in­ter­est in cal­lig­ra­phy.

“I be­lieve that there’s got to be dif­fer­ent chal­lenges at dif­fer­ent stages in life,” he said. Con­tact the writer at read­ers@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com

LI NA / CHINA DAILY

Dr Ming-Tat Che­ung (to left of lion), chair­man and pres­i­dent of the Chi­nese Cul­tural Cen­tre of Greater Toronto, and Fang Li (right), Chi­nese con­sul gen­eral in Toronto, at­tend a cer­e­mony to cel­e­brate the Chi­nese Cul­tural Her­itage Week­end at the Royal On­tario Mu­seum on April 13 in Toronto.

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