Joseph N.H. Du
C.M., O.M.; M.D. (National Taiwan University); F.R.C.P.C.; F.A.A.P.
Dr. Joseph Du was born in Laokay, Vietnam in 1933, the youngest of 11 children. It was a time of great turmoil - the Japanese army occupied his home country at the time - and his father was killed when Dr. Du was 10. His mother struggled to support his family, and three brothers had to quit school to help. At 17 Dr. Du fled Communist North Vietnam and studied medicine for the next seven years in Taiwan, graduating from National Taiwan University Medical School. He then came to Canada to complete his accreditation and later studied at the University of Washington under a scholarship from the National Institute of Health, specializing in neonatology. Dr. Du returned to Winnipeg in 1968 to join the Winnipeg Clinic as a pediatrician.
Soon after beginning his career, he joined a group of doctors in an outreach program in northern Manitoba. For 33 years, Dr. Du regularly flew to all remote communities in northern Manitoba as well as communities of the Northwest Territories, often travelling in small airplanes in difficult and perilous conditions. During this time he was appointed an Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba Medical School. In the 1980s he was commissioned by the God’s Lake Narrows Band to write a study on gasoline sniffing and organized the first symposium on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in Winnipeg.
Dr. Du has stepped forward to contribute when crises threatened. In 1979 he co-chaired a committee to help coordinate the settlement of Vietnamese boat people in Canada and later served for nine years on the Council for Canadian Unity when the possibility of Quebec separation was at its peak.
The scope of his involvement has always been broad. In 1989 Dr. Du spearheaded the visit of two pandas from China to the Winnipeg Zoo; in the 1990s he led the commissioning of two sculptures, including one by Leo Mol, to commemorate the role of Chinese-Canadian workers in constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway; and in 2001 he worked with Winnipeg’s Jewish community to bring the Shanghai Connection exhibition to the Jewish Heritage Centre, which told the story of the successful efforts of a Chinese counsel in Vienna to help over 18,000 Jewish refugees escape the Holocaust.
Dr. Joseph Du has been the key force in redeveloping Winnipeg’s Chinatown beginning in the 1980s. His leadership efforts in this regard include the development of the Chinese Cultural Centre, two commercial buildings – the Dynasty Building and the Mandarin Building – a Chinese Gate and Garden and two residential buildings, Harmony Mansion and the Peace Tower. In October 2013 a portion of James Street in Chinatown was named after this physician and community builder to honour his work in transforming this area and his contribution to Winnipeg.
Dr. Du’s distinguished career spans almost four decades, to his retirement in 2002. He has received many honours and awards, including being named to the Order of Canada, the Order of Manitoba, and the Order of the Buffalo Hunt.