Who was Norman Bethune? 

(pt. 1)

The namesake of this project is Bethune Square, which faces the Guy exit of the Guy-Concordia métro station at the heart of Montréal's west downtown - a neighbourhood that goes by many names, each speaking to a different history or aspect of what this place is. Shaughnessy Village, Quartier Concordia, Little Palestine, Chinatown 2.0, and certainly others.

Norman Bethune - a statue in his likeness graces the square - was born in a forgettable part of Ontario in 1890 and died in a generally unknown part of China (Hebei province) in 1939.

Who was Norman Bethune? 

(pt. 2)

He was of Scottish descent and anglophone. He became a doctor and served in Europe in World War I. He was a resident of Montréal for only eight years, but he seems to have become a committed communist of some kind while he was here. Towards the end of his life, he served on the anti-fascist side in Spain in 1936 and '37 and the communist side in China in 1938 and '39. He was probably at least an acquaintance of Mao Zedong at that time, and when he died in late 1939, Mao wrote his eulogy. Today he is one of the most widely honoured Westerners in mainland China, with respect to statues, busts, etc.


Who was Norman Bethune? 

(pt. 3)

Despite our shared namesake, we are in no way affiliated with Maison Norman Bethune, a book store affiliated with local Maoists. We do not accept that Bethune belongs to any one political sect. Bethune may have been a friend of Mao, but perhaps if he had lived longer, his views and his affiliations might have changed, just as the world changes.

Bethune was a committed anti-fascist who died too soon, and this makes him a sympathetic figure. We generally approve of Gary Younge's position that "every single statue should come down", but it is hard for us to contemplate protests to knock over statues of Bethune, a doctor who never wielded political power, when there is a municipality on this island named after Adam Dollard des Ormeaux as well as a métro station called "Lionel-Groulx"

Who was Norman Bethune? 

(pt. 4)

For further reading, see: Gary Younge, "Why every single statue should come down" - theguardian.com/artanddesign/2

There is also a podcast interview with Gary on this same subject: theguardian.com/news/audio/202

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