Ming Berka

Country of Origin:

China

Themes:

Citizenship, Immigration, Asian Heritage, Racism/Discrimination, Identity & Heritage, Multiculturalism & Diversity, Adjusting to Life in Canada

Photos:

    Browse while you listen: images with relate to audio

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Bio

Ming graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a BA in Psychology and Simon Fraser University with her teaching credentials. She was an elementary teacher in Prince George for eleven years. Then she was the Education Director for Planned Parenthood Association of BC where she designed and gave Health Education workshops for high school age students, upper elementary school children, parents, and volunteers for the Planned Parenthood clinics. Finally she became the manager of Language Training where she managed ELSA, a government funded ESL program for adults. She was the President of the Board of Directors of ELSA Net, an affiliation of ESL providers in BC.

Although Ming is now retired, she is busier than ever with two choirs, Girl Guides, and the Silver Harbour Senior Centre. She is never satisfied in being “just” a member, but rather ends up volunteering in many capacity and “micromanaging” something. But she takes time (or is sometimes made to take time) to share her passion for cooking, camping and travelling with her husband.

Story

My father, a medical doctor, worked for the Chinese government setting up field hospitals during the civil war in China. However in 1948, he realized the Communists were going to win. While most Nationalists would flee to Taiwan my father chose Canada, the home of Dr. Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor, who was a hero in China. My father received a United Nations scholarship to study medicine in Canada because he had graduated from an American University in Shanghai and already had English. So about a week after I was born, my father left for Canada.

The first 2 years after my father left, were very difficult for my mother. My mother first used their savings and then had to borrow money from her brother. Since there were no electrical appliances, no formulas and not even a lot of milk, my mother sent my older sister Ella and me to milk nurses to be breast fed. Then my sister and I were sent to different relatives to be looked after, returning only in time for kindergarten.

In 1950, the Chinese population in Canada was very small because almost no Chinese had been allowed into Canada from 1924 to 1947 due to the Chinese Exclusion Act. So when my father received his license to practice medicine, he knew that few white people would go to a Chinese doctor so he went to work for the Canadian government among the Inuit people. He needed to send money to support his family and save for 7 passages to Canada.

It took my father over 6 years to receive permission for us to come to Canada because the Canadian government was reluctant to accept immigrants from a Communist country. When we finally landed in July 1957, our story and photos appeared in the Brantford Expositor: "Ohsweken Doctor's Family Head Here from Red China". On the way to our new home, I turned 9.

My father was now working on a Six Nations Indian reserve near Toronto. Life was a struggle as there were no ESL classes or social services for immigrants. My mother, already 51, struggled with depression because she spoke no English and the nearest Chinese people lived two hours away. While my older two siblings struggled with English and French to graduate from high school, I struggled to retain my Chinese heritage. With no Chinese newspapers, radio or TV and or other Chinese families to share Chinese festivals, I became a banana. Ironically while I speak Chinese with a child’s vocabulary, I am able to make some Chinese foods which most women of my age wouldn’t know how to make. When I was young, I felt that I was on the outside of both the Chinese and Canadian culture, belonging in neither. But as I matured, I realize that I actually stand in the part where the 2 circles overlap, and I’m proud to be called a hyphenated Chinese-Canadian.