#ImmigrationMatters in Toronto, Ontario - Caring for the community in a global crisis

Caring for the community in a global crisis

March 31, 2021


Dr. Joseph Yu Kai Wong

Since he arrived in Canada in the 1960s, Dr. Wong has been a catalyst for groundbreaking change in the Greater Toronto area and beyond. A family physician and social advocate, he continues to inspire with his remarkable contributions to the community.

At the outset of the global pandemic, Dr. Wong played a leading role in bringing large shipments of personal protective equipment to Canada. When medical masks were in short supply, Dr. Wong raised close to $600,000 to purchase 700,000 medical masks that were donated to hospitals, seniors’ homes and organizations in need.

As a child growing up in Hong Kong, Dr. Wong dreamed of becoming a doctor and helping others. Because his parents worked long days, he was mostly raised by his grandmothers, which is how his lifelong affection for the elderly began.

Dr. Wong immigrated to Canada as an international student and attended McGill University in Montréal. He went on to study medicine in New York City, returning to Canada after graduating to open a family practice in Toronto.

While serving his community, Dr. Wong witnessed Chinese seniors experiencing language and cultural barriers in long-term care homes. “I thought of my grandmothers, and motivated by this, I started my dream of building the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care,” he says.

His dream came true in 1994. Dr. Wong opened Yee Hong and led the development of the centre’s innovative multicultural approach. Yee Hong offers culturally appropriate care for seniors of different backgrounds and needs. It also offers social and daycare activities that bring together the young and the elderly—a tribute to Dr. Wong’s upbringing.

Today, the Yee Hong Centre is renowned for providing high quality and culturally inclusive long-term care for ethnic seniors. The centre cares for more than 15,000 individuals across the Greater Toronto Area and is the largest non-profit nursing home in the country.

Melody Lo, a Yee Hong board member, says: “When I think about Dr. Wong’s strength, he is not only able to dream for Canada to be a more equitable and better place, but to take action to make it all come to life.”

Founding Yee Hong is only one of the many inspiring contributions Dr. Wong has made to the community.

While serving as Chairman of United Way of Greater Toronto from 1990 to 1992, Dr. Wong ensured that the organization reflected Toronto’s rich diversity. He ushered in a multicultural transformation, creating advisory boards throughout the community, engaging with multicultural agencies and establishing the very first anti-racism task force.

Gordon Cressy, former President of United Way of Greater Toronto, says, “Dr. Wong changed the face of United Way. He is a Canadian icon who inspires all.”

Immigration profile: Toronto, Ontario (Census Metropolitan Area)

Quick facts:

  • Immigrants in the Toronto area make up 46% of the population.
  • When asked why they make financial donations, immigrants said the top 3 reasons were
    • compassion toward people in need
    • personally believing in the cause of the charity
    • to make a contribution to the community
  • Immigrants account for 1 out of every 4 health care sector workers.

Did you know?

  • Even though immigrants make up almost half the population of Toronto, 87% of its residents are Canadian citizens.

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