Impact of The Enaction of “the New York acupuncture Act 1975” on the Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Association of Canada

Cedric K.T. Cheung

Founding president of The Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Association of Canada

Vice President of the World Federation of Acupuncture and Moxibustion

In the past 50 years, I have been involved in establishing CMAAC, pushing the passing of legislation allowing the practice of Chinese medicine, acupuncture and moxibustion, and Tuina (a Chinese deep-tissue massage therapy), etc., independently in 1980. Today practitioners can take the Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture license board examination in Chinese. I can proudly say that I have made certain contributions to the field of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and acupuncture in Canada. I would like to attribute the glory of these achievements to my wife, Dr. Judy She-Ping Lin, RTCMP (林希平中醫師), and my colleagues who worked with us to overcome all obstacles and frustrations. I want to express special gratitude to a pioneer in this field – Dr. David P.J. Hung, Life Time Honorary President of the World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies and Chairman of the American Acupuncture Association. For all these years, Dr. Hung often shared his forward-thinking vision and sense of mission in promoting Chinese medicine and acupuncture to benefit patients globally. He inspired me to get malpractice insurance, organize an academic association, establish CMAAC, and host seminars and conferences in Canada.

Most importantly, right from the beginning, he emphasized that Traditional Chinese medicine/acupuncture and Western medicine should be on equal footing. This fundamentally influenced my thinking – the legislation governing Chinese medicine and acupuncture must stipulate an independent status. Dr. Hung’s foresight on this encouraged me to set my goal and be determined to face numerous challenges and obstacles in my lifetime. The journey has been challenging and lonely with hardship. However, with the recognition and status of Chinese medicine and acupuncture worldwide and the evermore crucial role of Chinese medicine and acupuncture in medical treatment, the bitter-and-sweet experience is memorable.  

Many years ago, I came from Guangdong, China, to further my education in England. Then I came to Canada and started my practice of Chinese medicine and acupuncture in London, Ontario, in the early 70s. In the beginning, my Chinese colleagues and I faced the problems of language barriers and cultural differences. Crucially, we were not organized as a group and did not have a professional association. As a result, although Chinese medicine and acupuncture doctors were serving society and providing medical treatments, there was very little recognition and understanding of our medical practices. With such cognition and awareness, I had the idea of starting an organization of Chinese medicine and acupuncture in the 70s. Eventually, CMAAC was established and registered in 1983. From the onset of establishing a national organization of Chinese medicine and acupuncture in Canada, we specified that both Chinese medicine and acupuncture are inseparable and must be included. Therefore the name of our organization in the application for incorporation was “The Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Association of Canada.” An application was made to Consumer Affairs, Canada. However, it was turned down because of the inclusion of the word “Medicine.” I immediately submitted supplementary documents to decision-making officials explaining the special meaning of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Finally, with the endorsement of Hon. Judy Erola, Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, CMAAC was officially registered and incorporated in March 1984.

Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and Tuina (a Chinese deep-tissue massage therapy), etc., collectively is a system of medical therapy composed of various interventions based on Chinese medical philosophy. It has been practiced in China and other Eastern Asian areas for thousands of years. Chinese medicine completely differs from mainstream Western medicine regarding the concept and intervening modality. In order to be an integral part of the medical profession, we must have equal respect and protection legally. Pushing for legislation governing Chinese medicine and acupuncture became our association’s immediate and avoidable responsibility. In order to accomplish this goal and to enhance our professional and academic status, we established The Institute of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture in 1985. The goal is to promote CMAAC’s standards for high-level education and training in TCM and acupuncture. Students who finished 4-year education from a recognized college with at least 3 years of natural sciences credits can apply. Once accepted, the students will receive four years of TCM and acupuncture education.

From 1984 till the present, in more than 30 years, we have been endeavoring in every effort and opportunity to elevate and promote the leadership position regarding Chinese medicine and acupuncture and its academic communication and advancement.  We have proactively participated and engaged ourselves in countless social activities to promote a better understanding of the efficacy and benefits of Chinese medicine and acupuncture. We have held and hosted several academic seminars. It is worth mentioning that we also co-hosted a worldwide academic conference with the newly established World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies of WHO in September 1987. In the meantime, we have united as many existing Chinese medicinal organizations all around the country to establish regional and local chapters in different cities and townships in all the provinces in Canada. Furthermore, we have allied with rescue and wildlife conservation organizations in Canada to better negotiate with various insurance companies to provide doctors and practitioners with high-quality insurance coverage and protection.

In May 2001, we proposed the legislation of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture in Canada, which passed on June 26, 2008. All these years of endeavors under the leadership of CMAAC and myself, we had gone through countless discussions and communication, numerous content adjustments and modifications, and then we pushed the case forward again and again relentlessly until the ultimate passing of the legislation. In retrospect, we had to confront tremendous hurdles and resistance from different professional medical organizations and encounter staggered conflicts and collisions with vested interests and power. Nevertheless, we finally had a breakthrough – we negotiated with one of the most pivotally important and influential medical organizations, a traditional medicine organization practicing acupuncture. We had mutually agreed upon the defined boundary of the therapeutic practices of Chinese medicine and acupuncture. We had allowed their organization to use acupuncture as a supporting/assisting tool to help treat their patients. We successfully persuaded them to cast their affirmative vote with this agreement and mutual understanding. After seven years of endless effort, the proposed legislation bill was passed on June 26, 2008. It is absolutely a complete success as a result.

Since that day, the practice of Chinese medicine and acupuncture in Canada has obtained recognition and protection from the Canadian government. To me, it was a personal triumph and the most valuable achievement.  Today, doctors and practitioners of Chinese medicine and acupuncture have professional respect and overall medical coverage and protection. The credit goes to the enaction of “the New York Acupuncture Act” in 1975 under the leadership of Dr. Hung, providing us the impetus and inspiration.