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STATEMENT ON ASIAN HERITAGE MONTH

 

Honourable Senators,

As we near the end of May, I rise to recognize and honour two great Canadians who are pioneers and role models to a great many people.

The first is our colleague, The Honourable Vivienne Poy, the person responsible for establishing Asian Heritage Month in our country since 2002. She is as her friend Frank Ling called her, “the Godmother” of Asian Heritage Month.

I also stand to honour another distinguished Canadian, who was a man of many talents and a person that made history every day he lived. He was person of many firsts.  He was a soldier, lawyer and politician. After his death on January 4, 2002, his legacy lives on.

Despite being born in Canada - in Victoria, BC, on February 24, 1925, Douglas Jung was not entitled to a Canadian citizenship because he was of Chinese descent. In fact, the Chinese in Canada were recognized as "allied aliens", and had little rights, if any. 

Douglas Jung and his Canadian-born "alien" comrades enlisted to serve in the Canadian military during World War II. They believed that as soldiers fighting for Canada, it would be the truest way to demonstrate their loyalty to their country of birth. After fighting for their country, they would eventually fight for their Canadian citizenship and the voting rights for all Asian Canadians.

Douglas Jung and his brothers Ross and Arthur were among 600 Chinese Canadians who heeded this call.  Douglas Jung was part of a unit that was code-named "Operation Oblivion" because their mission was given little chance of success and the members of the unit were not expected to come back alive. They were under the direct command of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Twelve Chinese Canadians and one British officer were trained in the Okanagan's Goose Bay and later in Australia for the secret military operation.

They parachuted into Southeast Asia behind enemy lines with a pre-determined outcome of zero success. For all intents and purposes, it was a suicide mission.  To everyone's surprise, Jung and ALL of the soldiers returned alive. Four were awarded medals of bravery and Jung was awarded the Burma Star.

In a speech at the 40th Anniversary Reunion of Army, Navy, and Air Force Veterans Pacific Command Unit 280 in September 1987, Douglas Jung aptly expressed their greatest victory as follows: “Our contribution to the social and economic progress of our Chinese community was a far greater victory than any battle. The success of us veterans was entirely out of proportion to our actual numbers because after the war, we were able to demand and receive for the first time equality of treatment as Canadian citizens.”

After fighting for Canada, Douglas Jung and his comrades fought their greatest battle yet in Canada to have the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, also known as Chinese Exclusion Act, repealed in May 14, 1947 allowing Chinese Canadians to be recognized as legal Canadian citizens, and later that year Chinese Canadians were given the right to vote. Douglas Jung graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1953, having the distinction as the first Chinese Canadian veteran granted university training by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In 1955, Douglas Jung achieved another milestone by becoming the first Chinese Canadian lawyer ever to appear before the B.C. Court of Appeal. In the 1957 federal election, he became the first Chinese Canadian ever elected to the House of Commons as the MP for Vancouver Centre for the Progressive Conservative Party.

Later he was appointed by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to represent Canada at the United Nations. In a famous incident, a United Nations usher told him the seat he was sitting in was reserved for the Canadian delegate – at which Douglas Jung replied, “I am the Canadian Delegate.” 

In 1990, most deservedly, he received the Order of Canada.

Posthumously, in 2007 the latest Government of Canada building – 401 Burrard in Vancouver - was named in his honour.  Currently, a photo exhibit of his life is on display at the Chinese Canadian Military Museum on the second floor of the Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver's Chinatown.

Honourable Senators, I end with the words of Douglas Jung, mentioned in Former Judge Wallace G. Craig’s Black Sheep Commentaries, that clearly embodies Douglas Jung's spirit and symbolizes his life in Canada despite the prejudices he faced early in his life: “I cannot forget that I have 5000 years of Chinese blood in me but that doesn’t lessen the love I have for my country.”

Again, my deepest respect and thanks to you, Senator Vivienne Poy, for your continued leadership in Canada and on for your friendship.

Happy Asian Heritage Month, Honourable Senators.

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