Douglas Jung

Class of 1953

"We were prepared to lay ourselves down for nothing. There was no guarantee that the Canadian government was going to give us the full rights of Canadian citizenship. We were taking a gamble." - Douglas Jung, Canadian armed forces, spy, member of parliament, delegate to the United Nations, Class of 1953.

Douglas Jung was born in Victoria in 1924, but was not a Canadian until the franchise was restored for those born in Canada of Chinese ancestry in 1947. Growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, Jung faced segregation throughout life, including at movie houses and swimming pools. He was even barred from studying medicine and pharmacy, as well as what would become his profession - law.

When the Second World War began in 1939, the Chinese Canadian community was divided. Some felt that they should not volunteer for a country where they were not wanted. For Douglas Jung, failing to volunteer was missing an opportunity. If Chinese-Canadians did not volunteer, their demands for Canadian citizenship after the way would ring hollow when those who were already Canadian had sacrificed so much for their country. "So a few of us joined up," recalls Jung, who soon volunteered for a clandestine operation called Operation Oblivion. Trained in the Okanagan for espionage and sabotage, Jung was sent behind the Japanese lines in New Guinea and Borneo and spent the war "generally playing hell."

Jung used his veterans benefits to enroll in university, and obtained a bachelors' degree in arts and then a law degree from the University of British Columbia. He was called to the bar in British Columbia in 1954, a year after his graduation, and established an immigration practice. He made court history a year later by being the first Chinese-Canadian lawyer to appear before the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

While Jung's first foray into politics in 1956 saw him lose a provincial by-election in the riding of Vancouver-Centre, he still made history as the first Chinese-Canadian to contest for a seat in any Canadian legislature. Jung made history again just 17 months later, when he won the federal riding of Vancouver Centre in 1957, becoming the first Chinese-Canadian elected to Parliament. His victory as a Conservative helped John Diefenbaker to form a minority government. While in government, he served as Canadian delegate to the Legal Committee of the United Nations, as well as on parliamentary committees including those for veterans affairs, banking and commerce, and external affairs. His legislative legacy remains in the Canadian Economic Council, which Jung first helped create as the National Productivity Council.

Following electoral defeat in 1962, Douglas Jung continued to advocate for immigrants through his successful legal practice. In addition to his legal and political careers, his life was marked by strong community involvement with organizations like Army Navy Air Force Veterans in Canada, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., and the Vancouver Symphony.

Douglas Jung was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1990, and awarded membership to the Order of British Columbia in 1997. He passed away on January 4th, 2002.

To watch a video of Douglas Jung discussing his military service, please access the Veterans Affairs Canada Archive