Faye Leung: The Hat Lady Sings!
The Faye & Dean Chun Kwong Leung Story
Faye Leung patriotically devoted most of her life to public service which has greatly benefited the people, cities, provinces and the cultural heritage of Canada.
As far back as the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway the Chinese in Canada have been the victims of harsh discrimination. If at present they are treated fairly it is in part because of the contribution of Faye and Dean Chun Kwong Leung. She and her husband, Dean, achieved many remarkable victories in this struggle for equal and fair treatment. The extraordinary thing about them is that they achieved these victories with no thought at all about financial rewards. They considered it an honour to work for their people. The Leungs’ work has done much to foster better understanding and cooperation since 1964 between Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Fiji, the Cook Islands, Hawaii and Mainland China. This has resulted in billions of dollars of investment money pouring into Canada.
Strangely enough, Faye’s efforts to help women and ethnic minorities have gone largely unnoticed in Canada. With China the situation is different: they and the Vancouver Chinese community have bestowed upon her the title of Ambassador-at-large for the Chinese. It remains to be seen if she will be granted substantial recognition by the Canadian and British Columbia governments.
Faye is a third-generation Canadian of Chinese origin. Her formative years were spent in the Chinatowns of Victoria and Vancouver.
She first burst onto the scene in 1947 when she helped Chinese pioneers by translating and interpreting their documents to apply for Canadian citizenship. In the early 1950s, she challenged discrimination in the workplace by becoming the first Chinese Canadian to be hired by the Hudson Bay Company. Over the next four decades, she helped bring about societal change in immigration, banking, housing, education, trade and tourism with the Orient, and race and gender discrimination.
Faye’s efforts did much to change and liberalize Canadian immigration policy. In 1964 she convinced the Federal Liberal government to offer, for the first time, new immigration categories for professionals, businessmen and skilled labourers so they could apply to Canada as landed immigrants which previously they could not. As a result, Canada received a huge cohort of highly skilled and wealthy immigrants. The future Lieutenant Governor, David Lam, (along with his wife Dorothy), were two of them. A few years later Faye applied to immigration to open up even more new categories: nannies, domestic and home caregivers, specialists, and nurses. In the late 1970s, she helped add two further categories: immigrant investors and entrepreneurs programs, all free services.
Faye in 1962, opened in their Chinatown office the first branch office of any trust company deposit banking in Canada. This led to extending banking hours not only for trust companies but eventually for all Canada’s chartered banks. She also stimulated trade between Hong Kong and Canada by introducing the first Canadian trust company into Hong Kong business. In 1967, she initiated the first bank of Montreal into Hong Kong. These were just two of the many things she did to establish a wide network of business and social connections between Canada, Vancouver and the Far East. She also stopped expropriation and demolition of Chinatown properties and stopped a freeway from coming through Chinatown in 1959 which is another story!
In the 1960s she was the driving force behind legislating the Strata Titles Act (which became the future Condominium Act) making it legal for attached houses to be built and sold individually. Prior to the Strata Titles Act houses needed to be a certain number of feet away on all four sides of the property boundary lines. The Strata Title Act did away with this requirement and then townhouses and multiplexes could be built. She followed this by introducing pre-sales before construction and then pre-fab concrete into construction sites so condos and commercial properties could be built up to fifteen stories high instead of just two or three.
Faye was one of the first women members invited to join the Vancouver Board of Trade. She also became the first Chinese-Canadian to sit on the boards of the Vancouver Opera, Brotherhood of Christians and Jews, Arthritis Association and the Siwash Association, aka Endeavour and others as Chinese were previously restricted. This paved the way for others to follow. As usual, she was a pioneer.
Big development, the first since founding, came to Vancouver’s Chinatown in 1968 when Faye and Dean expanded Chinatown from Pender to Prior to Gore extending Chinatown’s commercial area. In 1970, they spearheaded the construction of the huge Mandarin Trade Center, a six-floor commercial complex plus amenities with their own funds. This was done at a time when banks still restricted women from financing, borrowing, obtaining financing or holding mortgages. It was the first major development in Chinatown and influenced other development afterwards. For the first time, Chinatown had a dine and dance banquet venue for 1600, without them having to be split up into two or three smaller venues. In 1954, she and Dean bridged the best of both worlds and gained the acceptance of both Chinese and western societies. In later years she brought Caucasian and Chinese societies together in the Mandarin Centre for functions and galas for the first time in Vancouver.
Following the collapse of the Cultural Revolution in China, Faye was the first Canadian businesswoman to be invited on October 1, 1980, to the People’s Republic of China by President Deng Xiaoping and the Mayor of Shanghai under their new Four Modernization program. Over the years since then, she has travelled to China many times and sparked millions of dollars in trade and investment between Canada and China, especially in economic development, trade and tourism. She has appeared many times on nation-wide television in China.
In the early 1990s British Columbia Social Credit leader, Premier Bill Vander Zalm, was forced to resign, the first in the history of the Commonwealth, in a Breach of Public Trust. He used his public office to sell his Fantasy Gardens World which was deemed a direct conflict of interest by Commissioner Ted Hughes who Vander Zalm himself appointed to look into the sale. Faye was commissioned as the realtor in charge and developed a special business plan which enabled her to sell his property. Later, after he resigned, he was charged by the RCMP and went to trial. Faye became the Crown’s star witness.
In commenting on these shenanigans the media cast unfair aspersions on Faye. In this book, we give only a short overview of Faye’s side of the story. However, in her second book which is entirely on the scandal, the purpose is to set the record straight. I think she deserves to have a venue to explain what happened and her part in it. She certainly was not listened to by the media back in the days of the Vander Zalm scandal. Faye (and her husband Dean ) deserve better than this.
Over the past two decades, Faye has been invited to China many times and she has gone usually bringing along lots of economic development opportunities as well as bringing businessmen, academics, a ballet diva enhancing arts and culture with China. She is always treated respectfully as a VIP and always given a chauffeur-driven limousine. It seems she has found a home away from home where her special talents and accomplishments are appreciated. She has been showered with many gifts and awards as well. Maybe one day the Canadian government will honour her in the same way and show their appreciation for all she has done for Canada.
Both Faye and Dean contributed so much to Canada and Canada’s oriental connections. They also improved the life and living conditions of countless immigrants because the changes they helped cause to be implemented apply not just to immigrants of Chinese origin, they apply to all immigrant groups. With her high intellect, business acumen and bubbly personality Faye Leung (and her husband Dean Chun Kwong Leung) changed the face of Canadian society, both in Canada and in the Orient.
Due Date: September 2018
400 pp, Hard Cover
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