Sports James Feng, Quebec's first Chinese-born lawyer, was a role model in his community
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James S. Feng, the first Chinese-born immigrant to practise law in Quebec and a pillar of the Chinese community in Montreal, passed away June 4.
He was 89 years old.
Feng, known as Jimmy to his and family and friends, was a fixture at events in the Chinese community for decades.
“He was part of the older generation who played crucial leadership roles in the community in the 1970s and 1980s, said Fo Niemi, executive director of the Centre for Research-Action of Race Relations. “He was a role model. His heart was always in, and for, the community.”
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Feng stood out in a crowd and was a classy, well-dressed lawyer, Niemi recalled.
He worked with a Greek-Canadian lawyer named Dimitrios Hadjis — the two immigrants ran the firm Hadjis & Feng.
Feng was a key supporter and fundraiser for the new Montreal Chinese Hospital, which reopened in 1999. He was a lifelong volunteer who also served as president of the Chinese Association of Montreal.
Feng was born in Shanghai in 1932. His family moved to Hong Kong and he later obtained a bachelor of laws degree from Taiwan University.
He arrived in Montreal in 1958 and received a master’s in law from McGill University in 1960. After graduating from McGill, Feng had to lobby immigration officials in Ottawa to remain in Canada.
When he was notified he would have to leave the country, he travelled to Ottawa and persuaded the immigration department that he deserved to stay as a landed immigrant.
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Feng also had to jump through hoops — including doing several more years of study — before his bachelor’s degree was recognized in Quebec. He passed the Quebec bar exam on his first try.
“He had a (desire) to shoot for the stars, personally and professionally,” his daughter, Lila Feng, said.
He was called to the Montreal bar in 1968 and was featured that year in a Montreal Star story about successful Chinese professionals.
During that interview, he professed his love for the Montreal Canadiens, saying: “With Le Gros Bill, Dickie Duff and Jacques Lapierrière, we can’t lose.”
Feng was able to watch some of this year’s playoff games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and was thrilled that his beloved Habs defeated the Leafs, his daughter said.
He is survived by his wife, Lorenza (Tina), and his two children, Lila and David.
A visitation will be held this Saturday from 1:30 to 8 p.m. at the Centre Funéraire Côte-des-Neiges, 4525 Côte-des-Neiges Rd. in Montreal.
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