Anna K. Fung, QC – A natural leader

by Jane Mundy

Anna Fung describes herself modestly, as “business-minded” and an “enthusiastic golf hacker.” But those who know Anna describe a host of outstanding traits. They call her a “natural leader and good lawyer with a strong business sense” and a “no-nonsense executive with a heart — efficient yet conscientious.” Most people who meet her for the first time in a professional context assume she comes from a privileged background, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. “They usually think I am a rich Chinese immigrant and hardly ever guess that I’ve come from humble beginnings,” Anna said, laughing.

Anna FungAs a child growing up in Hong Kong, Anna didn’t want to move to Canada, a place she’d never heard of; she had many friends and she was comfortable in her routine as a grade five student. “I cried when I was told that we were moving to Vancouver, but of course it didn’t make any difference,” Anna said. Her four younger siblings were less opposed to the idea. Her grandfather was already living in Vancouver and working as a chef for BC Ferries. He had lived in Chinatown virtually all his life except when he returned to China to get married (a match that was arranged) and the few trips home he made thereafter — his wife was never able to emigrate. “My grandfather was already retired when he was finally able to sponsor my family to Canada,” Anna recalled. “Under Trudeau’s family reunification immigration policy, we moved here with the clothes on our backs and everything we could fit into a few suitcases.”

The seven Fungs moved into their grandfather’s rented house on Union Street at the edge of Chinatown. Anna soon realized the move wasn’t all bad. “At that time, nobody in Hong Kong would dream of living in a house by themselves. We all lived in one room and thought ourselves fortunate, even well-off, because so many people in Hong Kong were homeless and begging at our door.”

Those early childhood experiences no doubt paved the way for Anna’s determination to succeed.

At first, she enrolled in a new Canadian class for immigrant children who couldn’t speak English. “I picked up English fairly quickly and made friends easily,” she said. “I loved school and enjoyed the sense of space and greenery and the freedom to run around outside. Hong Kong was turbulent in the 1960s and the streets weren’t safe, unlike Vancouver.”

Sadly, Anna’s mother died young, but she’d already had a profound influence on her eldest daughter. “My mother taught me the importance of living each day to its fullest,” said Anna. Her mother left six children (a brother was born shortly after the family arrived in Canada) and a huge responsibility was placed on Anna. “One advantage of being the eldest was that, although I had to cook, I never had to do the dishes. And I never had ‘hand-me-downs’…. On reflection, growing up taught me to take on responsibility and leadership positions, for myself and others.” Anna’s father, Jack, was the sous chef at the Kettle of Fish on Pacific Street in Vancouver before he ran his own restaurant on Kingsway. He is now happily retired living in Vancouver with Anna’s stepmother, Lisa.

It was also expected that the eldest child would set an example for the other siblings to follow. “It is the tradition of a Chinese family that you aren’t overtly affectionate and the idea of duty, doing the right thing, can trump everything else — although that is changing,” Anna said. Indeed, Anna took a different path: she managed to hold onto both traditional ways and her affectionate nature.

Fast forward to high school and Anna’s first summer part-time job (not counting strawberry picking or hand-peeling shrimp) at the Kitsilano Beach Concession Stand, slinging hot dogs and burgers. “I loved having my own money and saved most of it — in fact, I saved more then than I can save now,” she said with a grin. Anna did well in school, and there was no doubt in her mind that she would continue on to university. “As an undergrad, I also got summer jobs at UBC doing research for professors, including teaching English tutorials. I couldn’t afford to take a year off, unlike some of my friends. And I didn’t want to — I loved learning and had no desire at that time to see the world.”

Knowing she had a full-time job waiting at Vancouver’s Davis & Co. after finishing a clerkship with the BC Court of Appeal, Anna went to Europe with her sister, Jenny. “We only went for a few weeks, but this trip taught me how much I love traveling and meeting people. And Europe taught me the importance of having another language.” (Anna speaks six languages: Cantonese, English, French, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin.)

She was eager to get back to Vancouver and start her new career as a lawyer. “At Davis I was a workaholic — I enjoyed work, it was challenging and interesting and mentally stimulating.” But she also felt she had no time for a life. “One day, a lawyer I worked for took me aside; he was worried about the amount of hours I spent at the firm. ‘Anna, the firm isn’t coming to your funeral,’ he said. So I reflected on his advice and forced myself not to go in to work that weekend. I didn’t know what to do with myself and I wasn’t even 30 years old!”

“My friends had stopped calling me because they were frustrated when I would accept invitations and not show,” she said. But one friend has always been there and has also counted on Anna for both moral and professional support. Maria Morellato first met Anna in law school, but they didn’t form a strong friendship until they articled together at Davis & Co. “We both loved law and worked hard, but we also made time to have fun,” recalled Morellato. “Today we are both busy but still have time to enjoy a good meal and wine.”

With Anna, there are no borders between professional and personal friends. Tim Chaput and his wife are often invited to barbecues and dinner parties at her home, along with other lawyers (often interspersed with a few judges). He says he has bragging rights as probably the only bus driver in the province who is a dinner guest of the President of the Law Society of BC. “I think it’s the way Anna grew up,” Chaput said. “There’s nothing about her that is elitist — she appreciates her humble background.”

In 1993 Anna moved to Terasen Inc. (then BC Gas) and learned for the first time that there were people who didn’t live to work. “Being at Terasen allowed me to find the balance and time to pursue other interests, such as cooking and learning about fine wine, and I even took up golf for the first time ,” she said . The new job also gave her the time to get her old friends back by finally showing up at their events, and she also got others interested in the sport of golf.

“I hired Anna to work at BC Gas and knew right away that she would be a good fit,” said Stephen Richards, former Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “She also got me into golf and maybe that’s a bad thing,” he said, laughing. Richards hired Anna just about on the spot. “I was impressed not only with her legal skills but her focus on community service that was non-law related.” Anna’s advocacy and ­volunteer work have always been wide-reaching. When she applied at BC Gas, Anna was President of the BC Autism Association. As well, she was director and legal committee member for the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund for several years. As if that wasn’t enough, Anna also donated her time to the People’s Law School, where she served as Director of the Board for 13 years and as Chair for four years.

Terasen also allowed Anna the time to get involved with professional associations such as the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, where she met her boyfriend, Brent Munro. “After a CCCA annual conference in Saskatoon, some of us arranged to play golf but everyone bailed except the two of us,” Munro said. “That Christmas we went up to Whistler and stayed in a freezing cold cabin — I didn’t know how to start the fire and Anna was probably wondering how she was going to spend the next eight days with me.” Eventually, they got the fire started and it continues to smoulder, despite the fact that he lives in Regina and Anna has a hectic schedule to juggle in Vancouver.

Amazingly, Anna has also found the time to raise her niece, who lived with her from grade eight through to high school graduation. As well as being a mentor to her niece, Anna belongs to the Association of Chinese Canadian Professionals and is part of the mentorship program for young Chinese Canadian professionals there.

That kind of devotion to nurturing others distinguishes Anna from the crowd, according to her colleagues. “I feel privileged to know Anna — it’s her depth of caring, her compassion. She shares so much of her time with others and that makes Anna a superb human being,” said Richards.

Jane Mundy is a Vancouver writer who can also vouch for Anna’s kind and compassionate nature. Anna regularly gives Mundy’s two dogs delicious treats, even though they continually harass her SPCA cat, Izzie. And she gets invited to Anna’s dinner parties.

Anna K. Fung, QC

Anna is a graduate of UBC, served as a law clerk for the BC Court of Appeal and was called to the Bar in 1986. She was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2000. She is Senior Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer for Terasen Inc.

First elected as a Bencher of the Law Society in 1998, Anna has been Chair of the Executive, Discipline, Credentials, Futures and Equity and Diversity Committees and the Financial Planning Subcommittee. She is currently a member of the Regulatory Policy Committee, the Futures Committee and the Financial Planning Subcommittee. She also serves on the Council of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada.

In addition, Anna has served as President of the Association of Chinese Canadian Professionals (BC), the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, the BC Autism Association, the People’s Law School and is a former director of the Canadian Bar Association, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund and the Continuing Legal Education Society of BC. She is the former secretary of the UBC Alumni Association and is currently a member of the Advisory Board to the UBC law school’s new National Centre for Business Law. In 2004, Anna received the RVA Jones Award for her work on behalf of Canadian corporate counsel. Anna speaks French and Cantonese, as well as some Mandarin, Italian and Spanish.