OBA YLD to Cabinet Minister: The Hon. Yasir Naqvi

  • June 01, 2013
  • Jason Murray

Yasir NaqviWith an upbringing deeply rooted in social justice and community, the Honourable Yasir Naqvi, former chair of the OBA Young Lawyers’ Division (YLD), has made his mark in law and politics. He attributes many of the skills he learned as a young lawyer to his success in politics.

Minister Naqvi was called to the bar in 2001, after graduating from the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. One year later, he was elected chair of the Ontario Bar Association's YLD. As chair, he strived to create opportunities for young lawyers to meet and work with senior lawyers and the broader community.  He helped students build their professional network, gain real-world experience and give back to their community. "I have stayed in touch with many of the people I met through these networking events and they have been a big help personally and professionally as both a lawyer and an MPP," says Naqvi.

There are many fond memories from his time as YLD chair but there is one that stands out above all others - starting a Christmas dinner program for a local not-for-profit housing residence serving people with developmental disabilities. The YLD executive assembled a group of young lawyers to prepare and serve a full Christmas dinner with all the fixings: stuffing, mashed potatoes and dessert. The lawyers went up and down the halls of the residence singing Christmas carols.  "We sang, but I would not say we sang well, inviting the residents to come to dinner. It was a great scene." All the residents came to the dining room to enjoy a delicious dinner together, creating a warm family-like atmosphere.

His fondness for that day led him to the Capital Food Bank Blitz, where he has been co-chair since 2005, helping raise over 320,000 pounds of food for those in need.

As a young lawyer, Minister Naqvi practised international trade law with Lang Michener LLP and Flavell Kubrick LLP before joining the Centre for Trade Policy and Law as Associate Director and International Trade Counsel. In 2007, Minister Naqvi decided to move from the legal profession to the political one. He ran and was elected as the MPP for Ottawa Centre. He served as parliamentary assistant to numerous ministers before being appointed Minister of Labour in February 2013.

"There is quite a bit of overlap between the two professions and, as an MPP and Cabinet Minister, I find myself constantly drawing on the skills I learned practising law,” says Naqvi. His training as a lawyer has served him well in the political arena in a couple of important ways. The life of a politician is quite busy and they must possess the ability to absorb a large amount of information in a short period of time, for example, before Question Period or after multiple briefings.  As well, similar to the development of new case law, creating sound public policy requires examining an issue from all sides and from the perspective of various communities. Being able to critically analyze an issue ensures the development of public policy that creates lasting, positive change.

Minister Naqvi’s advice to young lawyers is to get involved in their communities. Long before running for MPP, he was involved in community projects such as the Ottawa Food Bank and Centretown Community Health Centre. "You meet incredible people, get to be part of inspiring projects and strengthen your connection to the place you call home." Similar to his involvement with the OBA, these projects help build networks and expand horizons. "I would encourage every lawyer to lend a hand, get involved and give back.  [These] will be some of the most incredible experiences you will ever have."

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