1. What are your primary areas of immigration practice?
I am involved in all areas of immigration other than refugee files. I do a lot of economic immigration, spousal applications, inadmissibility cases, and humanitarian applications. I still enjoy doing judicial reviews and immigration appeals, and I really like virtual hearings! My first cases came from referrals from people like Barbara Jackman, Mendel Green, and other senior immigration lawyers who were so generous with their time and showed me the ropes. I will never forget them.
2. What motivated you to join the OBA Citizenship & Immigration Law Section Executive?
I heard about the OBA from Mendel Green and I joined because I liked the collegial idea of people referring clients to each other and helping each other. I felt it was a really positive thing. Those were the days when you would pick up the phone and talk to an immigration or program officer, go in and see them, and sit in on client interviews here or overseas. It was a totally different world and I developed close friendships with a lot of immigration lawyers that I still consider good friends. I still think the OBA is very relevant because it’s a great network, not only for business, but also for sharing information as well as lobbying the Government and making submissions on legislative changes. The CBA is much respected and has close to 40,000 members across Canada. When you are practicing in your own law practice or in a small firm environment, it’s important to connect with other lawyers in the field. And even if you are in a big firm, a lot of them are focussed on a specific area of law and don’t really have expertise in other areas.
I have been Chair of the OBA Citizenship & Immigration Section twice, from 1999 to 2002 when the OBA gave special permission for me to chair for three years instead of two, and again from 2021 to 2022. I have also been Chair of the CBA Immigration Law Section. In 2019, I received the CBA Immigration Law Section Award of Excellence at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, which was amazing and has such special meaning to me.
3. What do you enjoy most about practicing immigration law?
One key interest that’s developed over the years is being involved and helping shape immigration policy and lobbying MPs and MPPs. That’s one of the main reasons I joined the OBA and the CBA. They were the voice of lawyers, the ones that got the attention of government officials, the ones who were writing and coming up with policy. Giving back is also very important to me. I have an all-female law firm at this stage and I love helping the women at my firm with their careers and have helped many women over the years.
4. What do you find to be the biggest challenges for immigration lawyers?
The speed at which things change in immigration and the serious consequences if you get one thing wrong. There’s a lot of risk involved and you have to make sure that you are up to date. So, I’m constantly participating in CLEs and CPDs, speaking to other lawyers, and reading and sharing information. Another challenge for my generation is the technology. I am good with the technology I know, such as emails and Zoom, but I’m certainly not of your generation that feels comfortable and intuitive with technology. I have great lawyers and staff that deal with the portals!
5. Do you have any practical tips for those who are interested in practicing in your field?
Join the CBA/OBA. That’s the best thing you can do to network, not only with immigration lawyers but lawyers in all areas of the law. Participate as much as you can. Figure out what areas you enjoy and try to pursue them. Reach out to senior counsel—we are always happy to help. The CBA Immigration Law Listserv is amazing. Don’t hesitate to ask questions because things are complicated and things are changing. Be loyal to your employer. Some longevity is helpful not only for the employer but for you as well to develop expertise and your reputation. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Do your due diligence, work for credible people and be careful who you partner with. Not necessarily official partners, but those who you are getting your business from and who you are associating your name with.
6. Please tell us about one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you.
I was very much behind the development and implementation of the Spouse or Common-Law Partner In-Canada Class. I lobbied together with the CBA for about three years to get that change implemented and that’s the change you see now. Many immigration lawyers would be surprised to learn that spouses were being deported left, right and centre before it was introduced and had to wait for years to come back. Before the In-Canada Spousal Class, spouses were processed on humanitarian grounds only. Another area that I have been working on for literally decades is helping blue collar trades people get their PR. That’s a work in progress because even though we have the Federal Skilled Trades Class, which again I also lobbied for, it’s still not nearly good enough.
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