Welcome to FACL Ontario's Community Leaders Showcase. May is Asian Heritage Month, and this year, in honour of FACL Ontario's 10th year of operations, we are thrilled to share with you 31 profiles of awesome lawyers in our community - one for each day of the month.
As the demographics of law schools have changed, we are fortunate to have a growing and vibrant pan-Asian Canadian legal community. It is still, however, a common refrain among pan-Asian Canadian lawyers that they do not, or did not, have many pan-Asian Canadian lawyer role models growing up or during the early days of their practice. We want to create an online community to help address that, so earlier this year, we made a call-out for nominations of notable lawyers in our Ontario community. We received an outpouring of outstanding submissions, some of which made us tear up a bit. Out of the nominations, we selected the stories of 31 lawyers making inspirational contributions in and outside of the office to share with you this month. Stay with us as we update this website over the course of the month.
Thank you to all of the nominators who provided a wonderful pool of candidates for FACL Ontario to profile, and a big round of applause to all of the showcased leaders for your continued contributions to the rich fabric of Canadian society.
To all of the children with dreams of going to law school, to the new Canadians, to the first lawyers in the family - this Showcase is for you!
Kenneth is a champion of access to legal education and information. He slays myths about our often misunderstood justice system and shares the intricacies of the legal process and Charter values by presenting in elementary and high school classrooms and mentoring law students and junior litigators alike. Since 2010, Kenneth has coached high school students in the Ontario Justice Education Network mock bail/trial tournaments. He has additionally served as the President of the Association of Chinese Canadian Lawyers of Ontario and on the boards of the Yee Hong Geriatric Centre and the Mississauga Legal Clinic. Kenneth was the winner of the 2014 FACL Ontario Young Lawyers Award.
Kenneth’s Source of Inspiration?
“The courageous and selfless Chinese-Canadian community leaders I watched organizing the Chinese-Canadian community growing up. Role models include Joseph Wong, who rallied the community to donate stem cells in an effort to save Elizabeth Lue and who raised funds to create Yee Hong Geriatric Centres, and Gary Yee, and Avvy Go, who worked tirelessly on the Chinese Head Tax redress campaign.”
Kenneth, which Asian Canadian ever would you like to dine with, and why?
“Normie Kwong. I have always been curious to see how someone of only 165lbs could be a bruising fullback in a game like football. I would like to ask him about his seemingly infinite energy serving the community, especially during his role as Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta.”
Justice Wong has dedicated her career to building a Canada where every child has a supportive home environment.
Since 2014, she has been presiding over family and criminal matters, continuing, in a different role, her earlier work as a children’s lawyer that helped children and families find their paths forward. Justice Wong shapes the next generation by teaching and supervising research in family law, child protection, and dispute resolution, coaching moots, and mentoring students and lawyers. Additionally, Justice Wong builds supports for those underserved by the legal system: she co-founded a pilot mediation project on child support variations for families who do not qualify for legal aid and the Bridging Family Conflict project to assist families with alternatives to court. She is also President of the Association of Family Conciliation and Courts (Ontario Chapter), an interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to the resolution of family conflict.
Gerri’s Source of Inspiration?
“My family. My parents, both of whom grew up during the Depression, were incredibly generous people, in time and deed. They showed me that mistakes and problems could be worked on together, taught me I was not alone, and sheltered me from racial prejudice as second-generation Chinese (on my father’s side). So, I believed I could do anything, with time and work. I came to understand that not every child or family had these opportunities. I wanted for others the encouragement and support that I experienced.”
Gerri, which Asian Canadian ever would you like to dine with, and why?
“My grandfather. I never knew him, as he passed away long before I was born. I realize the importance of my family’s past and would want to talk to him about why he came to Canada, what he hoped for himself and my grandmother, and whether he was satisfied with the decision and the lessons he learned.”
Neena is a disruptor of the composition of the Canadian workforce, in the legal profession and beyond.
Growing up in the prairies, when few or no South Asian women went to law school, Neena chose an unconventional path for women in her community. Ever since, she has been paving the way for and mentoring the next generation of immigrant youth (especially women) through her leadership in community and professional organizations. Through her work with the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) and JVS (Jobs Vision Success) Toronto, Neena has helped connect new Canadians with employers, training programs, and other tools to facilitate integration into the workplace. With the CBA, the LSUC, and her firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Council, Neena champions the ongoing discussion and dismantling of structural and systemic racism and other forms of discrimination in the legal profession.
Neena’s Source of Inspiration?
“My parents experienced a significant amount of dislocation and discrimination and I saw the negative impact it had on them. I also met people who were tremendously generous to my parents (and me) when we were starting out in North America. I wanted to pay it forward.”
Neena, which Asian Canadian ever would you like to dine with, and why?
“Senator Ratna Omidvar. She is my hero. She is one of the best community organizers I know. She tackled and tackles the issue of systemic discrimination and unconscious bias against recent immigrants head on, including with the Maytree Foundation and the Toronto Regional Immigrant Employment Council. She pioneered institutional solutions to issues of racism and bias.”
Harvey is a serial social justice entrepreneur who uses his big heart and technology to connect underserved communities locally, nationally, and worldwide with resources and education.
Harvey co-founded the Teen Legal Helpline, which addresses the A2J gap for teens by using technology to connect a lawyer with any Canadian teen facing legal issues, such as bullying and domestic abuse. The InterSector project, a non-profit organization that Harvey also co-founded, provides tools and resources to facilitate cross-sector collaboration between business, government, and non-profits. As well, Harvey helped launch The Rumie Initiative, a registered charity that provides free digital educational content to bridge unequal access to education challenges worldwide, from Canada, to remote villages in India, to Syrian refugee camps. Last but not least, Harvey’s work with The Citizen Empowerment Project engages underrepresented Canadian communities to learn about and engage with national legal and policy issues, including increasing civic engagement and voter turnout in the 2015 federal election.
Harvey's Source of Inspiration?
"My mother. To escape a violent marriage, she retrained as a computer programmer with funding from a government program while working two jobs and raising me and my sister on her own. With her courage and hard work, I became the first lawyer in my family. My sense of hope and many of the opportunities in my life came from mother, sister, and other people and community organizations who invested their resources in my dreams. I feel responsible for creating the same hope for other kids of single parents who may feel that a better life is impossible. This spirit animates my community work."
What quote from an Asian Canadian figure has positively impacted you?
“During our first week at a women’s shelter, when I was about 10, I was upset and scared about being in a new place and sleeping in a room with many other mothers and children that I did not know. My mother noticed, and bought me pizza (my favourite) to cheer me up. She told me, “Never feel sorry for yourself. You have more than you know and more than many other people. You can change things with what you have.” Then she asked me to give some pizza to a boy and his mother in the next bunk. We learned that the mother was jobless and did not have much money – her husband had not allowed her to work and often beat her. They had been at the shelter for a few months, and had not had pizza in some time. I made a new friend because of what my mother said to me that day, and her words continue to inspire me in my community work every day.”
Kendall is a community builder and social justice advocate.
She helps some of Canada's most impoverished navigate our criminal justice system. This motivated her to join the Legal Aid Ontario lawyers who struggled to achieve unionization. With the collective voice of a union, Kendall hopes to advocate for her clients on a policy level as well as in the courtroom.
Kendall is also active in Japanese Canadian community (re)building efforts. As a proud third and fourth generation Japanese Canadian, she writes on social justice issues impacting Nikkei people in Canada and volunteered with a “We Should Know Each Other” conversation series promoting intergenerational dialogue among Japanese Canadians in Toronto. Kendall volunteers with the Japanese Canadian Young Leaders of Toronto, where she strives to rebuild a sense of community and shared identity among Japanese Canadians that was lost following the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II.
“I grew up in a town with a large Nikkei population, but noticed that there did not seem to be a shared sense of identity. Coming to Toronto, I saw that we were even more dispersed. I later learned that this was the result of racist policies directed at those of us who settled in Toronto after the war. In 2014, I attended a national Japanese Canadian youth conference where I made friends who were determined to rebuild communities that we were forced to abandon. This helped me develop a clearer vision of my identity and where I wanted my community to go.”
What quote from an Asian Canadian figure has positively impacted you?
“Feminism is not a special interest issue. Patriarchy is the foundation of state and capitalist organization. – Harsha Walia (Activist, No One Is Illegal)
Alicia is a long time women's rights champion, a pillar of the Filipino-Canadian community, and an international women's rights supporter.
Alicia immigrated to Ottawa in 1970. She worked during the day and took undergraduate classes at night, before studying law at the University of Ottawa. She became the first Filipina-Canadian lawyer in Canada in 1983.
Alicia leverages relationships with community, business, and political stakeholders to advocate for women’s empowerment and improved business relations between Canada and the Philippines. During her decade-plus leadership of the Canada Philippines Business Council, Alicia participated in the state and working visits of three Philippine Presidents to Canada and worked with the Canadian federal government to improve bilateral business and trade with the Philippines. She led Canadian delegations to the Philippines to do business, and hosted Philippine business delegations in Canada. Alicia is also active with the Global Summit of Women, which connects women leaders across sectors from around the world to promote women’s economic advancement.
In recognition of her community service, Alicia has received the Order of Ottawa, the Queen’s Silver and Golden Jubilee Medals, and the Philippine Presidential Citation for Overseas Filipinos, among other awards.
Alicia's Source of Inspiration?
"The 1970s and 1980s were eventful times for women. I was inspired by the call to action to better the status of women. At law school I joined Women and the Law at the University of Ottawa, as well as other organizations advocating changes for the betterment of women. I was involved in reviewing legislation and advocating for changes, such as, removing pregnancy as a type of disability under the Unemployment Insurance Act. I became involved in issues that affected visible minorities, such as, policing and racism. My name became known within the Ottawa community, as a lawyer, as a feminist, and as a community builder. It was not long before I became engaged in many community activities and issues."
Alicia, if you could dine with any Asian Canadian ever, who would it be, and why?
"I would enjoy dining with Adrienne Clarkson. She is proud of her Chinese heritage and her Canadian identity. She is a feminist. She established the Clarkson Cup for Excellence in Women’s Hockey. She is an intellectual and a respected journalist. She has achieved the highest honour in Canada by her appointment as the 26th Governor General of Canada. She has contributed immensely to Canada and is a perfect example of how immigrants enrich the fabric of Canadian society."
Naveen is passionate about empowering people and organizations to be more diverse and inclusive through training, mentorship, strategic initiatives, and capacity-building.
Naveen is a long-time and committed “micro-mentor” (mentoring in small, focused spurts of support) of undergraduate and law students and junior lawyers, many of whom are from equity-seeking backgrounds. He loves supporting those entering our profession, connecting them with people and resources, sometimes drying tears, and often witnessing exceptional smiles. These perspectives have led to his personal and professional international work to train and educate for more inclusive, diverse, and equitable organizations including the legal profession, bench, and justice system.
Some examples of Naveen’s work: supporting the International Labour Organization’s creation of an international guide to D&I for employers, creating a best practices manual on D&I for Canadian workplaces, and executing a multi-phase national strategic D&I Initiative for UFCW Canada’s 250,000+ workers that contemplates the needs of women, racialized, LGBT, immigrant, and other workers of equity-seeking backgrounds. FACL Ontario is lucky to have Naveen as a volunteer with the Racial Diversity Toolbox initiative.
Naveen's Source of Inspiration?
"In my early twenties, I was often not disciplined in my actions concerning how "I" would change the world. Luckily, I met several senior lawyers who helped channel my enthusiasm for equity and inclusion towards more pragmatic and effective initiatives. I was able to lean on these giants in times of uncertainty. Having had diverse mentors worked well for me as their varied advice has led me to make more thoughtful and considerate decisions."
Naveen, if you could dine with any Asian Canadian ever, who would it be, and why?
"Deepa Mehta (no relation). She directs, produces, and writes movies that directly engage topics that were taboo among the South Asian diaspora. For example, Water explores the sexual exploitation of women, Heaven on Earth is a realistic portrait of domestic abuse in the Canadian South Asian diaspora, and Midnight’s Children highlights massive wealth disparity. Deepa Mehta’s movies infuriate narrow minds and makes them want to burn down the theaters that play them. To me, her career has thus exemplified courage above all else."
Jeff is well-known as one of Ontario’s most prolific (and humourous) speakers on real estate law. In addition to teaching in this area, Jeff is Editor-in-Chief of the Real Property Reports, authored the real estate volume in Halsbury’s Laws of Canada, and heads up real estate registration policy for all of Ontario.
Of the many accolades he has received for his achievements, Jeff is most proud of twice being elected by his peers for Bencher - a role that decides almost every facet of our professional lives, from who gets in, to how we run our offices, to who has to leave the profession!
Jeff has always been active with the Association of Chinese Canadian Lawyers of Ontario (ACCLO). He hopes that his career shows young Asian Canadian lawyers that we are absolutely capable of achieving, holding, and excelling at the highest possible offices available to the profession.
Jeff's Source of Inspiration?
“When I was called to the bar, there were very few Asian Canadian lawyers and fewer yet on Bay Street. Joining ACCLO provided me with networking and camaraderie with lawyers facing similar challenges. It also provided an institutional platform from which we could advocate for issues important to the Chinese Canadian legal community.”
Jeff, if you could dine with any Asian Canadian ever, who would it be, and why?
“My father. We lived the classic immigrant story. Many Asian Canadians owe a lot to parents who sacrifice significantly to give their children opportunities that they never had. My father was no different. He was never educated and worked in a “ma and pa” chop suey restaurant his whole life to get me through law school. He lived long enough to see me get called, but not to see what I have been able to do with the career that he gave me. In addition to my career, I now have a family of my own consisting of a lawyer, a physician, and an almost-accountant. Although my father never expected gratitude as a quid pro quo, I want him to know that his was an appreciated (and not squandered) sacrifice.”
Professor Liew is paving the way for a more compassionate immigration and refugee system in Canada, and she is involving her students and the community in the process.
In addition to teaching in this area, Jamie’s leading research on narratives of the human experience of the immigration and refugee system provides material to effect legal reform. She co-wrote Immigration Law, which the SCC cited in Kanthasamy v Canada, and has testified before House of Commons and Senate Standing Committees on reforms to the refugee resettlement, temporary foreign worker, and family reunification programs.
Jamie's Source of Inspiration?
“My father was stateless before immigrating to Canada. His experience left an impression on me growing up that someone’s immigration status could affect their choices, the way their life may be valued by others, and their psychological well-being. When I clerked at the Federal Court, I saw how rigid immigration and refugee laws could impact a person’s life course and how compassionate decision-making could dull the sharpness of the law.”
Jamie, what quote from an Asian Canadian figure has positively impacted you?
“The past holds some moral authority over us. Rather than forget it, we must acknowledge that we have one, and learn the lessons of it. We have to be vigilant about looking past the stereotypes and seeing the contrasting truths….It means lifting the charge against the early Chinese of having no family values by seeing how the laws and history cleaved their families in two…If we don’t, we won’t see that the layers of injustice cut deep.” - Denise Chong, OC (Canadian economist and writer)
Roslyn is a fierce believer of education as a great equalizer.
Roslyn’s mother ensured her son and daughters had equal access to educational opportunities even though Chinese culture may not traditionally encourage the same. Although sciences were a more likely route, Roslyn seems to have drawn from her grandfather’s training as a solicitor in Shanghai which helped him find work when he moved his family to Hong Kong. The ability to connect with people, especially those who might otherwise be marginalized, is important to Roslyn. Roslyn has, in turn, volunteered countless hours helping others gain educational opportunities while embracing her Chinese heritage. For over a decade, she has served as President of the Education Foundation of the Federation of Chinese Canadian Professionals, a registered charity that offers scholarships to students of all backgrounds. In this role, Roslyn also builds recognition of and goodwill for the Chinese Canadian community in Ontario.
Roslyn remembers a time when there were few role models for female, Asian litigators, journalists, entrepreneurs, or authority figures. For this, she is proud to serve as an Associate Chair at the University of Toronto Tribunal, where she presides over matters of students charged with academic misconduct and, in so doing, shows young students that we live in a Canada where it is natural for Asian Canadians to hold decision-making roles.
Roslyn has additionally served in the leadership of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, the Federation of Chinese Canadian Professionals (Ontario), and the Association of Chinese Canadian Lawyers of Ontario.
Roslyn's Source of Inspiration?
“I am convinced that generosity of spirit, whether it is giving financial assistance, time, or expertise, comes back to you in positive ways. I have helped and, in turn, been helped by the generosity of others in my career, in some instances that I know about and even in some that I probably don’t.”
Roslyn, if you could dine with any Asian Canadian ever, who would it be, and why?
“I would love to sit with Bing Thom, architect about design and construction or Deepa Mehta, filmmaker. There is need for creativity and story-telling in our society which can help us to visualize beyond our preconceived ideas about what we can achieve or how we connect with the people and places in our life.”
Karla is a long-time advocate for, believer in, and fan of Asian Canadian talent in arts. She is an inspiration to many in the Filipino Canadian community. She is an energetic and level-headed lawyer and a fantastic mom, and her contributions are the backbone of the infrastructure for Asian artists in Toronto and Canada.
Karla's early desire to advocate on behalf of others plus her involvement with a Filipino community theatre group led her to marry her law degree with her love of the arts. Always making career choices that champion the Canadian independent production industry and the advancement and recognition of Asian talent, Karla believes that one of the most important ways to effect change is through mentorship. She loves making time for emerging filmmakers and new lawyers who may benefit from her experience and knowledge.
Karla was the former chair of the board of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, where she was instrumental in driving the Festival's strategic vision and growth for ten years. She continues to advise and guide the Festival today and has worked with two other Asian Canadian lawyers to establish a new feature documentary award at the Festival for Asian diaspora stories and stories about often overlooked Asian achievements or experiences.
Her community involvement and sound leadership and legal advice has allowed an Asian-Canadian arts festival to grow and foster more artists from our communities.
What do others have to say about Karla's passion and her work?
“Karla's involvement in the arts community has taught me that I don't have to continue to be a boring lawyer. I can take my professional experience, and use it to help arts within the Asian community—I don't need to be an artist to be involved. Learning that was very heartening.” -- Immanuel Lanzaderas
Professor Chen is a champion of health justice - that is, the pursuit of equity in health through societal efforts that promote the fair distribution of social determinants of health. He is dedicated to critical pedagogy and to advocating for a healthier society where everyone belongs.
YY is committed to serving the newcomer and non-citizen community, especially in areas relating to their health. His community involvement drives his motivation and gives meaning to his academic work and contributions to litigations.
His passion led him to be appointed by the Provincial Health Minister to the Ontario Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS from 2009 to 2011. YY was the Co-Chair of the Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment from 2014 to 2016, and is currently a board member of the Canadian Centre on Statelessness.
His work and research on the adversities that newcomers and non-citizens face inspire students to act, legal professionals to lead, and the community to embrace a healthier and more just society.
YY's Source of Inspiration?
“As an immigrant who came to Canada as a teenager, I experienced first-hand the challenges facing many newcomers, ranging from language barriers to racism. I also witnessed how difficult it was for my parents to access culturally appropriate health care services. Given my parents' limited language ability, I often needed to accompany them to their doctor's visits and serve as an interpreter, which was not always an appropriate arrangement. These experiences sowed the seeds for my decision to work with newcomers, and particularly in areas relating to their health."
What quote from an Asian Canadian figure has positively impacted YY?
"When you face some problem in life, no matter big or small, don't run away from it. Try to solve it. And some problems you might be able to solve right away, some might take years but don't feel discouraged." -- a participant in one of YY’s research projects on the resilience of gay and bisexual Asian Canadian men, which YY conducted with Dr. Alan Li and Dr. Josephine Wong, his mentors and long-term champions of racialized people living with HIV.
A champion driven to empower others through legal education, Emily's goal is to create more space for social innovation and entrepreneurship.
Emily has supported several not-for-profit organizations in their efforts to break down access barriers for entrepreneurs. She is an active volunteer in the Toronto start-up community who seeks to spark change on both a small and large scale. She was the program manager at Connect Legal, the first charitable business law clinic in Canada, and has guided hundreds of entrepreneurs in Toronto. She has also facilitated discussions at the National Youth Leadership and Innovation Strategy Summit. Since October 2016, she has served as a volunteer legal counsel at the Corporate Law Clinic run by Pro Bono Ontario. Her passion to advocate and help entrepreneurs has stemmed from her experience as a Senator-at-Large at Western University and her education at the Ivey School of Business.
Keep an eye out for this talented lawyer and leader as she shapes the landscape of entrepreneurship in Toronto and beyond.
Emily, if you could dine with any Asian Canadian ever, who would it be, and why?
"Cindy Lee, the founder of T&T Supermarket. She identified a market gap and had the courage to fill it. She made Asian foods accessible to all Canadians, and she made that shopping experience fun. Her drive and courage is deeply inspiring."
Karen Kwan Anderson
Karen is a pragmatic idealist and optimistic realist who hopes to find the best in everyone she meets. Her desire to work with others while contributing goodwill, energy and skill to non-profit endeavours drives her to volunteer in various communities.
Karen served as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Peel Addiction and Assessment Referral Centre (PAARC) for 7 years, and annually mentors students through the University of Toronto’s Human Living Library Project (the title of her book: “Life Comes Full Circle: From Immigrant to Immigration Lawyer”). Last year, she volunteered as a Guider in her daughter’s Brownies Group, helping to facilitate activities and empowering the girls to be kind, considerate and respectful. “It was wonderful to see them grow and become confident," Karen says.
She adds, “Being a mother helps me with my legal practice because both roles require setting priorities, juggling competing tasks and good communication. Since I am self-employed, I have the flexibility to schedule my work around the needs of my family. I finally feel that I have a work-life balance. A mother's work is always ongoing, as is the role of a lawyer who is the owner/operator of her own firm!”.
Karen's Source of Inspiration?
“Adrienne Clarkson said it aptly when she described being an immigrant in Canada: ‘...belonging is essential to us in Canada. We select our immigrants with the idea that they will become citizens. Immigrants are future citizens, and we recognize them as citizens in the making.’ These words have a positive impact on me because my passion is to help reunite families in Canada and enable them to create their own histories and sense of belonging in here.”
Karen, if you could dine with any Asian Canadian ever, who would it be, and why?
"Dock Yip, the first Chinese-Canadian lawyer in Canada. He was a mentor, community leader, visionary and defender of human rights. I would ask him about his journey through law school, how he managed his practice and what values he passed onto his children."
As the former President of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) and the first visible minority lawyer to serve in this role, Lee is a fearless advocate for both his clients and the legal profession.
Lee has chaired numerous OBA Committees including the Chief Justice of Ontario Fellowships’ Selections Committee, the Main Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Committee, and the Apology Act Working Group. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Bar Association, Canadian Defense Lawyers, and was a founding member of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Barrister Advisory Group. Lee was also twice elected to the Council of the Medico-Legal Society of Toronto, and is a mentor to students as a moot court supervisor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.
In recognition of his community service, Lee received the 2014 JusticeNet Patron Council Award for promotion of access to justice, and the 2013 OBA Linda Adlam Manning Award for volunteerism.
In addition, Lee has written various papers for the Advocates Quarterly. Look out for his chapter for the 2017 Annual Review of Civil Litigation coming out this winter!
Lee's Source of Inspiration?
“Rather than any motivation, participation in the wider legal and public spheres has become a fact of life. Part of being in this great profession is that once you open your eyes and see it as a community within a community, i.e. lawyers serving the public, you can never unsee that appreciation. I think if you ask most senior people who volunteer for various things, it is hard to come up with a motivation because it has become second nature. I feel fortunate that people continue to ask me to do things. The day will come soon enough when no one will ever ask me to do anything, and so it is best to take the opportunity to take part when I still can!”
Lee, if you could dine with any Asian Canadian ever, who would it be, and why?
"Architect Raymond Moriyama. He was the most prominent Japanese-Canadian when I was growing up, apart from David Suzuki. Raymond is and has ever been a man of few words, but I always admired his sense of holistic artistry in designing public buildings."
Hafeez is a passionate advocate for the arts and for the promotion of cross-cultural dialogue.
By day, Hafeez advises on legal issues related to film and television. By night, in his capacity as the Chairperson for the Arts & Culture Portfolio on the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Ontario, Hafeez works on initiatives to increase artistic and cultural literacy and to nurture artists within the Ismaili community. He also serves as a board member on for the Ismaili Centres Management Board, which develops programs that encourage cross-cultural dialogue at the Ismaili Centres in Canada.
Hafeez has enjoyed developing project management, communications, and people management skills through his community work. For over a decade, he served the Ismaili community in Ottawa, where he led the communications and legal portfolios and participated in the strategic planning initiatives of the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Ottawa. Hafeez was also a member of the board of FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance Canada, an international crisis response and disaster risk management organization.
Hafeez's Source of Inspiration?
“I was initially drawn to give back to the community by using my legal skills. Increasingly, I wanted to share the broader perspectives I have gained through my volunteer work. The Ismaili Centres have many societal objectives that resonate with me, including: building strong relationships with opinion-makers and flag bearers of civil society, fostering the sharing and expansion of knowledge, encouraging dialogue and contributing to public policy, and influencing the subjective and emotional environment relating to Islam and Muslims in Canada.”
Hafeez, what quote from a prominent figure has positively impacted you?
"There are those...who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both the means and the motivation to improve their lot. Unless these unfortunates can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink back into renewed apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark." - His Highness Prince Aga Khan
Josephine’s volunteer work helps Ontarians of all backgrounds overcome socio-economic barriers to post-secondary education and housing.
Josephine has served the leadership of the Federation of Chinese Canadian Professionals (Ontario) (FCCP) extensively in the roles of Secretary, President, and Immediate Past President. In addition to these roles, Josephine has volunteered with the FCCP’s Education Foundation and continues to volunteer with the FCCP’s Non-Profit Housing Corporation. The former provides young Canadians of all backgrounds scholarships, bursaries, and loans. The latter manages Coral Place, a 103-unit, eight storey apartment building in Mississauga that houses a mix of families, singles, and seniors. Over 60% of the Coral Place units are subsidized housing by design.
As well, Josephine is a Director of the York Region Law Association, where she strives to facilitate camaraderie between lawyers who practice in the York Region.
Josephine's Source of Inspiration?
“I wanted to give back to the community and meet new people. My memberships in various organizations have enabled me to meet other lawyers (of Asian background and otherwise) who inspire me to set higher goals for myself.”
Josephine, what quote from an Asian Canadian figure has positively impacted you?
“Don’t have any preconceived ideas about anything. Life is not predictable and anything imaginable is possible. Dare to imagine, dare to dream and then dare to put in the hard work to enjoy the process of making reality happen”. - Chan-Hon Goh, author of Beyond the Dance: A Ballerina’s Life, Director of the Goh Ballet Academy, and former principal ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada
Aman is a social justice advocate, dedicated to helping low income individuals navigate the justice system.
Through her work at community legal clinics in Renfrew, Scarborough and now Simcoe County, Aman has provided low income individuals with legal assistance on various areas of clinic practice. Aman’s commitment to helping some of society’s most marginalized populations began in law school where she volunteered with Downtown Legal Services to assist low income individuals access justice in the areas of immigration and family law, and with the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children to create online public legal information.
Recently, Aman assisted former residents of Further Schedule 1 Facilities with their claims following a class action concerning the neglect and abuse they experienced. Currently, she is involved with an Eastern Region Transformation project exploring access to justice issues for rural and remote low income residents of Ontario.
Aman has also volunteered with the Canadian National Institute of the Blind to increase inclusivity for Canadians experiencing vision loss.
Aman's Source of Inspiration?
“Community involvement and volunteering has always been a large part of my life. My early experiences volunteering with individuals trying to navigate the justice system inspired me to pursue a career allowing a grass roots level application of my education. I found working with disadvantaged populations and advocating for those in vulnerable situations to be an extremely rewarding experience. Working with community legal clinics and various projects addressing the legal needs of low income individuals has also helped me build stronger ties to the communities that I have moved to.”
Aman, if you could dine with any Asian Canadian ever, who would it be, and why?
“Deepa Mehta, an Indo Canadian director whose work portraying LGBTQ+ themes in the Indian community was met with violent backlash over the years. Undoubtedly, her experience during that turbulent time and her thoughts on intersectionality, identity politics, and freedom of expression would provide an engaging discussion.”
Landon is an everyday hero who goes above and beyond to positively impact the Asian Canadian community in London by providing access to legal services. He juggles many roles, including being a lawyer, a master of ceremonies for events, and a husband.
Being a first generation Chinese Canadian has allowed Landon to appreciate the sacrifices that his parents have made for the family and to see the beauty of being at the intersection of the Chinese and Canadian community. This is why Landon has dedicated himself to helping individuals, especially those in the minority community who experience language barriers, are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed.
Since becoming a lawyer, he has helped Chinese businesses in the London area develop as a former board member of the London Chinese Business Association. He is currently a board member of the Chinese Canadian National Council in London and provides services such as estate planning seminars to seniors and events to keep the Chinese heritage alive. Landon is proud to be both Canadian and Chinese, and he is committed to helping others realize the potential of their unique identities as well. To him, the driving force behind his efforts is not the professional skills to be gained from each endeavour, but rather the opportunity to bridge communities together.
Landon, if you could dine with any Asian Canadian ever, who would it be, and why?
“Adrienne Clarkson. She has said that she 'will always be someone who understands the everlasting anguish of not belonging.' But despite this and the challenges of being a racial minority and a woman, Adrienne Clarkson was the first visible minority to be appointed Governor General. She has had such a great career and is such a great inspiration.”
Mr. Justice Coroza loves connecting with individuals from all walks of life and contributing to a more respectful and empathetic Ontario through his public service career and community work.
He began his career as criminal duty counsel at Legal Aid Ontario before serving the Public Prosecution Service of Canada as a federal prosecutor. In 2009, Steve became the first Filipino-Canadian to be appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice, and then achieved another milestone as the first Filipino-Canadian to be appointed to the Superior Court of Justice in 2013. The Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines has recognized Steve as the highest-ranking Filipino-Canadian in the Canadian judiciary.
Steve is very proud of his Filipino heritage. He is also hopeful that progress continues to be made in developing a judiciary that reflects the demographics of the Canada we live in. He loves engaging with Ontarian youth and does so by volunteering with the Ontario Justice Education Network and co-chairing the Peel Justice Education Network’s Davis Cup mock trial tournaments for high schools in the Peel region. As well, Steve has been a long-time supporter of FACL, including speaking at numerous FACL Ontario events and volunteering with the Awards and Scholarship committee.
Steve generously shares his time speaking with students and lawyers who wish to learn more about his career as a jurist and, equally importantly, as a public servant. He hopes that his path will show children and students from all backgrounds that they can and should dream big.
Steve's Source of Inspiration?
“My parents, and the experience of helping out at the family convenience store growing up. My mother, a nurse, was in the respect and caring business; my father, a career civil servant, instilled respect for civil society and the government; working at the family convenience store taught me to be a good listener and very customer-service oriented.”
Steve, if you could dine with any Asian Canadian ever, who would it be, and why?
“My family. My wife and three kids are the most important Asian Canadians in my life. Between my and my wife’s career and my kids’ activities, we don’t often get to sit down together. Sometimes, we all need to remember to slow down and enjoy life. For me, there is nothing more enjoyable than sitting down and having dinner with my family. However, the challenge is removing all mobile devices from the dinner table!”
Isfahan Merali is a South Asian lawyer and author who is committed to advancing the rights of diverse groups and individuals facing barriers and challenges in society.
Isfahan immigrated to Canada from Tanzania with her family at an early age, with only the things they could carry from their journey. She transformed her experiences with adaptation, loss, and discovery into her passion for people.
She believes that inclusion is crucial to building a strong and positive society. Isfahan orients her legal and volunteer endeavours to mandates that champion inclusion, such as the LSUC’s work on challenges facing racialized licensees, mental health challenges, and access to justice. Isfahan ran for and was elected as Bencher of the LSUC in 2015 - the first South Asian woman elected among Benchers. She was also appointed Trustee of the Law Foundation of Ontario in 2016. Her past tenure as the Acting Director of the International Human Rights Programme at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law and her volunteer experience with Law in Action within Schools (LAWS) are other examples of her contributions to the Canadian legal landscape. Additionally, Isfahan mentors and inspires students and young lawyers from all backgrounds to make a difference in the legal profession.
Isfahan received the South Asian Bar Association of Toronto's 2015 Award for Legal Excellence & Leadership and the 2013 Trinity-Spadina Community Service Award, amongst many other awards. She continues to take every opportunity to make society a more inclusive and just place.
Isfahan's Source of Inspiration?
“It always seemed natural to want to be involved in my community, because it was a wonderful way to connect with others and it gave me a greater sense of belonging and ownership of my own experiences with my community. I volunteered with almost everything possible in high school. The Sundays that I volunteered at SickKids’s Ronald McDonald House taught me about the socio-economic and emotional impact of serious illness on families, and I think this led to my interest in international health and human rights for women and children. I learn so much every day from the people I volunteer with, or serve. This enhances my ability to empathize and understand the stories and circumstances of people I meet in my professional and personal lives. I am deeply fortunate.”
As the first lawyer in his family, Joseph has always felt very fortunate to be part of this profession. To pay it forward, Joseph volunteers in legal education and with bar associations to foster a better, more equitable profession.
Joseph is co-Chair of the Osgoode Hall Professional Development Crown Liability Conference. He is also Past-Chair of the OBA’s Constitutional, Civil Liberties & Human Rights Law Section, and a Past-Chair of the OBA’s Annual Charter Conference. In addition, Joseph has served on the FACL Ontario board, where his is proud to have drafted FACL Ontario's application to join the LSUC's Equity Advisory Group, the University of Toronto’s Law Alumni Council, and the LSUC’s Equity Advisory Group.
One of Joseph’s most rewarding experiences has been coaching University of Toronto students in the Wilson and Isaac Diversity moots, both public law/social justice moots. About these experiences, he says, “Every year, I am awestruck at the calibre of the students and their dedication learning the craft of litigation. Watching them progress so rapidly from students to compelling advocates gives me tremendous hope and optimism for the future of our profession.”
Joseph, if you could dine with any Asian Canadian ever, who would it be, and why?
“Kew Dock Yip, the first Chinese Canadian lawyer. The challenges faced by racialized lawyers now pale in comparison to what lawyers like Mr. Yip must have gone through when he was called in the 1940s. I would be honoured to learn more about his story and his experiences of the practice of law. I also wonder what Mr. Yip would think about the profession now and what advice he would have to give us.”
What quote from an Asian Canadian figure has positively impacted you?
“The Law is a grim, unsmiling thing. Not Justice, though. Justice is witty and whimsical and kind and caring.” - Rohinton Mistry (from A Fine Balance)
Jason has been contributing to the development of robust Canadian diversity bar associations for nearly a decade.
He is one of the eight lawyers that Judge Maryka Omatsu invited to dinner with the intention of starting FACL. He served as FACL’s second president, from 2009-2011, when FACL was Ontario-focused. Under Jason’s tenure, FACL began developing its reputation as one of the most important minority bar associations in Canada and our membership nearly tripled. He was subsequently the first Canadian on the board of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) as the Northeast Regional Governor from 2011 to 2013. From 2011 to 2015, Jason served on the Board of Trustees of the Toronto Lawyers Association and played an important role in putting together the Roundtable of Diversity Associations (RODA). Today, Jason mentors many law students of Asian descent, interested in practicing intellectual property law, interested in starting their own law firm in the future, or studying at University of Toronto. He is proud to have received one of NAPABA’s 2012 Best Under 40 Awards, which recognizes achievement of distinction in a field of endeavour and demonstration of a strong commitment to Asian civic or community affairs.
Jason's Source of Inspiration?
“One of the biggest regrets in my legal career is that I spent the first few years in a silo, with very limited association with any lawyers outside my own firm. With FACL, I found a community of fellow Asian Canadian lawyers who made me feel like I belonged. I also found mentors and colleagues with whom I felt comfortable sharing about the numerous challenges in my career and personal life. I wanted to be involved in whatever way I could, and I also wanted for all other Asian Canadian lawyers to know that an organization like FACL was available to help them.”
Jason, if you could dine with any Asian Canadian ever, who would it be, and why?
“Dr. Vincent Lam. I have a particular interest in how Asians are portrayed in the entertainment industry. Dr. Lam's novel, The Headmaster's Wager, is an excellent story, and is also very provocative in how many of the characters (mostly Asian) are flawed. I would love to have a discussion with Dr. Lam on why he chose to develop these characters in this manner, sometimes living up to long held stereotypes, and how this may affect the way Asians are viewed by the rest of society.”
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