Sandra Weafer and Darryl Larson

This month's spotlight is on Sandra Weafer and Darryl Larson, the co-chairs of our Immigration Issues In Depth 2016 in December. Sandra is the Regional Director and General Counsel, Public Safety Defence and Immigration Section, Department of Justice and Darryl is a senior lawyer at Embarkation Law Corporation. This will be both Sandra and Darryl's last year chairing Immigration Issues in Depth. Thank you both for all of your work on this course and we will miss you!

 

Sandra Weafer photo

Sandra Weafer

How did you first get involved with CLEBC?

I first got involved with CLEBC in the late 1990s with respect to both Federal Court practice and Immigration Law. I honestly can't recall how I first got involved, but our office has historically been very active with CLEBC, so it was something that passed on to me at some point, and I have enjoyed it so much that I have continued on with it until now.

What motivates you to continue volunteering your time and expertise with CLEBC?

I think it is important for members of the profession to give back to the profession. CLEBC is an important part of that and provides an opportunity for lawyers to share knowledge in quite specialized areas that you could not just pick up from a textbook. I also find that each year, I learn new, important, and useful things for my practice. That is probably the major motivation for me – being involved gives me a great opportunity to further my own learning.

We will miss you both as chairs of Immigration Issues in Depth. Do you have any words of wisdom for future course chairs or parting messages for attendees?

I think that Immigration Issues in Depth has been largely successful because of the very strong presenters that are willing to volunteer their time and expertise to the course. We have been fortunate to have the support not only of members of the bar who always step up to present when asked, but also of the Immigration and Refugee Board, as well as representatives from CIC/IRCC and CBSA. I have no doubt that it will continue to be a successful annual event.

What inspired you to practice immigration law?

Immigration law was something that I sort of fell into when I joined the Department of Justice fairly early in my career. I found that the nature of the work kept me here. I enjoy the interesting public law and Charter issues that arise in a very human context, as well as the unique nature of Federal Court practice that provides ample opportunity for both written and oral advocacy. The pace of the work also suits me, as it is generally fast paced with tight deadlines.

What are the rewards and challenges you experience in your practice?

I think the rewards are those that I set out above. In addition, I find the immigration bar in BC to be collegial and reasonable in their dealings with our office. It is nice to deal with professionals who advocate strongly on behalf of their client, but continue to be courteous and respectful to counsel on the other side of the issue.

What trends do you currently see in the immigration law area?

I think the trend, if you can call it that, is one of change. I have been practicing immigration law since 1993 and almost every year there have been substantial developments either in legislation, policies, or jurisprudence that change the way that we approach issues or cases.

What advice would you give to new lawyers interested in practising immigration law?

I say get involved with others who work in the area, whether that is your colleagues at DOJ or through CBA or other similar organizations. Take every opportunity you can to share knowledge and best practices. As this area of law is continually changing, it's really important to stay up to date through legal education. It's there for you – take advantage of it.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have received?

I was told early on about the importance of reputation – always be fair, reasonable, respectful, and credible with colleagues, clients, and the Courts.

Other than law, what are you passionate about?

My family! I will be celebrating my 30th anniversary next summer and have three wonderful children who have been supportive of me throughout my career, including evenings, weekends, or holiday work, on occasion.

Darryl Larson photo

Darryl Larson

How did you first get involved with CLEBC?

I have been doing immigration continuing legal education courses since 1991, first through the CBA Immigration Law Section in BC and then through the national CBA Immigration Law Conference. My first involvement with CLEBC was in 1999 when I presented on the topic of judicial review in the immigration context at the Federal Court Practice Update presented on October 1, 1999.

What motivates you to continue volunteering your time and expertise with CLEBC?

I feel that I have benefitted from the wisdom and mentorship of many senior colleagues over the years and this is my way of giving back. I take a lot of joy in watching young lawyers develop their skills and abilities in the area of law that I practice in, and feel grateful if I can add anything to their development.

We will miss you both as chairs of Immigration Issues in Depth. Do you have any words of wisdom for future course chairs or parting messages for attendees?

For future course chairs, I would simply say that this is a great opportunity to not only help others in their education and knowledge of this practice area, but it is also an opportunity for personal growth. Like anything, what you get from an opportunity depends on what you put into it. For attendees, I would say that this is a very important course in immigration and citizenship law because of the breadth of our subject matter, the expertise of our faculty, and the currency of topics presented. This course will keep you abreast of the most recent developments and will assist you in your practice.

What inspired you to practice immigration law?

Sometimes, inspiration can be as simple as being presented with an opportunity. I had practiced for about 12 years as a general practitioner, but found it ever more challenging to keep up with all the developments in the different areas of the law. I made a decision to develop a specialty in one particular area. Originally, I thought it would be labour and employment. But I had the opportunity to work with the Legal Services Society in doing Federal Court work in immigration matters and quickly discovered that immigration law was just what I was looking for.

What are the rewards and challenges you experience in your practice?

After having been in the area for over 25 years, I must say that I still continue to enjoy what I do, particularly the feeling of accomplishment when you successfully help clients become Canadians and remain Canadians. Immigration is very much a people practice and I have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting people from all over the world, from all walks of life. The challenges in this area are that immigration is very topical and the subject of a lot of political scrutiny and review. As a result, there are frequent changes to the law that demand a continual learning curve. There are many layers to immigration law practice – the Act itself, the regulations, and recently, the introduction of another layer through Ministerial instructions, as well as the navigation of constantly evolving policies.

What trends do you currently see in the immigration law area?

In the world we live in, there is a constant tension between wanting our economy to grow, which means we need new immigrants, and the fear many people have of foreigners, whether it be in taking away jobs, changing our culture, increasing demand for housing and other resources, or as perceived threats against law and order. The trend I see is that in efforts to balance all these concerns, governments will tend to enact more laws and regulations which will result in a more complex system, making the role of lawyers even more important for clients as they navigate the labyrinth of laws, policies, and procedures.

What advice would you give to new lawyers interested in practising immigration law?

Become involved in the local and national immigration sections. Spend time and money to continue your education and in particular, ensure that you attend continuing legal education courses in the area on a regular basis.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have received?

To value myself. By doing this, you communicate to others your value to them as well.

Other than law, what are you passionate about?

I love to travel, visit new places, and experience other cultures. To this point, I have travelled to close to 50 countries in the world, so I still have lots of opportunities yet!

 

 



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Frank Falzon
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