Monday, June 12, 2006

Profile: Barb Jackman

On Sunday, the stern gaze of Barbara Jackman could be found on every street corner that donned a box with the Toronto Star. The recent events in Canada regarding terrorism and immigration has thrust the legal work of Ms. Jackman into the limelight.

The front page headline of "The Other War" is followed by a lengthy article, entitled “Counsel for the Untouchables”. Ms. Jackman is described as a “activist-lawyer” and the journalist gives a good biography of Ms. Jackman, touching on a few seminal cases and her family background. Here are a few excerpts:
For alleged terrorists fighting deportation, Jackman is Toronto's go-to lawyer. She has spent decades taking on clients most other counsel won't touch, no matter how disturbing the allegations against them might be. Those who know her say she's committed to human rights principles and fair treatment for all.
Jackman is also renowned for taking on complicated, un-sexy legal issues that might take a decade or more to work through the courts.
This week Jackman takes another step toward clarifying the law as she joins a team of lawyers at the Supreme Court to fight against a section of the immigration legislation that gives the federal government power to deport non-citizens deemed a threat to national security.
Paul Copeland, who recently received the Sidney B. Linden Award from Legal Aid Ontario, gives some personal insight:
"Barb knows more law than I'm ever going to know," says Toronto lawyer Paul Copeland. "Her work is dense, complicated."
Queen's Law professor Sharryn Aiken adds:
Aiken calls herself a "Barb fan." When she was in law school in the 1980s, "anybody with an interest in immigration or refugee law knew that Barb Jackman was where it was happening."

"She never forgets that it's about the people. There's no ego there."
I would like to add my own experience. First, I wholeheartedly agree with both Mr. Copeland and Professor Aiken. Barb, as we called her in class, taught Immigration and Refugee Law with Geri Sadoway at Queen's last year and, as a student, it was a great experience.

As an instructor, Barb was laid-back, organized and she listened to every question intently. As she was teaching various aspects of the field, she would add personal anecdotes from the cases that she has argued - often at the SCC. She gave us broad flexibility and guidance in our research but she also had high expectations. More than anything, I would reiterate Sharry's comment: no ego. It was refreshing to meet a successful lawyer with a sharp legal mind who is both humble and lacks pretense. Another immigration lawyer based on Winnipeg, Alastair Clarke, has a website with more information about immigration law.

For those of you at UofT Law, Barb will be teaching National Security, Human Rights and Non-Citizens next fall.


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