All posts by Will

A Fresh New Start – Edelmann and Co.

First week officially in the books. I look around at my office, out at Victory Square through one clear and one not so clear glass window (there’s a story behind this – for another day, no less), I feel as if I have finally settled in.

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I am grateful to have landed in a place of compassion and learning. I love it here. From having a brilliant office manager who I can already tell is a special soul to the equally brilliant colleagues I have. Everyday is filled with discussions about the law and doing good.

This journey won’t be easy. I’m shifting from what I will readily admit to now, a “business man practicing law” to a “lawyer who happens to operate a business.” The stakes are also much higher now as is the level of knowledge and finesse required. The clients that I have started to and well be starting to see often find themselves in vulnerable places, subject to an immigration system that increasing feels turned against them. Every conversed word and every step must now be more calculated than every before – often with lives and families hanging in the balance. It is not enough to simply show a client meets the requirements of a certain permit.

Learning to push myself yet be patient at the same time will itself be a process. Beyond myself, I need to put my faith in God and those around me. My heart is ready and the mind is making it’s way there – it has to overcome.

Over the next little bit, I will revive this blog – with a little bit of law and lot of love. Like the elephant being held up by balloons that sits in my office room I hope to take the heavy burdens in stride and focus on how much support I am grateful to have.

To the mentors who helped me make this decision, I am very thankful to each and every one of you. Now – let’s get back to the grind and do it for the people.

Remorse Should Go Two Ways: Lessons Learned Fighting Immigration Fraud in Vancouver

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As a lawyer, I ultimately have two major loyalties. The first, to my client, to ensure to defend their interest to the best of my ability and legal knowledge. The second is to the public, to justice, to ensure that the actions I take are always above board, ethical, defendable and do not bring our sacred justice system into disrepute.

Balancing both those obligations I have some ideas on how we can combat immigration fraud and improve our system. For those who have read my previous writing, this may sound like a broken record. However, until someone listens and does something, I figure I will keep playing it.

When it comes to immigration fraud there is one predominant narrative. This is the painted picture of the capricious wealthy immigrant looking to exploit the Canadian immigration system, buy up all of the expensive houses to the populous is left homeless, and then off they go back to their home country to feed their cycle of deceit and fraud. Their practitioner, an often unlicensed overseas or domestic agent, aiding and abetting in systematic manipulation meanwhile making a handsome living on their own.

I do not disagree that these type of individuals do exist and this narrative happens. I have seen a couple that pass by for consultations from time to time. I generally do not like taking on their cases. Not because I do not believe everyone does not deserve equal representation but in a high-volume practice such that I have now, I prefer to help those who need my help the most and who gravitate to me for the right reasons. I cannot professionally take fees where I may have concerns over their originating source of the funds and I prefer not to take cases where I have credibility concerns as to the person providing me material information.

All this being said, in the past three years I have seen a different narrative as well. In that process I have come across countless other immigrants. Shaded and silenced now because of the overwhelming narrative which keeps them at home, often isolated, with few friends and a new world of fear. They want to speak but feel so voiceless. They feel victimized by those fraudulent agents that purported to help them and now they feel resigned to defeat by a country set with an agenda upon deporting them back to their home countries.

Before you stop reading any further – give me just a few seconds to make my case:

Imagine yourself, not fluent in a language, accepted as a permanent resident into a new country with rules and law much different than your own. You are here, but everyone views you as not one of them. Your job interviews highlight that you are overqualified, compensation proposed is low, opportunities out of reach. You go to school with young adults half your age and see them one by one obtain opportunities. You struggle to raise a child who needs their other parent. The astronaut thing that is presented as a scheme is actually a living hell.

Your Permanent Resident Card is about to expire. You look in the local newspaper (it is the only one you can read without having to consult a dictionary or your neighbour that you barely know) and you see the name of someone in a sharp suit. They look established, a good go-between, they say they are professional, licensed, with a high success rate. You come from a country where reputation is everything and usually those with the best reputation are the ones who are advertised.  

You go to their office – located in a central downtown office. Business license on the wall. Attractive employees in their high heels walking to and fro. Business seems booming. The person at the front is courteous and professional. They re-iterate the company’s strong performance, say a few things in your native language about what documents are required and the process, and they say leave it with us. We will guarantee your success.

You appreciate their confidence. You provide them the documents within a few weeks. They send you a contract in English – you cannot read it but you assume it is right. You sign. They provide you some forms, it seems filled in but most importantly it came from the company you trusted. You sign. The forms are submitted and you never keep a copy. You get notice you are successful. You pick up your card. You are happy.

Five years go by.  Out of the blue Canada Border Services Agency flags you. You have misrepresented. You are a crook. You are now an immigration criminal. A liar. A misrepresenter. A burden on society.

I would say seven out of ten cases I am currently seeing following this exact pattern.

Part of the appeal process for these individuals (after they are issued their exclusion orders and assuming they are a permanent resident have the right of appeal), is to demonstrate remorse. They do so by apologizing to those involved and telling their family, friends and employers about what happened. For a culture that values privacy, this is a deeply shameful process. The apologies that are spoken are genuine and are sincere. However, most time the sorry is not enough, too late. It does not matter if they truly had no clue that the mistake was made indirectly by the agent. This lie is treated exactly the same as a deliberate lie in terms of punishment under our laws for misrepresentation.

Should We Be A Little Remorseful Too?

On behalf of some Canadians (I am sure a majority will respectfully disagree), I will provide some remorse of my own. I am sorry we didn’t welcome you as a country with more open arms. I am sorry we did not knock on your door to introduce ourselves or offer to help when you were stumbling with the menu at the restaurant next door. I am sorry that we did not invite you and your spouse to interview or give them that raise when we gave it to everyone else. I am sorry that our legal profession was not diverse enough to provide you with competent assistance in your principal language. I am sorry that our rules and regulations were not tight enough to keep these fraudulent businesses (which outnumber legitimate shops) from obtaining a business licenses because their $56 dollars was all we needed from them. I am sorry that we allowed you to access clearly fraudulent services from the back of newspapers that we had no clue were in circulation in public spaces because we do not read them and cannot regulate them.

There is no excuse for fraud. Two rights do not and never should make a right. But put yourself in the shoes of someone, for just one second, who needs assistance and also gets victimized. Twice. First, by an incompetent practitioner. Second, by a competent society still allowing for too much incompetence and fraudulent animus to pervade in our day to day business.

There are actions that can be taken quickly to try and prevent fraud so we do not end up turning the immigrant deportation process into not a costly play involving two unwilling sides.

First, the Canadian federal government can actively step up in reaching out to foreign governments to step up their regulation of fraud. As these businesses are likely also assisting in capital flight and fraud in these countries, it likely will not be hard to find some willing partners.

Second, the Canadian government can invite a roundtable of relevant parties – regulatory bodies, provincial and civic immigration bodies, to come up with some strategies. This could involve a public relations campaign in different languages (which Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has started to do but with limited scope), and most importantly to create new regulations. If a business is applying for a business license but does not have the required professional license or good standing to do the work they purport to do – that business license needs to be withheld. Free newspapers should understand their civil liability to advertise only information that is accurate and not fraudulent. Criminal charges, where currently dissuaded under the legislative regime, could be implemented.

Third, we need to figure out the language thing immediately. I would almost purport that all new immigrants be required as part of their permanent resident process to enroll in government sponsored English programs. While it is a positive step that many immigration programs now require a level of basic competence, more must be done. There also need to be more regulators involved in the immigration system who also speak third-languages or hire those who speak third languages and can investigate into wrong-doing. One of the major challenges with the recent massive fraud investigations was that it took several years to get together, during which time more victims continued to add to the cycle of fraud.

I think if these three steps are taken – along with the appropriate firm but fair messaging that the Government is capable of promoting, we can better insulate those who are unwilling victims of fraud from those who are its true perpetrators.

Expect 2018 to Be the Year of the “Yes, No, Maybe (After a Delayed While)” in Canadian Immigration

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I have noticed a bit of a trend in immigration over the past half year one that I believe will set the stage for 2018.

There are some applications – straight-forward Express Entry applications (for example) and on the province-side, certain nomination applications that are going fast. Incredibly fast.  I recently had a few Express Entry’s take less than a month when the going rate for 80% is supposed to be six months. My colleagues have had self-employed applications go through in months. Some extensions are being granted in weeks where they previously took months.

There are also applications that will inevitably be “no’d” – returned to sender per R.10 IRPR or S.13 of the Citizenship Act. Applications where seemingly minute details of questionable “legal requirement” are deemed to necessitate the return of Applications. I am already telling my clients (and those self-rep consults that come chat with me) to be extra careful. Dot the i’s, cross the t’s – include specific checklists, flag the fee receipts, include the postal codes, and do whatever you can to ensure the application does not get rejected (especially in the case of something like Express Entry). Refusals will also be quicker on some cases, especially where visa offices have low acceptance rates and the demand for the category (e.g. international student will be higher). Expect temporary resident refusal reasons to leave you scratching your head and learning to file judicial reviews.

The most worrisome pile is perhaps the “maybe pile” – the Citizenship applications missing strong proof of residency and the PR cards that enter what we deem in the industry as the “immigration black hole.” There are applications that I have seen where because an individual barely met the residency obligation (or even met it only by a month), or otherwise claimed an exemption that will sit and linger for months, if not years. I have a file in front of me that has been in processing three years without so much as a person having counted the days or assessed the eligibility of the exemption requested. To avoid the maybe pile, individuals may start choosing to buffer applications with additional days spent in Canada, advanced gathering of exit/entry records, and front-end addressing of back end consequences.

On the immigration appeals side, the lack of sitting members have facilitated a very fast, transparent, and excellent Alternative Dispute Resolution system that many applicants have utilized. However, the transitions from ADR to re-processing, and the wait for those files for members to hear their cases will test patience, no doubt.

Expect more historically straight forward applications – such as PGWPs and self-employed/Quebec investor to hit the maybe pile. There will be more due diligence on certain clients and Immigration will utilize more tools in their tool box – compliance updates from schools, open source intelligence on asset holders in countries such as China, to dig up a little more dirt. Expect misrepresentation to continue to be pursued, sometimes for cases where materiality may be nominal but there, in some form, all the same.

Other quick thoughts…..

Atlantic Canada – will become a hots pot immigration destination. PNPs will continue to flourish. Immigration will eventually have to rethink the current process of whether LMIAs and the Employer Compliance Regime are really serving the needs of local Canadian small businesses and their employees, who may not have the resources of corporate powerhouses and may require a little patience rather than their picking off as lower hanging fruit for non-compliance and other immigration violations. International students will be the education version, with their “employers” – DLIs, in a similar position – jockeying for credibility and strengthened compliance systems.

Information sharing – between administrative bodies – will turn from a consent question to a norm. Threatening to delay some applications and in other reveal webs of possible deceit or planning that traditionally would have been considered smart. Honesty – and hopefully the ability to correct mistakes uncovered prior to Government intervention by way of a 5-year bar or the writing of an s.44 report, hopefully will become the norm.

2018 has officially started kicking into high gear. Cases have started piling up. Time to strap on the boots (dress shoes in my case today), put on my glasses (I’m blind without them) and start reviewing some paperwork and make some submissions.

I’m going to Federal Court (solo) for the first time (my streak of consents officially ends now) next week on an interesting procedural fairness case. Here’s to making better law and policy in 2018!

Why I disagree with CBSA’s approach actioning s.40 IRPA misrepresentation as s.29(2) IRPA failure to comply for not actively pursuing studies

I have seen a worrying trend of clients show up with the following fact scenario.

“X went to U.S. for a day trip. X is referred to secondary at the Port of Entry (“POE”) after attempting to enter on a study permit. There is a misrepresentation or misrepresented statements uncovered. Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) decides rather than to defer examination or refer to inland for investigation that they will issue a removal order on the spot, seizes the study permit and passport, and asks for a plane ticket showing departure within X days.”

A foreign national (e.g. study permit holder) is required to show that they are not inadmissible in order to gain entry into Canada. The burden is on them as the entry-seeker to prove this. The benefit for CBSA of issuing a specified removal order (on their own volition and through their own determination processes) instead of pursuing misrepresentation (which requires a referral to Immigration Division and a hearing (on the facts) to make such an order). This distinction is found in R.228 and R. 229 of the Immigration and Refugee Protections Regulations (IRPR). I have highlighted in blue the relevant subsections.

DIVISION 2 Specified Removal Order

Subsection 44(2) of the Act — foreign nationals
  •  (1) For the purposes of subsection 44(2) of the Act, and subject to subsections (3) and (4), if a report in respect of a foreign national does not include any grounds of inadmissibility other than those set out in the following circumstances, the report shall not be referred to the Immigration Division and any removal order made shall be

    • (a) if the foreign national is inadmissible under paragraph 36(1)(a) or (2)(a) of the Act on grounds of serious criminality or criminality, a deportation order;

    • (b) if the foreign national is inadmissible under paragraph 40(1)(c) of the Act on grounds of misrepresentation, a deportation order;

    • (b.1) if the foreign national is inadmissible under subsection 40.1(1) of the Act on grounds of the cessation of refugee protection, a departure order;

    • (c) if the foreign national is inadmissible under section 41 of the Act on grounds of

      • (i) failing to appear for further examination or an admissibility hearing under Part 1 of the Act, an exclusion order,

      • (ii) failing to obtain the authorization of an officer required by subsection 52(1) of the Act, a deportation order,

      • (iii) failing to establish that they hold the visa or other document as required under section 20 of the Act, an exclusion order,

      • (iv) failing to leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for their stay as required by subsection 29(2) of the Act, an exclusion order,

      • (v) failing to comply with subsection 29(2) of the Act as a result of non-compliance with any condition set out in section 184 or subsection 220.1(1), an exclusion order, or

      • (vi) failing to comply with the requirement under subsection 20(1.1) of the Act to not seek to enter or remain in Canada as a temporary resident while being the subject of a declaration made under subsection 22.1(1) of the Act, an exclusion order;

    • (d) subject to paragraph (e), if the foreign national is inadmissible under section 42 of the Act on grounds of an inadmissible family member, the same removal order as was made in respect of the inadmissible family member; and

    • )e) if the foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of an inadmissible family member in accordance with paragraph 42(2)(a) of the Act, a deportation order.

  • Paragraph 45(d) of the Act — applicable removal order
    •  (1) For the purposes of paragraph 45(d) of the Act, the applicable removal order to be made by the Immigration Division against a person is

      • (a) a deportation order, if they are inadmissible under subsection 34(1) of the Act on security grounds;

      • (b) a deportation order, if they are inadmissible under subsection 35(1) of the Act on grounds of violating human or international rights;

      • (c) a deportation order, in the case of a permanent resident inadmissible under subsection 36(1) of the Act on grounds of serious criminality or a foreign national inadmissible under paragraph 36(1)(b) or (c) of the Act on grounds of serious criminality;

      • (d) a deportation order, if they are inadmissible under paragraph 36(2)(b), (c) or (d) of the Act on grounds of criminality;

      • (e) a deportation order, if they are inadmissible under subsection 37(1) of the Act on grounds of organized criminality;

      • (f) an exclusion order, if they are inadmissible under subsection 38(1) of the Act on health grounds, unless subsection (2) or (3) applies;

      • (g) an exclusion order, if they are inadmissible under section 39 of the Act for financial reasons, unless subsection (2) or (3) applies;

      • (h) an exclusion order, if they are inadmissible under paragraph 40(1)(a) or (b) of the Act for misrepresentation, unless subsection (3) applies;

      • (i) a deportation order, if they are inadmissible under paragraph 40(1)(d) of the Act for misrepresentation;

      • (j) an exclusion order, if they are inadmissible under paragraph 41(a) of the Act for failing to comply with the requirement to appear for examination, unless subsection (2) or (3) applies;

      • (k) a departure order, if they are inadmissible under paragraph 41(b) of the Act;

      • (l) an exclusion order, if they are inadmissible under paragraph 41(a) of the Act for failing to establish that they have come to Canada in order to establish permanent residence, unless subsection (3) applies;

      • (m) an exclusion order, if they are inadmissible under paragraph 41(a) of the Act for failing to establish that they will leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for their stay, unless subsection (2) applies; and

      • (n) an exclusion order, if they are inadmissible under paragraph 41(a) of the Act for any other failure to comply with the Act, unless subsection (2) or (3) applies.

There are also some cases where CBSA officers are pursuing a s.29(2) inadmissibility  in order to do a bit of a favour for the international student – where they may be victimized by the rampant fraud in the international student market right now or made an honest mistake. While this is commendable, I think the inconsistency under law does pose a risk where individuals with less egregious violations are seeing five-year bans on entry.

However, some of the duration and gaps that the actively-pursuing studies requirement (R.220.1 IRPR) has been applied to (such as one month or a winter break as I have seen in a couple cases now).

I have always said this, but I think the penalty for international students not studying (possibly throwing away their PGWP eligibility) should introduce at least a little leniency into the issue with study gaps (which invariably arise during the course of one’s studies – especially where the person may also be studying while awaiting processing on a PR application or with a boyfriend and girlfriend who is a Canadian citizen or PR).I have also seen in more than a few cases now that the exceptions under R.220.1(3) IRPR have not been adequately canvassed in the brief examinations that are leading to these decisions.

I somewhat hesitate to say this (as I know CBSA does allow some individuals to do this in order to avoid the more serious penalty), but they should be pursuing the misrepresentation as is rather than the not actively-pursuing studies violation. Should there be factors down the road that support it, there could also be the pursuing of the s.29(2) IRPA at a later time or the allowing of the individual to withdraw their entry/cancellation of their visa. However, misrepresentation – particular in the student context is too important of a matter that must be pursued.

Furthermore, having border officer’s remove international students without adequate time investigating their personal situations and even contacting the Designated-Learning Institution (“DLI”) or properly setting out the record makes for the possibility of decisions that are not grounded in fact nor law. There are many considerations, from the aforementioned exception clauses, to DLI’s own policies, to even whether the person was in Canada or overseas during the impugned period.

I ultimately think that the assessment processes for “not-actively pursuing studies” is more akin to an s.41(a) IRPA contravention such as work or study without authorization. I appreciate the legislative intention on allowing Officer’s to remove students not actively-pursuing studies but I think right now it has already gone too far and inconsistent with the original parliamentary intention.

The alternative is for the government to introduce a procedural fairness regime, such as the one it had initially contemplated, that requires CBSA to defer examination and/or refer the matter to IRCC for further action. Another possibility is for IRCC to amend (through interpretation and instruction), R. 222 so that this provisions applies to students who have left school (but stayed in Canada) in the middle of their program . Furthermore, individuals with Canadian spouses and common-law partners (not covered under the exceptions under R. 220.1 and R.222) should be covered for consistency.

I said it before and I will say it again – 2018 will be another year where international students will really have to take proactive (not such reactive) efforts to ensure they know the conditions of their study permit and are being smart about traveling outside of Canada during their studies and engaging in activities (such as work) while being a student.

I am hopeful IRCC will publish some clear program delivery instructions so that schools and students will be on the same page, without unscrupulous agents or incompetent and unlicensed advisors incorrectly coaching the student to their removal from Canada.

 

Why Staying in Canada During Your Immigration Appeal Is a Crucial Thing

I have been seeing several clients recently who ask a question about whether they should be (whether in Canada or their home country) during the process of an Immigration Appeal. This is in the context of the fact appeals are taking in some cases several years to be heard. My advice is always the same: “if you want to maximize the chances of being successful – stay in Canada.”

I want to take a little look at discretionary factors and how simply leaving Canada or breaking off your establishment can lead to several negative inferences in the weighing process. In a majority of these cases (especially misrepresentation cases and most residency obligation cases) the fact that the removal order was legally valid will be difficult to challenge. Entire hopes are hinged on whether an Immigration Appeal Division member decides to exercise discretionary jurisdiction after hearing your submissions as the Applicant.

As best summarized in the Supreme Court of Canada Decision in Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v. Khosa, [2009] 1 SCR 339, 2009 SCC 12 (CanLII), <http://canlii.ca/t/22mvz> at paragraph 7, the Immigration Appeal Division’s jurisdiction is based on the Ribic and Chieu factors.

“…discretionary jurisdiction to grant “special relief” on humanitarian and compassionate grounds under s. 67(1)(c) of the IRPA should be exercised in light of the factors adopted in Ribic v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration), [1985] I.A.B.D. No. 4 (QL), and endorsed by this Court in Chieu v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2002 SCC 3 (CanLII), [2002] 1 S.C.R. 84, at paras. 40, 41 and 90, namely:

(1)               the seriousness of the offence leading to the removal order;

(2)               the possibility of rehabilitation;

(3)               the length of time spent, and the degree to which the individual facing removal is established, in Canada;

(4)               the family and community support available to the individual facing removal;

(5)               the family in Canada and the dislocation to the family that removal would cause; and

(6)               the degree of hardship that would be caused to the individual facing removal to his country of nationality.

If we look at these factors carefully, there is one binding issue – Canada as a home base. It pains me to see so many individuals who are in appeal processes misinformed to the prospects of winning an appeal at the IAD while they are abroad.

I can see why some cases make staying outside Canada a requirement – minor children who are born abroad and who cannot obtain visas to come, sick relatives, and in some cases an economic reliance on another job in another country.

However, for those who are not in Canada significantly during the time of their appeal in addition to the time they were not in Canada during the course of the activity that rendered them inadmissible, the balance of the factors becomes challenged.

Factors (1) and (2) don’t necessary touch on Canada or establishment but given a violation occurred leading to the removal order and “rehabilitation” likely involves proving suitability to Canadian society or any active steps that may have been taken to remedy the wrong, it is difficult to see how staying outside Canada could help.

Factor (3) hits the establishment item straight on the head.  Length of time spent will be considered a negative factor as well establishment in Canada if someone decides to book it abroad.

Factor (4) will make issues difficult when you ask those family and friends for support and they will ultimately have to indicate in their letters why you are not in Canada and how you have the other positive factors (such as establishment). Leaving Canada, you will also likely break a lot of the key relationships that make someone who themselves might be sensitive to making representations to the government and exposing their name (and possibly their own immigration status) to some outside scrutiny.

Factor (5) will be negative if you (and your spouse – regardless of their status may be outside Canada. True, if they are a citizen, you may be able to fall under one of the exemptions to the requirement to physically reside in Canada. However, in the context of discretionary jurisdiction this will not add any points and in fact hurt you.

Factory (6) if you move yourself and your family overseas, have an abode, start a job, and rely on another country to support you – it will be difficult to turn around at an Immigration Appeal Division hearing and suddenly say this is a source of hardship.

The reality of the situation is, if you leave Canada – and exercise that discretion, and IAD member will likely turn around and exercise discretion to do you in on possibly all 6 factors. One of the common things cited by IAD members is alternatives to allowing you to maintain your status. For someone who simply breaches the residency obligation this may be a visa in one year and for someone who misrepresents themselves but has a spouse maybe this is sponsorship back with an Authorization to Return to Canada (although the timing of this, especially overseas, is anybody’s guess).

Some advisors will tell you to keep living life and make no changes. I would suggest that it make their advice (later on) for you to abandon the appeal easier and creates less work for them. Facing a possible removal order and later appeal is a sign (regardless of whether a member deems them after the fact actions) to start taking positive actions to bind yourself and your family in Canada.

Do yourself a favour in the appeal process and (if possible) stay in Canada to create the best discretionary conditions for your success at hearing.

 

A Little Winter Note of Gratitude – Thank You For Being Part of My 2017

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Dear Clients/Friends/Colleagues/Readers/Supporters/Mentors:

After a very eventful 2016 where too many things happened, 2017 served certainly as a nice respite.

Practice-wise it was a busy one.

  • I exceeded the practice volume targets I set for myself and by changing my model a little from “applying for clients” to “coaching clients to submit their applications” – my solicitor’s practice was able to touch even more clients. Litigation-wise, there were a lot of good stories in 2017. Files that been in processing for multiple years or had multiple previous refusals that we were able to turn around. Several families reunited or with decisions that will soon see them reunite.
  • My first gratitude goes to all of those clients (current and past) that I came into contact with in 2017. I thank you for putting your trust and faith in me and I hope that I imparted a little of my passion for helping others in you and your file. Regardless of if we were successful, not successful, or on the pathway to success, I hope I gave you someone that stood up and stood in when you needed. On those occasions, I fell short I ask for your grace and patience and promise to do better.
  • On that transitory note, I thank you to all my lawyer colleagues and staff at LR. Our Firm went through some major changes but to see everybody growing and building their practices and so invested into helping our clients – be them corporate or individual – it is truly fantastic. TL – my assistant – your value to my practice I do not think I can put into words. You have my back always and I appreciate that so much.
  • This year also introduced me to several very key mentors. I won’t name them (for fear of forgetting important names) but those call backs to help me walk through legal questions, those coffee chats where you provide your insights on my practice, and the time and care you have put into me has not gone unnoticed. Thank you and I hope that the new year will offer us chance to collaborate eeven further.

Outside of work, I was grateful to have the opportunity to serve the community a little in various capacities.

  • The Cultural Communities Advisory Committee (“CCAC”) of the City of Vancouver which I had the unique opportunity to become Chair of – I thank you. You are all so incredible – and your efforts have not gone unnoticed. We have made some progress (although we know we can and should do more). We have been part of important initiatives and our projects are sure to make a mark in 2018. I hope you all have a restful holidays and come back even more motivated.
  • The CBABC Equality and Diversity Committee lead by our fearless leader, Tina – thank you. You are a group of inspiring lawyers. Our monthly meetings and subcommittee meetings are times where I truly learn from all your experiences. I cannot wait to tackle some of the issues around Lawyers with Disability, Truth and Reconciliation, and Diversity in Firms and on the Judiciary we have planned for 2018.
  • The team at FACLBC – although I stepped off the board, the opportunity I had truly gave me my legal wings. You are the one group of lawyers/students I will always call family. Thank you for hosting such incredible events and introducing me to the future of Asian-Canadian leadership (not only just legal leadership). We’re in good hands.
  • The past two months teaching at Ashton have been incredible. I feel so invested in the journey of my students and they bring me so much light in the depth of winter. Thank you for caring, thank you for learning from me, and thank you for putting your efforts into the studies making my job of teaching a little easier. I truly mean this when I state that we have learned together and I continue to learn from you each every day.

I would be remiss not to mention my friends and family who have been there to guide me – especially emotionally and spiritually – through a rebuild year. I am gracious to Auntie, Uncle, Dav, Steve, Bhabs, Chantelle, Shami, and the little ones Jiya and Nia for always being a second family to me and always being there to celebrate milestones and successes. My mother and little sister, for opening our family home to our return and reminding me to keep a focus on health and balance. Last but not least, my other – my partner-in crime, the Bonnie to my Clyde, Olivia for her endless support. She is my rock and this year having seen her grow into an HR professional has been the single biggest accomplishment for our family in 2017. The future is so bright for her. I thank her employers, Alliance Maintenance Ltd. as well for being such incredible mentors and a fantastic business to work for.

Finally, a year end message would not be complete without putting some hopes for 2018. While my deepest, privatest hopes I will keep for my capsuled New Year’s Resolution (which Olivia and I share with one of my best friends from law school, Afsoun – ever year) – for 2018 – I can certainly share a few of them.

1) I want to go back to the roots of helping people through their difficult immigration situations. 2017 saw me focus a little too much about doing more through being busier. 2018 – I will look more inward, be more thorough, and learning to be a strong litigator. Those areas I initially feared I now feel stronger about. I want to be braver lawyer.

2) I want to start getting back into more writing. I will write more blog posts and hopefully start working on the many novel, poetry, etc. ideas I have brewing. I cannot allow myself to lose my creative edge.

3) I will get back in shape and actually go to the Gym when scheduled in my calendar. I thank Joe, my amazing trainer, for pushing me but now its on me to prove that I can sustain this and that physically I can do more than I have demonstrated.

4) I will be a better mentor and take better ownership over my commitments. This is self-descriptive but again – casting too wide a net with too many holes allows the little fish to swim away. I pray that I can find my own little area of the ocean cast my own little net and make sure I don’t forget those others that fish with me – while keeping the sustainable harvest of course 🙂

5) I will learn to relax and disconnect. Easier said than done but for me probably the most important.

With love and hope,

Will

 

Looking Back at Law School…. Five Things to Think About

I realize I am writing this piece on the coattails of two of my incredible mentors who have done so earlier this year. Yet, with so many individuals asking me and emailing me about their pending decisions/LSAT woes/life choices it only make sense to address it here.

Before you start, check out the pieces of my mentors, ironically Steve and Stephen who wrote the pieces below:

1) Steve Meurrens’s very insightful look at pieces of advice for law students http://meurrensonimmigration.com/10-pieces-of-advice-before-entering-first-year/

 

2) Stephen Ngo’s fantastic piece

Alumni perspective – Stephen Ngo

Both of them provide very sage advice in their piece, from – keeping open minds (Steve M) to truths on reality

Without further ado, here are five things that I would think about. You will note that I am not calling this “advice.” Advice necessarily presumes that I did something right or wrong and I have some lessons to impart because of this. I don’t believe most things in my life, anyway, to be so clearly defined. If they are, I am still searching through the dictionary on this one.

1. “What Got You Here Will Get You Out of Here” – then second-year colleague, LK

When I started law school, I had an older colleague at this time – I’ll call her “LK” who was different than all the other mentors. While most older students approached us with their war stories and exam tips, LK kind of showed that kind of quiet, confidence from afar. I remember eventually having an opportunity to chat with her. The only one real thing she said to me was – “Look, there are a lot of people who have gotten here through many different paths. Everybody learns a different way. Everybody will succeed a different way. Remember, what got you here will get you out of here.”

It was a lesson that I should have heeded earlier. My initial motivation was to pursue international law (I had applied to a Masters-IR joint program but abandoned the application at the last minute). I ended up abandoning much of the advice LK provided in pursuit of the big firm pathway. I wanted it because it was considered elite, coveted, and unknown when it fact it wasn’t aligned with who I was and what would have made more sense .

I am grateful that eventually the path led me to going back to pursue my passion for culture, people, and histories as an immigration lawyer. I am also able to advocate on behalf of those individuals who traditionally have been dis-empowered. I use this arsenal of lived experiences and past experiences every day in my work assisting new and potential immigrants.

Too many people I know abandoned elements that made them uniquely themselves. Those that did not – are pursuing (if not as a primary job) efforts in niche areas or side hustles that supplement and/or become their day jobs.

2. Law Doesn’t Kill Creativity, You Do

There’s a misnomer that law school turns everyone into robots first, a pre-evolution stage of the billable robot we later become. Looking back for me, law school was actually a time of immense creativity. I was involved and captained a volleyball called “Denning Digs Dis”, played floor hockey, spent hours observing life in a cute Korean coffee shop, and learning Indian card games.

While first-year black letter law is a required rite of passage, it is only to build the foundation of the house. Second and third year is a time for designing and sprucing the space into something more liveable. Those of my colleagues that did internships/externships, took creative opportunities starting law clubs, went on overseas internships are some of the most successful today.

For myself, taking an optional course in project management was one of those things that really made a difference I felt. I learned about an entirely new area and how it could combine itself into law. I studied what some of the Firms are doing in this regard. While I don’t use it enough (admittedly still), the idea of treating a file as a project and engaging the end-user in the process and the product were lessons that have stayed with me. I very much treat my immigration applications, especially appeals, not as a commodity to be delivered but a game plan requiring various moving pieces to align. There is so much room to be creative within a system that rewards this over just the pure time spent and billed.

Creativity is an understated part of my work. Often times the solutions I come up for clients and strategies I plan out are now presented on immigration websites or discussed openly. My creativity draws me to look at the law as not confined space but one where corners can be navigated.

3. If You Leave Law School More Humble(d), You’ve Succeeded

I was humbled by law school. Like many of you preparing to go, I got through undergrad – a few bird courses. I received some good grades. While I stumbled during the LSAT, I thought that I could write my way to some semi-decent grades.

It couldn’t be further from the truth. I realized that I struggled to synthesize large amounts of information into small principles. Looking back at my undergraduate studies that were in history, I was doing the entirely opposite thing – taking smaller concepts or unknown events and making bigger statements.

In addition to exams, I also ended up being humbled by the journey of being in a class with incredibly talented and smart individuals. There were more than a few occasions that I really had to throw cold water on my face to snap out of thinking I did not belong. This was especially true when some of my colleagues had twenty-years of professional work experiences, graduate degrees from world-class universities, and many of them had even held previous jobs as engineers and consultants with top global companies. I was a wide-eyed youngster who’s resume consisted of working front desk at sport and recreation facilities. I was a nobody but eventually I learned to embrace this as a challenge rather than a weakness.

Through the process, I learned that law was ultimately a beast that I did not tame in my three years but that it was the actual taming of the beast (process) that was the work we would be doing.

Through law I also learned to accept myself – embrace my stronger characteristics but also recognize those weaker ones. In my day to day practice today, I am still aware of these and they keep me grounded and focused. In fact, right now I would argue that the biggest plague for younger lawyers today is not having too narrow of a focus but trying to overextend themselves and grow too quick for their current capacities. The same could be said about start-up firms.

4. Understanding Power Structures, Politics, and Being a Professional Through All Of It

I was at Heenan Blaikie during the downfall. I recently had a chance to read the book written by former co-managing partner, Norm Bacal on the events.

Starting from law school, I started to realize that certain privilege was access. There were certain students who had “in’s.” Some made those “in’s” very obvious. A majority of them hid it in their day to day. I was immune to it all. I did not know any lawyers.

There is a power structure. There is a bamboo ceiling. There are politics. No matter how you want to dice it up, there will always be individuals on the outside looking in within the legal system. In law school, my reaction (admittedly a mistake) was to try and fit in. I was determined to get to a Bay Street (type) firm. I was determined to be able to chat about yachts, boat trips, and golf scores. I was determined to know which of the five forks and spoons to use, even though I grew up utilizing chopsticks.

When HB fell, the reality was the writing was on the wall for first (the students), second those lawyer’s that did not have the business case to be there, and ultimately there were a core set of individuals who made it through based on existing relationships, mentorships, and connections.

HB was a wake up call that (1) I didn’t have any connections; and (2) that I needed to start making those connections for myself.

I did not take being let go and having my articles cancelled  professionally. I struggled. I cried (I can admit this now). I had frantic calls. Looking back I overreacted. I was a self-absorbed law student who felt that I could control everything.

There are structures, power structures, politics – ultimately beyond your control. You can either let these things consume you or you can keep your head up eye – take losses like future wins, and push through.

5. A “No” Is a Pathway to a Future “Yes” – if you are Grateful for the No

Even today, I learn more from failed applications and difficult cases than I do from cases that are successful. I wish in law school I had spent more time seeking  follow-up from my exams and assignments rather than just caring about the grade.

I didn’t see it that way then but the low LSAT scores, rejected law school admissions, rejected transfer applications after first year, initial OCI rejections, and eventually the HB meltdown have all made me a more realistic lawyer.

What law firms and clients want these days is not someone who has never failed but someone who can pick up something in a very difficult situation and try your best to turn it around in a confident and resilient way. Law school will threaten to turn you from a process-based person to a solely-results based one, so you will need to do everything you can to balance the scales the other way.

Embrace the failures – embrace the lessons learned from making mistakes. These will be the toolkit for your tomorrow.

Finally, a bonus piece to consider….. I remember a fellow student sent me this back in the day. The firm (not HB) no longer exists so I feel comfortable sharing how they used to judge candidates who worked there. It is MUCH too early to think about future work until after your first year of studies but many of these can be skills that if you do not have you can hone on a day-to-day basis. Here was their criteria guide.

Categories subject to a 1-5 scale from poor to outstanding

  • Demonstrates realistic view of the law and life

  • How interested is a student in our firm and why

  • Is there a connection to our region

  • Is the candidate easy to talk to (at ease)

  • Interpersonal skills- ability to carry on a conversation

  • Maturity and sense of responsibility

  • Verbal and nonverbal communication skills and ability to analyze articulate issues

  • Does the candidate have something that sets them apart from other candidates

  • Intellectual skills, creativity and articulation

  • Motivational skills, ambition, drive to succeed, stamina, ability to overcome obstacles, enthusiasm, and initiative

  • Solid academics

  • Demonstrated achievements

  • Work experience

  • Diverse activities and interests

  • Leadership qualities

  • Team player

I wish many of you all the best as you prepare to choose a school and work on your applications. Remember not to get discouraged with the process (heeding my advice from above) and learn from it. For some, taking a few years to work will strengthen, not hinder your growth. For others, a school in the middle of a city you have never been to will reveal just how much you needed a change of scenery and new friends with shared passions.

Good luck!!!!

Want to Try My Immigration Quiz on Entry to Canada/Inadmissibility?

I thought it would be fun to share the quiz I had my brilliant Ashton students write. Part creative writing part immigration. Enjoy! I will try and post an answer key soon 😉

Mr. Chow and His Friends Have a Tough Day at the Border

 Mr. Orlando Chow (“Mr. Chow”) is a 35-year old foreign national and citizen of Hong Kong. He is travelling to Canada with his two friends, Juan Jose (“Mr. Jose”) a permanent resident of Canada and citizen of Mexico and Pierre Lacroix (“Mr. Lacroix”), another foreign national of France.

They are returning by plane from a month-long trip to Vegas where they had a good time, some would say too much of a good time. Upon entry into Canada, their glazed looks and alcohol in the breath led to a referral to secondary for all three.

Officer Bruce Boulder (“Officer Boulder”) is a two-year vet of the Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) working secondary examination at Vancouver Airport (“YVR”).

Officer Boulder greets the three of them at the border. Greet may not be the best descriptor. He is not having a good day. His boss told him that he had been making one too many mistakes. Recently, a Bulgarian individual he had let into Canada had ended up robbing a local convenience store and making headlines. Apparently, he had a criminal history that Officer Boulder missed in his review. Officer Boulder, being the consummate professional that he is, was not going to screw up one more time.

Orlando Chow, twirls his gold chain as he comes up to the border. “Dogg, you can’t being do this to me Officer.” You have to prove that I am not allowed into Canada.” Your primary guy, this Rookie, said something about me proving I am not inadmissible. Get him some training or something. He is making no sense.

 Question 1: Is Officer Boulder’s colleague right that the burden of proof is on Mr. Chow and his cronies to show that they are not inadmissible to Canada.

TRUE or        FALSE (1 mark)

 

Officer Boulder checks his computer and to his surprise something pops up. Mr. Jose, during a binge drinking session apparently had received a misdemeanor Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”) charge while on the trip to Vegas. Global Case Management System (“GCMS”) never lies. Officer Boulder asks to see Mr. Jose’s bags. A bag of soiled underwear revealed a white powder of the non-flour variety. The drug test machine showed it was a 100% match for cocaine. Caught red-handed.

Officer Boulder places handcuffs on Mr. Jose and orders him against the wall. He calls his supervisor on the intercom to come as it looked like a serious issue. “Boss, I think I got one – he’s got a charge on him from Las Vegas. I’m thinking s.36(2) – it doesn’t matter what the punishment is – I know this is a hybrid offense and he’s indictable. I have a reasonable ground to believe he committed an offense outside of Canada– this is a home run.” “But I am a permanent resident!” Mr. Jose yells from the wall trying to get Officer Boulder’s attention to no avail.

Question 2: Officer Boulder is right about the standard of proof and section of IRPA that Mr. Jose is inadmissible under.

TRUE or        FALSE (1 mark)

 

Officer Boulder then turns his attention to Mr. Lacroix. Officer Boulder notices on his GCMS check that Mr. Lacroix had recently obtained an eTA to fly to Canada from France. He had indicated no previous history of detention, arrests, or refusals. Before Officer Boulder could even begin to ask, Mr. Lacroix smirks, his Parisian accent starting to flow through: “You have nothing on me monsieur!” Listen mon ami, this is not my first rodeo. I remember in zee Australia. They had me in zee handcuffs and I called my lawyer and he comes in with paperwork storming in and zey let me go on the spot. We actually end (sic) up suing them and I got enough money to allow me to stay in Australia for two years and not work a single day (before, you know I had to do that under the table thing). Anyways, I am done talking to you guys. You aren’t asking me another questions – I need my lawyer here now”

 Question 3: Mr. Lacroix has the right to counsel at this stage of secondary questioning even though he has not been detained.

TRUE or        FALSE (1 mark)

 

Officer Boulder tells Mr. Lacroix that on the balance of probabilities he has reason to believe that Mr. Lacroix has misrepresented himself. Officer Boulder’s boss, Superintendent Jenny Jones (Superintendent Jones) shows up on the scene. “What is wrong” asks Superintendent Jones. “Zee Officer thinks I misrepresented myself because I wrote that I had never been arrested before on my application for an eTA” answered Mr. Lacroix, noticeable sweat pores started emerging on his forehead. “That was done by my travel agent. Not my fault at all. I cannot be found responsible for misrepresentation as I never intended to answer that.”

Question 4: Misrepresentation under A40 IRPA requires intent therefore Mr. Lacroix is right. 

TRUE or        FALSE (1 mark)

 

Superintendent Jones tells Officer Boulder that he will interview both Mr. Jose and Mr. Lacroix (given the severity of their situations) and that Officer Boulder should talk to Mr. Chow to make sure he had met his conditions for entry (you know, the one from Question 1). IRCC had flagged Mr. Chow for CBSA to ask a few questions. It was easier to question him this way.

Mr. Chow tells Officer Boulder that he did indeed have an application in for permanent residence as a sponsored spouse and that everything will be okay once he is a permanent resident of Canada and says that given he had done nothing wrong. Mr. Chow told the Officer that an American friend of his, Lily Chow, had done the same thing in sponsoring her spouse (or was it common-law partner?). The Officer asks if he was aware that his Canadian wife had received a procedural fairness letter from IRCC about three issues. First, there were concerns that his relationship was not genuine. Second, there was a concern that there was a financial inadmissibility concern due to his wife’s disability (she was a paraplegic and currently receiving disability payments as the source of her living expenses). Finally, there was issues with his daughter (remember not her daughter)’s autism being an excessive demand on Canadian society. His daughter was seven and also born in Hong Kong to his ex-partner. He had met his Canadian wife online before they arranged to see each other in Taiwan. A week later and they were engaged to be married.

Officer Boulder remembers his recent training session and thinks to himself. If Mr. Chow’s relationship is not genuine, the financial inadmissibility issue does not even matter to the appeal division as he will found not to be a family member.

Question 5: Does Officer Boulder remember correctly that if the relationship is not genuine, there is no need for an appeal division to consider financial inadmissibility?

 TRUE or        FALSE (1 mark)

 

Officer Boulder grabs his laptop out and searches “Orlando Chow” just to see who he was dealing with. He sees a relatively sketchy website with information suggesting Mr. Chow was a member of the Triads – Canadian chapter. “This is enough. I need to only prove this only on a reasonable grounds to believe. S.37 – Organized Crime. I got this. Or was it balance of probabilities? What does section 33 say again?

Question 6: Is balance of probabilities the standard of proof for a finding of organized criminality?

 TRUE             or        FALSE (1 mark)

 

Officer Boulder decides to make a note to send this issue to inland enforcement but not to action it now. As he writes, Mr. Chow, who continues to read the letter setting out how his wife’s inability to prove care and support was being challenged. “This letter is BS – listen my wife can sponsor me.” Mr. Chow shouts. “I know, my lawyer told me that a Canadian sponsor can receive disability payments – there’s an exemption for this.” My wife’s disability has nothing to do with me. I can make $0 dollars for all that matters. Plus, I have a job lined up in a motorbike shop. I even have a contract to start once my open work permit arrives. Look” Mr. Chow provides a one page letter with two lines. A faint electronic signature can be found on the page. “Juan Jose.”

Question 7: Given his wife is eligible as a sponsor, there is no requirement for Mr. Chow to have anything to demonstrate that he is financially admissible other than an employment letter.

TRUE  or       FALSE (1 mark)

 

Mr. Chow then reads the section about his daughter’s condition. This is ridiculous – absolutely ridiculous… how can there be an excess demand on social services. I have an uncle in Hong Kong who is a millionaire. He can just give me some money and we can pay for it. No problem. This “mitigation plan” will be easy to prepare.

Officer Boulder responds: “Clearly you haven’t read the case law in this area, money does not matter. Your plan does not matter! The Officer does not even have to look at it in the context of social services”

Question 8: Officer Boulder is right that any individualized mitigation plan that Mr. Chow comes up with in respect to social services will not matter and cannot be considered given the nature of the medical inadmissibility.

 TRUE or        FALSE (1 mark)

 

Officer Boulder asks Mr. Chow if he intends to leave Canada and that he could not intend to be a permanent resident without holding a permanent resident visa. Mr. Chow flips open his bag showing that he still owned property in Hong Kong, had an adult daughter that he still visited often and in fact was planning to visit in another 6 months. Officer Boulder realized Mr. Chow was low key about social media – his #hashtag game was not strong. Officer Boulder states: None of this is relevant. You are only allowed one intention and you made that clear with your permanent residence application.

Question 9: Is Officer Boulder right that only one intention is allowed once a permanent residence application is submitted?

 TRUE or        FALSE (1 mark)

 

“I know my little daughter won’t affect my application at all anyways. What is the worst that can happen. She can just stay in Hong Kong. There is no rule that her being inadmissible makes me inadmissible as well. I am sponsored by my wife. My daughter is not even hers. I remember there’s an exemption for this”

Question 10: Mr. Chow’s statement that his dependent daughter’s inadmissibility cannot render him inadmissible and there is an exemption for this is correct.

TRUE  or       FALSE (1 mark)

 

“Clearly, there are way too many questions right now.” Officer Boulder continues. I am going to ask you for you to give me your passport for now. I will leave the decision up to my colleague on whether or not to give you a visitor record when you meet him in two weeks.

Bonus: The Officer’s decision to ask Mr. Chow to return in two weeks to attend another interview can also be called a D_____________ E___________. (1 extra mark)

 

Think Twice Before You Rely on an Immigration (Even Canadian Immigration’s) Website!

Through teaching my wonderful students at Ashton, I’ve had a few practice epiphanies recently, one of which I would like to share.

Don’t Trust Everything You Read On Immigration

This starts from websites. From well-know eTA scams to even more subtle “outdated” information – you have to be careful. Forums, more often than not, are individuals with complicated/negative experiences panicking over their cases. The complexity of some of their fact scenarios and the added discretion added by various overseas processing visa offices makes these cases by no means precedents to follow. There are a lot of unauthorized representatives or even individuals who are authorized but are writing on the basis of “one or two” experiences that purport to be experts. Indeed, one of the reasons I am also being more careful about posting technical/legal blogs until I do my due diligence (and cross reference multiple sources) is I know very well what occurs on paper and in practice can often be very different.

Be Careful About Reading Immigration’s Own Website

Even Immigration’s own website is not always accurate or up to date. They are doing a much better job of client service and updates but you should be diligent. One of the issues is with updated forms. The website will often indicate the form is from March 2017 for example, but you click a few links and realize the latest version is October 2017.

Another issue is with websites providing generally “ideal” processing advice (purely policy) that is treated by Applicant’s as law. For example, the idea that an extension application needs to be extended 30 days before expiry is ideal for IRCC’s processing but can be a very poor decision if you are awaiting something (like the basis for your very extension or documents) to come through.

30 days

The other one I have a really hard time with is the issue of putting information before the officer in a follow-up after application submission.

no more information

There are many times (for example when you notice an uploading or submission mistake) or have an important update/follow-up where you will need to send a new document and hope that it gets to the Officer before they process.

I think Immigration should frankly remove/amend the above two pieces of advice because they do not align with the Act and Regs.

Immigration was quick on updating one issue after realizing a mistake it had made on it’s website. Previously, the website has suggested a post-graduate work permit holder lost the ability to work upon return from a trip outside Canada. They made a quick fix after realizing they had the wrong info.

Sometimes the information from immigration is not “wrong” per se but rather can be too broadly interpreted too broadly to the detriment of the Applicant. This is what happened in Zhang v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2016 FC 964 (CanLII), http://canlii.ca/t/h4g53 where the Applicant took a broad interpretation of the ability to study for six months upon authorized entry to cover the period of time that extended beyond the initial six month entry period. By the wording of the website, again without reference to the Act and Regs, this all sounded good and kosher. However, once those definitions were explored, it not only grounded the reasonableness of the Officer’s decision but arguably (in my opinion) made it the only reasonable decision.

Where a provision of law or a procedural fairness letter or an obscurely written website instruction causes you some doubt, my recommendation is always to go see someone.  I know it’s my overused moniker, but it is much easier to prevent a problem than to clean one up.

 

 

 

Crossing Roads With Wiser Souls – (Hope on Howe Vol 1.)

Growing up I used to play a game. A game, I will sheepishly admit that I still play to this date.

As soon as the light goes green - in fact, the split second it does - I rush to take the first step from the street corner on to the road. If I am in a car at a stoplight I press hard on the pedal as I were some Formula 1 Driver waiting for the light to turn green. I used to be a huge Greg Moore fan.

Today, I was walking along Burrard. At night. The kind of cool November night that you are grateful for - no rain for the first time in was seems like an eternity. I am exhausted by the late minutes of Monday monotony.  Head swimming with too much commotion and perhaps not enough emotion. The high of a great day coupled with the reality of not enough done. Again. Just like every other day.

As I step into the gates ready to play my little game again, I hear two voices. Voices of wisdom and sage, older voices, but also one a youthful exuberance of a type of conversation I rarely have anymore unless a phone is against the side of my face. These two were playing the game with me today. I had competition.

Listening to them carefully, I watched as one figure put out their arm so the second one could use it as a railing to step off the ledge. "Thank you ma'dear" said the second silhouette, the challenges of the task ahead apparent. Slowly, slowly, slowly they made their way across the street. At this stage I was already miles ahead.

I rush forward. I miss my bed. I worry about work. The usual. Yet, I'm pre-occupied with this couple behind me. The green figure with two legs turns slowly into the red hand but the two silhouettes are still moving along solely. Easy comes as easy goes. My shoulder check tells me they've cleared my visual angle.

As I stare back and think forward, my brown dress shoes go straight into the curb as I stumble awkwardly, catching my balance at the last second and attempting to gracefully make it appear I am choreographing a routine for a local ballet house.

The two silhouettes walk past, leaving me with cellphone dangling in my hand like a rotten carrot. "You were listening to your music weren't you" one silhouette asks, shaking his head at my lack of grace. 

I try to laugh it off but the truth was my earphones were not blasting music - although for most of the day they were playing Mariah Carey's Christmas album. I was not reading my cellphone (or was I) - these lines pretty much are blurred just like if I am working or not at any given minute. 

No. I was distracted by the million lights and sounds of a busy street, in a busy city, during a busy time and a million more thoughts. Yet these two bastions of stability were thinking only of each other. Crossing the street, not in a manner that required them to do so - the so called "street-rules", but only when both of them had made it to the other side. Together.

Damn.... I thought to myself - this is where I want to be with who I want to be 40 years from now. 

Crossing roads not because of the time it takes to get to the other side but in order to get there with the right person by my side.

I picked up phone and dialed my love.




 

old-couple-crossing-road-at-traffic-lights-with-walking-stick-hyk3fr

 

hope on howe