Canadian Lawyer

June 2021

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Page 8 of 35 7 monia. She had prepared her will so that a couple with whom she was friends would be the girls' guardians. What followed, Weatherill wrote, was a "difficult and hard-fought custody battle" between the mother's friends on one side and Poole and the twins' maternal grandmother on the other side. Poole only met the twins for the first time in May 1990, leading up to the 12-day custody trial. On Dec. 13, 1990, the trial judge ruled in favour of the friends as guardians. Weatherill concluded that Poole's decision to ignore the twins was "driven by bitterness and sour grapes" in losing the custody trial. Angelique Casey, an estates and trust lawyer based in Toronto, says the courts in B.C. and Ontario take different approaches to these cases. "Had this case been decided in Ontario, I do not believe the result would have been the same," she says, noting that B.C. has legislation that allows courts to essentially "rewrite a will based on what a testator should have left to . . . children on a moral basis." Ingrid Tsui, a partner at Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang LLP in Vancouver, says that in B.C., estate planning lawyers should always discuss the risk of a wills variation challenge with clients. "This law is so broad that it includes all persons who would be considered spouses or children, no matter the relationship with the will-maker. There is no set formula or explana- tion that a will-maker can put into a will to guar- antee protection against a wills variation claim." Calgary immigration practice finds welcome home Q&A Fast facts: » Graduated 1999, Bachelor of Laws, University of British Columbia » Admitted to the Ontario bar in February 1999 » Admitted to the Alberta bar in July 2008 » 2006-2008: Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, Toronto • lawyer, business immigration law, senior associate » 2008-2010: Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (now Dentons), Calgary • head of national business immigration practice » 2010-present: Ackah Business Immigration Law, Calgary • founder/ managing lawyer As a Ghana-born lawyer who was educated in Vancouver and gained large law firm experience in Toronto, Evelyn Ackah never thought she would end up as an immigration lawyer running her boutique firm in Calgary. We talk to her about the experience. What brought you to Calgary? I moved to Calgary in 2008 when the province's oil economy was booming. I was partner and head of the national business immigration practice of Fraser Milner Casgrain. Companies could not find the qualified employees they needed fast enough. "We've seen big ups and downs here since I arrived here. It's never been boring." What is it you like about immigration law? As soon as I started in on immigration law, I really loved it and developed a passion for it. I especially liked the combination of working with businesses while at the same time dealing with people. I advised on executive cross-border transfer issues, prepared applications for work permits and dealt with passport and visa issues as well as permanent residence and citizenship. I love the personal side. You work with people to come up with the strongest application to live and work here, and you help them on their journey from wherever they're coming from to Canada. What made you decide you wanted to launch your own practice? As the economy shifted, I wanted to head off on my own and pivot the business as circumstances changed, so I founded Ackah Immigration Law in 2010. Part of the business strategy involved dealing with individuals' immigration issues as well as for businesses. Being a small firm means we can be more attentive and nimbler to clients' needs. When you are a boutique, you have to look at creating that approachability factor so that people aren't intimidated and know they can count on you." You're a woman and a person of colour. How does that frame what you do as a lawyer? "I think of myself very much as a lawyer as well as entrepreneur, and being a Black woman adds an extra layer to my practice. The reality is different when you're the boss and you look like me. "I've been in the position where people mistake me for the assistant, the person who should be getting coffee, rather than a partner and entrepreneur. So, you have to be a role model and mentor. In fact, one of the reasons for starting my own firm was to take control of my experience. And I hope that will show others from diverse backgrounds what they can achieve." How have things been going during the pandemic? Overall, work on immigration issues might have slowed down thanks to the pandemic, but there are still a lot of cases, and each one usually takes more time and care. "This case is about the father of twins who . . . for reasons known only to him, abandoned them initially at birth and subsequently after he lost the custody trial and despite being awarded generous parenting time." Justice Gordon Weatherill, Supreme Court of B.C. Evelyn Ackah Lawyer ACKAH BUSINESS IMMIGRATION LAW

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