Recognizing Our Founders

  • November 25, 2019

Our Section has a long and proud history, and we’re indebted to Gary Segal and Marshall Drukarsh for sharing their memories of the foundation of our organization. What follows is a very abridged version of their account.

While pioneers in the field of immigration law broke into this practice area independently across the country, as a formal organization our story begins in Toronto in 1978, with a small group of lawyers meeting in a sitting room at the University of Toronto. They included Cecil Rotenberg, QC, Mendel Green, QC, Gary Segal, Barbara Jackman, Steven Abraham, Donald Greenbaum, QC, Marshall Drukarsh, Charlie Roach, Carter Hoppe and a Mr. Kang (whose first name has been lost in the sands of time).

Gary Segal led the organization of the initial meeting and was elected the first chair of the newly formed Association of Immigration Lawyers (AIL), with Carter Hoppe in charge of publishing the newsletter named “The Ailment.” At the time, immigration lawyers faced great challenges. Everything – the manuals, policy directives, memorandums, and even some regulations – were classified “top secret” and were unavailable to the profession and the public. No one in government would meet with lawyers. The AIL became a vital forum for sharing information on the law and practice, and also for building bridges with the Immigration department.

By 1980 government relations were improving and the organization’s then-chair, Donald Greenbaum, was appointed by the Minister to head up a Federal Task Force to review the 1977 Immigration Act and make recommendations as to changes. His mandate was cross-country and included talking to the public, the profession and to members of the Department, but even then he had to take the Oath of Secrecy to complete his work.

At the same time a Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Special Committee on Immigration existed on the national level from 1977-1982.

In and around the autumn of 1980 a discussion began within the Toronto chapter of AIL, initiated by Mendel Green as to whether or not a small group of immigration lawyers in Ontario had sufficient clout to gain the attention of the Department of Manpower and Immigration, as it then was.

With the support of the majority of the members, Mendel was authorized to open discussions with the CBA with respect to a merger of AIL and the CBA. The merger resulted in the creation of the Immigration Section first in Ontario and ultimately to the creation of the Immigration Section nationally – acknowledging additions of independently organized immigration lawyers in other provinces, including British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Manitoba. In 1982 the CBA national Section became a reality and Mendel Green became its first Chair.

The Section’s founders not only spearheaded the creation of our Section, but they were also trailblazers in the law. For example, Gary Segal and other founders played a significant role in the foundation of the IRB as an independent tribunal with equitable jurisdiction, and in the innovation of ADR at the IRB; and our founders have, through submission and consultations, formal and informal, had significant influence on various government’s immigration policies; strategies and goals.

Marshall Drukarsh and Gary Segal proposed the Alternative Dispute Resolution system ultimately adopted and now widely-used by the Immigration and Refugee Board, the organization had a significant influence on the government’s strategy for recruiting doctors to rural communities – and many other legal and policy innovations.

We should all be proud of the contributions of those who came before us and who continue to inspire our work today.

Prepared by Kyle Hyndman, Secretary of the CBA Immigration