Ronalee Carey Law Celebrates a Decade of Helping Clients Achieve Their Dreams in Canada

by Ronalee Carey Law

September 2022

Ten years ago, I ‘hung up a shingle,’ opening my own law firm exclusively focused on immigration and refugee law. It’s not where I expected my life’s journey to take me. I started law school keen on criminal and family law. I summered with a lawyer (now a judge) practicing in both areas of law and later articled for a general practice firm with a focus on family law.

The first bump in the road came only a year after starting work as an associate lawyer. A beautiful baby girl came into my life by way of adoption. Bumps two and three came shortly thereafter, also by way of adoption. With three children under the age of four, going back to work as a full-time lawyer didn’t seem feasible. I made the decision to be a stay-at-home mother.

When bump number three started school full-time, a chance encounter at a Law Society of Ontario function led to a part-time position with a law school colleague then practicing as an immigration lawyer. I knew nothing about immigration law. I hadn’t taken any courses in the subject matter in law school. Heck, I hardly even knew any immigrants. I grew up in a small town in northern Ontario where there were exactly two immigrant families. One, a Black family, included my fifth-grade teacher. The other family, who were practicing Sikhs, owned the local movie theatre. I remember my entire school was invited, free of charge, to a showing of the movie Gandhi when it came out.

When I started assisting my law school colleague in her firm, there were very few resources available to immigration practitioners. I learned immigration law by reading the IRCC website, scouring through binders of past conference papers, and joining the Refugee Lawyer’s Association of Ontario listserv.

When the law school colleague I was working for told me she was moving to Toronto, I had a decision to make. I could look for a job or go out on my own. After she offered to give me a few legally aided refugee files to get me started, the decision was made.

I now live and breathe immigration law. Evenings include time reading listserv posts from three different organizations. Weekends are often spent preparing to speak at a conference, and sometimes my day gets hijacked by a request to speak to the media. I’ve taught advanced refugee law at the same law school where I earned my degree. Some days are hard. Today, both a client and I were in tears as I explained to him that his same-sex partner’s application for a work permit to reunite with him in Canada was likely going to be denied, regardless of how brilliant my legal submissions were going to be and how many supporting documents they provided me. But other days are just glorious. And sometimes they are both on the same day. Today, I had two clients receive their electronic Confirmation of Permanent Residence documents after six months of delay. Another client’s application for permanent residence was approved only 4.5 months after submission when the listed processing time is 15 months. She will be ecstatic; I can’t wait to tell her the good news.

I am grateful that my life’s journey has brought me to where I am. It has given me the opportunity to meet wonderful people from all over the world. I feel like I’ve travelled the globe even though I’ve rarely left the country.

I had another milestone this month. Bump number three moved into college residence last weekend. I am an empty nester. But the nest won’t stay empty for long. I am about to receive a young Afghan woman sponsored by the refugee sponsorship group I’ve been a part of for many years. She will stay with me until she sorts out her next step in life.

I started this newsletter in July 2013. Reflecting on immigration law and policy over the years through my writing has allowed me to see the bigger picture. I have been heartened by the emails I have received from readers about the topics I have engaged in. It is a pleasure to be connected to so many smart, compassionate, and politically engaged individuals.

Thank you for reading. I plan to around another two decades or so, so I hope I continue to pique your interest.