Helping Refugees & Canadian Businesses

Immigration lawyer Heather Segal, Law’94

Immigration lawyer Heather Segal, Law’94, is dramatically changing the lives of refugees and helping Canadian businesses find highly skilled employees at the same time.

For the past few years, Segal has been volunteering with Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB), a non-profit organization that connects refugees (who are experts in fields such as engineering and health care) with businesses that are struggling to find qualified local candidates.

“It’s been amazing,” says Segal about her involvement in the project. “It is a very common-sense approach to solving the issue of refugees.”

TBB has an online directory of skilled refugees living in camps in Jordan and Lebanon that helps employers search and find resumes. Ideally it leads to an interview (over the phone or Skype) and a job offer.

This is where Segal usually steps in. Sometimes the refugee is missing a key document such as a valid passport or diploma. Segal helps navigate the legal red tape to get the refugee into Canada. A sponsoring business can vouch for the refugee if there is missing documentation about work credentials by saying company executives have interviewed the refugee and found the person to be knowledgeable and qualified.

“If the employer is happy, then usually the government is happy,” says Segal, a founding partner of Segal Immigration Law in Toronto.

Another benefit to helping highly skilled refugees come to Canada is that it allows businesses outside major cities like Montreal and Toronto to recruit skilled labour.

“One of the biggest issues in Canadian immigration is that it is hard to get people to go to remote areas. You can’t legislate where people live. It is unconstitutional,” says Segal. “This facilitates them going to these areas and these areas are welcoming them, so Canada can populate areas that are harder to populate and regenerate them economically.”

Segal says her work with TBB has helped her reignite her passion for the law. Earlier in her career, she had grown disillusioned with refugee law. She worked with many people who were turned away by the government because they lacked proper documentation or did not meet the official requirements of refugee status. “It didn’t mean that they didn’t need help,” she says.

Now she is involved in a project that changes refugees’ lives, helps businesses, and benefits the country by helping talented people relocate to remote parts of Canada.

“It’s a win-win-win,” Segal says. “There are so many refugees to help, and this is a common-sense approach that meets economic, labour mobility, and humanitarian objectives.”