My name is Emma Andrews. I am a lawyer. I live in Vancouver, British Columbia, but originally I was born in Honduras, and I grew up there, and I didn’t come to Canada until I was an adult.
During the ‘80s, Honduras was affected by civil wars in neighbouring countries, and it was a dangerous place to live. When my younger brother and I were students, my parents were worried that we could be harmed, we could be kidnapped – anything bad could happen to us. For this reason, I came to Canada, and my brother went to the United States. My brother went back to Honduras after the political climate changed, but against my parents’ wishes, I did not return.
When I first arrived in Canada, my goal was to learn English. I spent two years in language training at UBC. Culturally, it was an amazing experience. I had never met a person from Japan before, but approximately ninety-eight percent of the ESL students were from there. It was with the Japanese that I started to communicate with, and relating to, appreciating them and their culture. During my English studies, I was introduced to the Legal Services Society of British Columbia. The legal aid system was a new concept to me. I began, and became, intrigued by the idea. During my practical legal training in Honduras, I had learned that some people remain in Honduras prisons for years because they could not afford legal counsel. I found this disturbing at the time, but I felt there was something wrong with the system.
After completing my language program, I enrolled in the legal assistant program at Capilano college. I did a six month practical with the Legal Services Society, which gave me a great insight into the principles of access to justice. It was also there at the Legal Services Society where I came to understand what it meant to be a refugee, as I saw the great difficulties others were facing. After I completed my practicum, I found employment in a community agency as a community legal counselor. This agency is called MOSAIC. They provide services to immigrants and refugees.
At MOSAIC, I became aware and conscientious of how difficult it was for newcomers to access services because of language barriers and cultural misunderstandings. To help remedy the situation, I thought MOSAIC should provide in-house services for its clients. I began working on a proposal for the Law Foundation to fund a paralegal project. I coordinated the project, and I was the paralegal for the project until ’96.
It was in ’96 when I decided that I had to go back to school. I returned to school, and completed my law degree at the University of Victoria. I articled, and was called to the bar in Vancouver in November, 2000. In July 2001, I opened my own firm. My recent practice at immigration, civil litigation, and family. My goal is to participate in nations that foster the highest ideals of justice.
My immigrant experience has not always been easy. It has been a long path. This path is still in motion. I always find something new, which reminds me that I grew up in a different culture. It is similar to law – it never ends. It is through both my experiences as an immigrant, and through my exposure to diversity in Canada that I have been sensitized to cultural differences and inequalities in the world. This experience has helped me appreciate differences in a positive way, and to accommodate people’s needs in a non-judgmental manner with respect to their race, gender, sexual orientation, education, social status – all the civilities. It’s these immigrant experiences who made me the person who I am.