Originally from Syria, Ebrahim arrived in Kitchener, Ontario in 2015. He had a bachelor’s degree in law from Damascus University and a master’s degree in international commercial law from City, University of London in England. While in the UK, the situation in his country deteriorated, and the war started. So, after graduation, Ebrahim couldn’t go back home.
As a result of the armed conflict, his journey wasn’t easy. He left the UK with an expired visa and went to Jordan as a refugee. He stayed for only three months. “It wasn’t easy to get a job. It’s not allowed. You could work illegally, but I didn’t want that, so I went to Lebanon looking for better opportunities,” says Ebrahim.
Once there, he found that the work situation was the same as in Jordan. However, he managed to volunteer as a translator for a non-profit organization. “I was translating documents from Arabic to English and helping coordinate communications between organizations that provide funding and the ones that aid people inside Syria.”
By now, Ebrahim had been in Lebanon for almost three years, and things got more difficult. The number of Syrians in the country had doubled, and relationships between Lebanese and Syrians became tense. Ebrahim’s uncle, who lives in Canada, contacted an organization that sponsors refugees and explained Ebrahim’s situation. The organization agreed to sponsor Ebrahim and his younger brother.
After arrival, they stayed for two months at their uncle’s house until they found an affordable apartment. Eventually, Ebrahim got a job at a fast-food business, where he worked for four months. Then he started working at Library Services Centre, a not-for-profit that serves libraries across Canada.
The war stopped Ebrahim from starting a career as a lawyer, but the bullets didn’t shatter his dreams. He was determined to finally start his career in Canada. “I imagined I needed to take some exams or something to be able to practice law in Canada. But I wasn’t exactly sure what the process was. It took me about a year to figure out what I needed to do,” says Ebrahim.
He contacted an organization that works with newcomers, and they pointed him in the right direction. He got in touch with the Law Society of Ontario and learned that he needed to apply to the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) to have his legal education credentials evaluated before starting the licensing process.
The Committee assessed his legal training and, in order to receive a Certificate of Qualification, “I was asked to attend and complete eight law school courses. It’s a long and expensive process,” says Ebrahim. However, in his opinion, this was a much better option than studying by himself and writing the exams. “Once you finish the program, you send the transcripts to NCA, and you don’t have to take the exams. Then, you receive your license.”
When Ebrahim decided to register in school, as he was participating in the WR Connectors Program offered by the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, where newcomers gain insight into their professional network with the help of other professionals, and by talking to the program manager, he found out about Windmill Microlending.
He searched online, emailed Windmill and started the process in 2017. “I got my loan in the same week,” says Ebrahim. “I wanted to enroll at York University. However, this program wasn’t eligible for OSAP. At that time, I didn’t have that money. So, the loan helped me pay the tuition.”
“Once I finish school, my main goal is to practice law in Ontario,” says Ebrahim with enormous satisfaction and excitement. He’s expected to finish his program in Canadian Common Law at Osgoode Law School on the fall of 2019.
All this time, he has kept busy, not only with work and school but also with different volunteer jobs. “Since I arrived, I have done volunteer work, especially with churches that sponsor Syrian families, and I also volunteered for almost one year at CLASP, the free legal clinic at York University,” says Ebrahim.
Even though his immigration journey is ongoing, Ebrahim has important advice to other internationally-trained immigrants: “Make as many connections as you can, speak with an organization that works with newcomers because they have a good deal of information that you’re not aware of. Do as much volunteer work as you can because it’s a great opportunity to work on your English, make some friends and give back to the Canadian community.”