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Learn How Atty. Paul Saguil Is Empowering More Filipinos Into The Legal Profession in Canada

Atty. Paul Saguil Canada Legal Profession
Atty. Paul Saguil maximizes his capacity as an active member of the community. Photo edited by Qjiel Mariano

Interested in Lawyering Up in Canada? Good news for you! A vibrant community of Filipino-Canadian lawyers exists in the ten provinces of the Great White North.

Atty. Paul Jonathan Saguil works in sanctions compliance, anti-bribery, and anti-corruption at a major Canadian bank. He complements this important work with the personal goal of encouraging more Filipinos to practice the legal profession.

Fighting for a space as a Filipino-Canadian lawyer

Atty. Saguil is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and he took his undergraduate studies in Philosophy in the same university. Law school in Canada is three years of postgraduate studies and one year of practical training in a practice called articling. While this sounds easy enough – it gets harder according to Atty. Saguil. “There is only a certain number of spots in law school and articling,” he shared comparing it to other disciplines like Nursing and Medicine.

Being a first-generation lawyer in the family, Saguil stressed the importance of representation for the Filipino community. “Growing up, I did not have family members who were in the legal profession and it was difficult to envision what a legal profession was like” he shares. In his time as a student, there were few Filipinos in the legal profession, but times are changing with more of our kababayans receiving prominent positions in the field. “We have Filipinos who were appointed judges in the court of appeals in Ontario and Alberta,” he shared proudly.

Aside from access to funding law school in Canada, cultural barriers may hinder some Filipinos from thriving in the practice. Even as simple as accented English up to being an immigrant may make people question if Filipinos can be effective advocates. “Some immigrants may be coming with a language barrier and not be speaking in a Canadian or North American way,” he shared as he reflected on the perceptions of immigrants in Canada.

Fighting for inclusion and a space to be heard is important for lawyers like Atty. Saguil. “We need to become role models for the community as for now we are quite rare in the profession,” Saguil explained with a call to action to raise the platform. “The ultimate goal is to make people realize it is possible and then eventually normalize it,” he continued citing the importance of making all kinds of professions accessible to Filipinos.

Envisioning a future for Filipinos in the legal profession

Atty. Saguil is no stranger to young people in Canada. I first heard about him after a casual conversation with my Good News Pilipinas feature for Gheneva Aleta, an immigrant who fights for the rights of immigrants in a law firm in Toronto.

You will see Saguil in different conferences, fora, lectures, and even casual Filipino social events in Canada. Young people feel represented when seeing Paul do his work to address the inequalities happening in Canada and globally.

Recent Osgoode Hall Law School graduate Dominique Pangilinan looks up to Atty. Saguil as a mentor and role model. “In my undergraduate days at the University of Toronto, there was no shortage of Asian and Filipino faces in the classrooms.” Pangilinan reflected on the diversity on campus where she never felt out of place. Come law school, it was a different experience for her, quite similar to the sentiments of Atty. Saguil. “I struggled to find other  Filipinos in the vicinity,” she shared.

In Canada, law schools are becoming more inclusive; however Dominique and Atty. Saguil still believes there are barriers to accessing a legal education. “People may think Filipinos are not interested in law, but they are. Law schools and the legal profession still have a long way to go in terms of respect to diversity,” Pangilinan shared. The good news is more Filipino law students are being admitted to Canadian law schools.

Atty. Saguil shares his message to aspiring young people entering the legal profession. “I always advise young people to know what they want to achieve,” says Saguil. While law school may not be for everyone, Paul advises Filipinos to look from different perspectives. “You can still advocate for the legal profession by working in academia, helping others gain access to services, working in the private sector, and more.” he shared as he reminds everyone that we do not have to fit society’s perceptions of what lawyers are.

You may think lawyers are all about those you see in court as portrayed by the media, but Atty. Saguil advocates for the legal profession to be represented in all platforms of social good. “I am still a licensed lawyer, but I work in a space that mobilizes Anti-money laundering, sanctions compliance, anti-bribery, and anti-corruption. These are all interconnected disciplines that can be used with your law degree,” he proudly shared.

A message for Filipinos all over the world

Being Filipino is an important aspect of Atty. Paul’s identity. “Filipinos find joy wherever they may be or everywhere they may go,” shares Saguil. The sense of community that Filipinos bring is a testament to the resilience they have formed in Canada and internationally.

While Filipinos may have a celebrity culture where we put people in high regard depending on their status in life, Atty. Saguil believes it should be a norm to see Filipinos thrive in their careers. “People may think we are just background players, that there is a certain niche that we are only capable of,” he said. One way of ensuring more representation in the legal profession is by participating in mock trials, internships, and meetings with seasoned Fil-Can Lawyers. An investment that Atty. Saguil does for the next generation of Filipinos.

Cultural anchors still make up the majority of Filipinos in Canada due to having families in the Philippines. Both Canada and the Philippines share histories of oppressive practices like the unequal treatment of Asian migrants and the horrors of martial law respectively. “We have to learn about the histories of both nations to avoid the mistakes of the past and push forward for the future,” Saguil reflected.

Atty. Saguil reinforces the call to action for lifelong learning for all Filipinos who want to come to Canada. “There should be continuous learning to constantly reinvent ourselves,” he shared reflecting on a career that spans years of interconnecting representation, political activism, and fighting for the rights of Filipinos.

The Filipino may indeed find comfort in their global journeys knowing that Atty. Saguil and Fil-Can lawyers are doing their part to make Filipino voices welcome at the table.

READ MORE from Qjiel Mariano here:

Qjiel Mariano is the newest Good News Pilipinas columnist. The York University Global Health student was selected to join the Clinton Global Initiative Class, awarded the George H.W. Bush Inspiration Honors, and named Education Hero by Youth Service America.

Good News Pilipinas is a Lasallian Scholarum Awardee. TELL US your good news story tips by messaging GoodNewsPilipinas.com on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram, or e-mailing editor@goodnewspilipinas.com

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Qjiel Mariano
Qjiel Mariano
Qjiel Mariano is a Youth Council Member of the Joint SDG Fund and a Global Public Health advocate from the Philippines. He is passionate about amplifying the voices of young people and bridging opportunities for them to contribute to the greater good. Like every other youth, he enjoys anime, pop culture, food, and sitcoms. His favorite quote is by sir Allen Saraza “Sa bawat padayon, huwag kalimutan mag-pahuway” which translates to "Whenever you keep going, do not forget to rest.”

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