Leigh Salsberg '94, Alumni of Distinction Award Recipient 2015
"I think it is important to appreciate what we have and try to turn it into actions somehow. Even if the actions seem small, they can make a real difference, as they are actions that otherwise wouldn't have been done. Incorporate your TFS education into your life in a meaningful way."
For Leigh Salsberg the law is more than words on a page or a set of rules to follow. Leigh cares about people, and she is determined to put a human face on the refugee issue in Canada. "I want to tell their stories so that the government, and all Canadians, will understand and care. There are so many myths about refugee law circulating today that need to be dispelled."
As a lawyer specializing in immigration and refugee protection, Leigh regularly sees the toll that war, conflict and persecution can take on ordinary individuals and families. Many of her clients have fled harrowing, life-threatening experiences or have endured incredible hardship to find not only a safe haven but a country to call home. Leigh has dedicated her career to helping them meet and surmount legal hurdles they may have encountered once in Canada. This has put the quiet, soft-spoken lawyer in the media spotlight from time to time, but she is a formidable advocate to have in one's corner. However, a career in law wasn't always Leigh's plan. Having enjoyed her history classes at TFS, Leigh went on to take a BA in History. After graduation, she assisted at a legal aid clinic, where she became inspired by the lawyers' genuine commitment to their clients. She decided then to enrol in law school. While there, she began working in a student legal clinic helping refugees. Leigh found her calling and has never looked back. She earned a law degree from the University of Toronto and was called to the bar in 2004. She joined Jackman (now Jackman Nazami) & Associates prior to establishing her own practice.
Although Leigh was inspired by the dedicated team of legal aid lawyers, she credits her TFS education for preparing her for the challenges of law school in general and for her area of the law in particular. "My time at TFS was rare and special. For a while, I was part of this small, personal environment where the teachers really cared about students' well-being. We felt that what we had to say mattered. I believe that gave us the confidence to pursue our own interests."
Leigh is grateful for the knowledge and the global perspective her IB experience provided. "A TFS education exposes you to history, cultures and politics, and teaches you to think critically and independently. It's surprising how many key decision-makers lack critical thinking skills — skills that every TFS student possesses." But being able to attend a school such as TFS is a privilege, an educational opportunity many will never have, she adds. "Make the most of it," she advises current TFS students.
For Leigh, that means giving back and doing good work that benefits others. "I think it is important to appreciate what we have and try to turn it into actions somehow. Even if the actions seem small, they can make a real difference, as they are actions that otherwise wouldn't have been done. Incorporate your TFS education into your life in a meaningful way." Lawyer, social justice advocate and humanitarian, Leigh Salsberg exemplifies the TFS values of excellence and leadership. Modest and unassuming, however, Leigh will simply tell you that she counts herself lucky to be working with people from all over the world and from all walks of life.