Internship Spotlight: Taylor Douglas

My name is Taylor Douglas and I am going into my third year in Political Science at McGill University. To fit my interest in migrant justice, social issues, and legal systems, I have been interning at FW Canada, an immigration law firm. I applied for this internship hoping to acquire more legal experience, and to be able to directly help those more limited by borders. My objectives were to improve my ability to read and understand legal documents and proceedings, and synthesize that coherently, as well as learn how to work well in an office space. My internship supervisor was very helpful as far as learning, and encouraged us to ask questions as we went along in order to further our understanding of legal terminology. For the most part, my responsibilities included managing Criminal Rehabilitation files, which meant most days I read over court documents, background checks, and reference letters to get a sense of an applicant's character. These applicants would usually have low level criminal charges that caused them to be criminally inadmissible to Canada, and therefore required pardons from the Canadian government in order to facilitate border admission. However, complications within this arise due to discrepancies and differences in state law, which can sometimes lead to similar charges drawing different equivalencies within Canadian law. Therefore, applications must be tailored by state, and detail the applicant’s crime, character, and support their continued dedication to being a law abiding citizen - so as to not be a danger to Canada if they are allowed entry. In addition to writing these letters, I often picked up calls from potential clients and redirected them appropriately. I also researched and wrote articles detailing specific legal processes, especially once the COVID-19 pandemic led to significant changes in the status of the Canadian border and how Canada deals with migration.

I have postponed my paper for this course due to the accessibility of legal resources considering the state of the McGill Library. I will be completing my research paper on reform of the Canadian border and how the efficiency of these criminal pardons could be easily improved considering the high traffic we experience from the USA. With the number of immigrants that cross the Canadian border in regular circumstances, it is worthwhile to consider state laws and perhaps create more specific equivalencies to make sure justice is truly being served, and that applications can be pushed through most efficiently while maintaining the safety of Canadians. I am being supervised by Professor Mark Brawley, who has instructed me in Political Science at McGill in the area of migration the summer prior to this internship. I am also working closely with Marisa Feil, the head attorney at the law firm, to integrate her suggestions and experience into this policy reform paper.

I do think this internship has been transformative for my career path and has given me valuable insight into day to day life for lawyers in this field. I have since focused my degree to more specifically study the migrant experience and processes of immigration. It has furthered my understanding of the workings of borders and question the basic mechanisms that our borders rely on so they can be improved and provide the most just solutions for individual mobility. Considering the current pandemic, these questions have become all the more urgent.

Having funding for this internship changed a lot of things for me. Originally, I was working this internship two days a week in addition to my course load, and was paying for my own lunches and transit to work. This meant I was essentially paying a significant amount just to be able to provide work, an outcome that is less than ideal and somewhat ethically questionable. However, I genuinely enjoy the work I do at FW Canada, and am very grateful that this funding has allowed me to continue with them for as long as I have been. I hope to also be able to continue with them in the fall, as I feel at the end of each day that I have done important and meaningful work to help others. This funding also especially helped considering I lost my job at the beginning of the pandemic, and was struggling financially before the government aid packages came out.

Adapting to a remote internship was very difficult and took a lot of fun out of regular work just by eliminating facetime with colleagues. Being able to keep track of time in the early days of working remotely was very difficult for me, as nothing felt particularly urgent or real, and I had to have some hard conversations with my colleagues about how to figure things out in this context. Communication also got more difficult, as emails were missed or misread and it took longer to fix errors of miscommunication with no in-person interactions. Asking for work help changed from in-person to phone calls, which were harder to navigate and caused more chaos. Furthermore, everyone adjusting to the pace of work was difficult, as it was hard to know what was being done behind the scenes on other sides of the office. Overall, I had to learn how to get work done immediately after it was sent to me, and figure out how to ask shorter, more direct questions when something was confusing.

I would like to thank the Arts Internship Office profusely for this excellent internship and confirm that I will be continuing the work I do for FW Canada into the fall, and as long as possible.

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