Q&A With Peter Edelmann
Peter Edelmann practises criminal defence and immigration law in Vancouver with Edelmann and Company. He regularly appears before various levels of the federal and provincial courts as well as all the divisions of the Immigration and Refugee Board, and is an active member of the national executive of the Immigration Section of the Canadian Bar Association.
Peter teaches in the UBC Certificate in Immigration: Laws, Policies and Procedures program. We sat down with Peter to talk about his experiences as an instructor with UBC Continuing Studies.
UBC Continuing Studies: What motivated you to teach immigration law at UBC Continuing Studies?
Peter Edelmann: It's important for students to understand the impact of the work that they are doing. There's a lot of great work to be done, but it's a complicated field that's important to understand well.
UBCCS: What do you see as the benefits of the program?
PE: It's a very practical, nuts and bolts program about the functioning of the immigration system in Canada that you wouldn't learn in law school. Even if you're not an immigration consultant, understanding the refugee process, for example, helps you work in that community. You can learn enough to know where to send someone for advice.
UBCCS: One of your areas of specialization is refugee claims. What distinguishes refugee claims from other areas of immigration law?
PE: A genuine refugee risks death and torture in their home country. The stakes are high, and the consequences of losing a case are great.
It's a privilege and responsibility to work with refugees; you see a very personal side of the people you work with. You’re often dealing with people who are severely traumatized. It’s not a role to be taken lightly.
UBCCS: What has your experience been teaching students?
PE: It's been a worthwhile experience. I'm constantly amazed at the number of people who want to work in this area.
I enjoy the interaction with the students. Students often have a personal story, and they come to class with different intentions. Many work for organizations that support refugees. I've also had paralegals and lawyers as students.
For me, it's one thing to understand immigration law; it’s another to explain and interpret the law. By distilling down the information, it forces me to clarify my thinking. This has helped me when I’m standing in front of a judge – who may not have expertise in immigration law – and explain why a case is important.
UBCCS: What has been the most rewarding aspect of teaching for you?
PE: I have seen students go on to work for organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and SOS, as well as local housing programs and even school boards.
I feel like I've done my job when a student comes to me and tells me they understand the importance of this work, and that they have a new appreciation for the work that they and others are doing.