Benjamin J. Trister
Prior to my retirement, I was a partner at Canada's largest law firm, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, where I was National Coordinator of the firm’s Business Immigration Group. I represented many of the world’s leading companies, particularly in the entertainment and technology sectors. My celebrity clients have won Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Grammy Awards and Juno Awards. I am also a Chartered Director, having earned this professional accreditation from The Directors College.
A more detailed history...
I obtained my Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Windsor and my Juris Doctor degree (cum laude) from the University of Detroit. I was called to the Ontario Bar in 1989. I retain membership in The Law Society of Upper Canada which certified me as a Specialist in Immigration Law. I was named one of “The Leading 500 Lawyers in Canada”, and the leading lawyer in my field, by Lexpert and American Lawyer Media. I was listed in the Lexpert directory as one of the three lawyers in Canada most frequently recommended for Canadian immigration matters. I also appeared in "An International Who's Who of Corporate Immigration Lawyers".
During my legal career, my clients included many of the world’s largest corporations in a wide range of sectors. Among them were companies that are household names in the information technology, financial, entertainment, cosmetics, household products, and construction sectors. In the entertainment field, for instance, I represented the major American film studios. I have also represented many Academy Award and Tony Award winning actors, directors, and other professionals in movie, television, and theatre production, as well Grammy Award and Juno Award winning recording artists. Because of my extensive work in the entertainment field, I was the subject of an A&E and Star TV networks’ biography and a full page profile in The Globe and Mail newspaper.
I have held virtually every senior volunteer position available to me in Canadian immigration and citizenship law. I served as the Newsletter Editor, Vice Chairperson, Chairperson and Past-chairperson of the Ontario Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Law Section. I was a member of the OBA’s Council for several years, and served in the positions of Member-At-Large, Secretary, Treasurer, Vice Chairperson, Chairperson, and Past Chairperson of the Canadian Bar Association’s National Citizenship and Immigration Law Section, and on the CBA’s Council and National Sections Council. I also held the positions of Secretary, Treasurer, and Vice Chairperson of the Canada Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. I served as Vice Chairperson of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association’s Labour, Employment and Nationality committee. I was also a member of AILA’s free trade and border committees, the Executive of the CBA’s National Privacy Law Section, and the Federal Court Bench and Bar Liaison Committee. In addition, I served in the capacities of Chairperson of the Canadian Employee Relocation Council’s Immigration Subcommittee and Vice President of the International Trade Club of Toronto.
I was a leading author and speaker on immigration and citizenship matters. My books included “Citizenship” and “Work Permits and Visas”, both published by Carswell. My editorial responsibilities included “The Canada-U.S. Business Immigration Handbook” published by Carswell, “Canadian Immigration” published by International Law Office, “Canada’s Immigration and Citizenship Bulletin” published by Canada Law Book, and “Canada Immigration” published by ILW.com. I was also a Fellow at the Centre for International Legal Studies. In addition, I wrote editorials for the National Post and comments for The Globe and Mail and The Huffington Post, as well as other local, national, and international publications. I regularly lectured at conferences of the Canadian Bar Association, the Ontario Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the International Bar Association, the Inter-Pacific Bar Association, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Institute for International Research, the Canadian Institute, the Canadian Employee Relocation Council, and the Centre for International Legal Studies. Further, I lectured at the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University and the University of Windsor Law School.
I worked with industry to improve Canada’s immigration and citizenship laws and national security in the capacities of Chairperson of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Immigration Policy Task Force and Chairperson of the Coalition for a Secure and Trade-Efficient Border’s Security and Immigration Committee.
I appeared before committees of the House of Commons and Senate on numerous occasions to address citizenship, immigration, security, electoral reform and privacy law matters. While I was Chairperson of the Canadian Bar Association’s National Citizenship and Immigration Law Section, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was adopted.
At the request of the Canadian Government, I organized a cross-border symposium for government and industry dealing with border issues in the post-9/11 environment. This program was hosted by the Canadian Consulate General in Detroit. I also participated in the cross-border industry consultations organized by the Canadian and American governments. I have met with senior bureaucrats in both countries to discuss border and security issues on behalf of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Coalition for a Secure and Trade-Efficient Border.
Former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, The Hon. Denis Coderre, appointed me as a Co-Chairperson of the Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Regulation of Immigration Consultants. This Committee’s report was adopted by Minister Coderre. I later served as the Chairperson of the regulatory authority for immigration consultants, The Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants.
I conceived of, and a client and my law firm launched, the first immigration class action lawsuit in Canada and, as a result, the rights of more than two hundred thousand immigration applicants were protected.
For many years, I served in the position of Honorary Consul for the Republic of Seychelles in Canada.
I have almost forty years of community involvement and volunteer work experience dating back to the late 1970s when I began working in the Emergency Measures Organization (“EMO”) in Québec. I graduated from the Emergency Medical Technician (“EMT”) Program and was a volunteer EMT and rescue firefighter in the City of Cote St. Luc. At the age of 19, I became the youngest Lieutenant in the EMO. In addition to working at the EMO, I was a volunteer EMT for the Royal Victoria Hospital, serving on its ambulances. I also qualified as an Instructor in St. John’s Ambulance First Aid.
I became involved in politics during the 1980 referendum campaign, and served as a public speaker alongside well-recognized and respected members of the Quebec Legislative Assembly including former Québec Premier Daniel Johnson and former Minister John Ciaccia. I also served on the provincial riding executive for the Liberal Party in Mont-Royal and participated in several provincial elections as a volunteer.
I attended McGill University where I majored in economics and political science. I served as the Vice President-Finance of the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society and the Vice President – External of the university’s Students’ Society. These positions involved membership in many committees and interaction with the university’s governing bodies. In addition, I served as the first Chairperson of the student newspaper, The Tribune, which is still in existence today. I was awarded the Scarlet Key by the university in recognition of my significant contribution to the university.
At the University of Windsor, I volunteered at Community Legal Aid and chaired meetings of the Student Law Society.
I was a founding Co-chairperson of the Toronto Heschel School, an elementary and junior high school that now has approximately 300 students. I served on the Board of the school for approximately five years.
I served as the founding Chairperson of Theatre 20, on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of Canada’s largest contemporary theatre company, The Canadian Stage Company, on the Board of Directors of the National Ballet School, The Nature Conservancy of Canada (Ontario), Fair Vote Canada, and the One World Ballet Foundation, on the Board of Trustees of The McMichael Canadian Art Collection (an Ontario provincial government agency), and on the Board of Management of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts (an appointment by Toronto’s City Council). I also served on the Board of Directors and as the President and Past President of Theatre Scarborough, Vice President, President, Past President and Artistic Producer of Scarborough Music Theatre and as the Treasurer of Scarborough Players.
I founded Canadians for Justice (which deals with electoral reform and corporate malfeasance) and The Equality Trust Canada (which increases public awareness of the impact of income inequality on Canadian society). I remain the founding Chairperson of the Parkdale Community Food Bank and Past-Chairperson of Theatre 20. I am the Treasurer of Hospital Diagnostic Imaging Repository Services, an important contributor to the health of Ontarians. I am Secretary of The Shoebox Project for Shelters which provides personal care items to women in shelters. I am also a Director of The Climate Reality Project Canada where I am a Climate Leader, Mentor and social media contributor.
I am a recipient of the Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The medal was awarded to Canadians who have made a significant contribution to their fellow citizens, their community, or to Canada. In addition, the Canadian Heraldic Authority, under the auspices of the Governor General of Canada, approved a Grant of Arms to me. This too was in recognition of my contributions to Canadian society.