Maliha Azhar: Living Between Two Places

Maliha Azhar is living between two countries – Canada and her native Pakistan. She came to Canada with her family in July 2008 in the Provincial Nominee Program. Her parents wanted Maliha and her two younger sisters to get a good education and have more options for the future. Having earned a Bachelor of Law in the UK and a Master’s of Law in the US, she was expecting to work as a lawyer in Canada.

But she was in for a shock. “I was told to study all over again. I was so shattered.” Maliha worked as a volunteer at the Halifax Refugee Clinic doing client research, translating, and helping clients do everything from filling in a form to figuring out a bus route.

As a way of getting into the system, she also had a part-time job working the phones during the 2009 provincial election campaign. She couldn’t find full-time work, so she returned to Pakistan where she married. Having earlier registered with ISANS, she received an email asking her to participate in a survey by the Nova Scotia Bar Society. “No one had had such a bad experience,” Maliha recounts, explaining that she should have been told to only do six exams – professional responsibility, ethics and four on Canadian law. She was relieved to hear this, but was settled in Pakistan.

Her husband, also a lawyer, applied to immigrate to Canada as a skilled worker, while Maliha returned to Canada with their baby. Because the exams are expensive and take a lot of preparation time, she continued to look for work. At ISANS she registered in the Practice Interview program. “I went through the process thinking I might find a position in a law office or organization.” She met with an Employment Specialist she describes as “very encouraging and amazing,” and found a position as program assistant at the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia. “I’m really happy. I love my job and the experience. People are wonderful. My manager is like a mentor.”

The little things you need, someone will tell you how things are done here, the quickest way to find what you want. I always recommend ISANS.

Maliha enjoys the not-for-profit sector and since the job is part time she is able to spend more time with her two-year-old baby, Ira. But with her husband still in Pakistan, life is far from perfect. “It’s a huge sacrifice to be able to live here,” she says, quickly adding that it will be worth it when the family is together.

Maliha says several family members have used ISANS services. Her father has attended workshops and seminars and her sister is a volunteer. “My mother loved ESL here. She was so excited doing her homework.”

Maliha says she would have been lost without ISANS. “The little things you need, someone will tell you how things are done here, the quickest way to find what you want. I always recommend ISANS.” And one day she just might get that opportunity to complete her exams and work as a lawyer.