Bencher Profile Series: Sony Ahluwalia
Having lived on three continents and practised law across Canada, Sony Ahluwalia brings a rich and diverse perspective to the Bencher table as he begins his first term.
Born and raised in Uganda and later moving to London, England with his family, it wasn’t until high school when Sony relocated to Canada to pursue post-secondary education.
“I first came to Alberta and sort of wandered from there,” he laughs.
Sony completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of Regina before moving further east to Ontario where he completed his Bachelor of Laws at the University of Windsor. From there, he returned to England for a brief stint where he worked in conjunction with Amnesty International before returning to Canada once again, this time settling near the opposite coast in Golden, British Columbia. It was here that he was initially called to the bar in 1996 and eventually opened his own practice, only the third one in the small town.
“It was a mixed practice given the rural location, so I did everything from family to corporate to wills and estates to real estate law. I also did a lot of pro bono work during that time for women and children, as access was an issue within the local community.”
Sony was later called to the Alberta bar in 2004 and moved to Edmonton where he had the opportunity to work with the Federal Department of Justice as counsel in Indian Residential Schools (IRS) litigation. He worked on the resolution side of the process, leading the dispute resolution group and preparing opinions for the resolution of IRS claims.
“The privilege of learning from the Elders, travelling to the different reserves and listening to the stories was more than I can express. It’s one thing to have reviewed and read all of the documents from the schools, but it’s another to actually hear the firsthand experiences of the men and women who attended these residential schools,” he says.
After completing his work there, Sony then moved once again to Ontario where he worked with the Department of Federal Affairs in Ottawa on two national security inquiries headed by Commissioners O’Connor and Iacobucci, respectively. Finally, Sony moved back to Edmonton in 2007 where he joined the Crown Prosecutor’s Office and has stayed since. He currently serves as an Assistant Chief Crown prosecutor and recently completed his Master of Laws from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.
It is with this wealth of experience that Sony comes to the Bencher table now. Yet despite his impressive background, Sony still approaches the position with humility and intrigue.
“Community service has always been at the core of my being. I have been so fortunate to gain from the community and I just think it’s my responsibility to give back. This opportunity to marry community service with my vocation really intrigued me.”
The timing of this term also seemed right for Sony when he initially decided to run for Bencher.
“I wanted to make sure that I could give the time that I needed to, and waiting until now helped me to focus in on some of the concerns that were important to me.”
Having mentored many young students and professionals at various points in his career, competence, support and understanding early on in a legal career became one of these key concerns.
“How do we ensure as a profession that we support these people coming in? I see other professions and the support they provide, and I can see the great work the Law Society has done so far, but I think more could be done. It is my responsibility to add my voice to provide another point of view for the Law Society’s work in this key area.”
As outlined in our Strategic Plan, wellness is also a critical piece to lawyer competence in our profession. This is something that Sony, too, has always had a passion for.
“Within competence and wellness, it has become very important for me that we don’t hide our difficulties. Only recently in my experience and being in this profession have we started opening up about mental illness, and more so about mental illness that has either been instigated or at least fuelled by the work that we do. How we react and support lawyers struggling in this area can make a powerful difference,” he says.
Given his personal experience living in various areas of the world and his professional experience dealing with victims, accused and witnesses from different walks of life, Sony also understands the importance of introducing diversity to positions of power.
“Diversity in organizations always provides a better representation of not just the people involved, but I think a better representation of the ideas and thought processes in our community. In my experience in Regina, B.C. and Ontario, including at university, I always found that I learned so much more from diverse perspectives and conversations.”
When asked about our mandate to protect the public interest and how his work as a Bencher relates to that, Sony’s answer is simple.
“We have to think about what it means to protect the interest of the public and how we achieve that. For me, the very things that we’re attending to now in the five-year strategic plan are addressing exactly that. It’s addressing our role with a purpose and not just engaging a purpose without meaning.”