lawyer, Jacqueline Swaisland

2016 Precedent Setter Award Winner: Jacqueline Swaisland

Meet the immigration lawyer who's made it her mission to help refugees — for free
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lawyer, Jacqueline Swaisland

Jacqueline Swaisland

Associate, Lorne Waldman Professional Corporation
Called to bar in 2008

When the heartbreaking photo of three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi surfaced last summer in the midst of his country’s refugee crisis, friends and colleagues turned to Jacqueline Swaisland to find out how they could help. “I didn’t know,” admits the 35-year-old immigration and refugee lawyer. “My husband said, ‘If anybody can step up here, it’s you.’”

He was right. By October, Swaisland had co-founded the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program, now a nationwide network of 1,200 lawyers ready to help any Canadian who wants to sponsor a refugee to come to the country — all pro bono. In Toronto alone, they’ve helped more than 1,000 refugees.

Swaisland joined Lorne Waldman Professional Corporation, a top immigration firm known for its commitment to pro bono work, in 2009. “She’s brilliant,” says founding partner Lorne Waldman. “Jackie had lots of other opportunities and she chose to work in a field where the remuneration is not nearly as high as it might have been given her skill set.” After all, she is a Fulbright scholar with a master’s degree from Harvard.Jackie Swaisland

For Swaisland, helping those in need has always been a top priority. “Refugees don’t come with bags of money,” she says. “If they’re able to secure a job, they’re often in cleaning positions at minimum wage.” Close to 40 percent of her work is pro bono — even all six Supreme Court appearances.

The work can also be draining. Clients come from war-torn countries where seeing family members shot or blown up is common. “I can’t not be affected,” says Swaisland. But going home to her two-year-old daughter — who adorably yells “running!” whenever she bolts away from her mother — is a reliable remedy. “It’s very joyful to be with her and hear her giggle.”


Precedent Setter Awards 2016Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.



Photography by Ian Patterson, hair and makeup by Jessica Haisinger, shot on location at Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie.