June 5, 2001


Medalist blends law and social activism

Talha Syed, this year’s top law student, knew he wanted to study law when he completed his BA in political science at the University of Western Ontario. But it took him two years and a couple of continents before he arrived at UVic.

A native of Pakistan who was raised in Camrose, Alberta, Talha spent a year in Korea teaching English following his graduation. He spent another six months in South Africa volunteering as a researcher for a non governmental organization investigating police corruption, as well as helping prepare a submission to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the role of the judiciary during apartheid.

It was UVic’s reputation as a non-competitive law school that presents law in a social context that attracted him to the West Coast.

“The law faculty is outstanding. Many of the professors attempt to explain how law operates in and impacts on society. That’s crucial to understanding law. The school tries not to just turn out technicians.”

While at UVic, Syed became involved in the local activist community and worked at the school’s environmental law centre and at its legal information clinic. He’s currently spending the summer in Boston in preparation for LL.M studies at Harvard in the fall. Syed has chosen the degree’s uncommon thesis option, focusing on intellectual property and international trade. He credits reference letters from his professors for earning him a Law Foundation of B.C. Fellowship, a Canadian Bar Association Fellowship and a grant from Harvard to help cover the steep tuition.

Syed would like to teach law some day, but right now he plans to transfer his activist tendencies to the East Coast.

“I’m not opposed to the international convergence aspect of globalization, but to the anti-democratic way that policy is being developed,” he says. “Power is being taken away from political authorities and given to international tribunals and corporations. I want to be able to take part in the public debate in public policy and contribute to how social policy should go.”

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