by Meredith Dault
December 7, 2011
Roy Jahchan was eight years old when he first began to develop an interest in law. “I was watching the Quebec referendum on my television in Montreal,” he recalls. “It’s a memory that’s still with me.”
At the time, Jahchan and his family had only recently moved to ‘La Belle Provence’ (they immigrated to Sarnia from Bahrain when he was three), and he was still trying to learn French. “Coming from a Lebanese family, everyone has political opinions,” says Jahchan with a smile. Using his new language skills, he started to decipher the writing on the political signs he saw popping up in his neighbourhood, slowly establishing a child’s grasp on what was happening in his newly adopted country -- and the role that the law had to play in it. “I really started to understand the cultural tensions,” he explains.
After pursuing an undergraduate degree in political science at McGill, Jahchan says he felt fairly certain he was ready for law school. But instead of rolling directly into the next degree, he landed a job with the Federal Government, working for a year as a program officer for the temporary foreign workers program. “If a company is trying to hire a foreign worker, I had to analyze the labour market to make sure that there wasn’t a Canadian who could do that job. I had to ensure people were getting a fair wage, and that the environment was up to the right standards.”
Jahchan says he enjoyed learning about all kinds of businesses, while seeing how they interacted with both the government and with laws. “I realized the intersection between policy and law, and that the law is built on a policy bedrock, and that regulation cuts across so many areas of law -- from securities regulation, to land-use planning, to foreign workers.”
Which is why, when it came to professional training, Jahchan says the combined program in public administration and law at Queen’s was an ideal fit. “I’m interested in the interaction between law and policy, and in the public and private sectors,” he says, “and I figured this program was the best way to study both sides of that.”
In the combined program, Jahchan will be able to earn both a Master’s of Public Administration and a law degree in a period of about three years. While he admits it’s a specialized combination, Jahchan is confident the program will give him the training he needs to open all sorts of doors.
Currently in his second year of the program, Jahchan has already polished off his MPA (the focus of first year) and has embarked on the requirements for the law degree. He spent last summer studying Public International Law at the Queen's Bader International Study Centre on Herstmonceux castle estate in England, where he earned enough extra credits to get caught up to those students pursuing a conventional law degree.(“The castle was fantastic,” he adds. “I can’t say enough about the castle!”)
When he’s not focused on his academic work, Jahchan has been offering his time as the sole student on the Principal’s Commission on Mental Health -- a commission working to create a report with recommendations for how to improve student mental health on campus.
He says it’s been a great learning experience so far. “It’s been fantastic to see the different elements and aspects involved in developing a framework and to improving the system so that when something goes wrong, we can ensure we have the resources in place,” he says, explaining that the strategy is also aimed at developing preventative measures around mental health. Jahchan says he’s already learned a lot. “It’s heart wrenching sometimes,” he says. “You really see the importance of what you’re doing. You’re making a real difference in people’s lives.”
Jahchan laughs when he thinks about how rapidly his time at Queen’s is flying past. “When you’re busy and you’re enjoying what you do, time does go quickly!” He’s planning to article after completing his JD degree, and then carry on to work in the Public Service or in law.
“The program really does give you a holistic view of the issues facing society and the pressures that may be facing a client in a legal situation,” he says. “It has helped me understand the law side of things, and the policy side of things, and to attend lots of talks by influential people who are inspiring.”
When it comes to his own future, Jahchan is staying optimistic and open-minded. “I am just waiting to see what happens, waiting to see what this experience is like, and what I might enjoy a lot, and what I might enjoy less!”