University of the Fraser Valley

Catching up with Justice Shirzad Ahmed — 2011 Distinguished Alumni award winner

Catching up with Justice Shirzad Ahmed — 2011 Distinguished Alumni award winner

Justice Shirzad Ahmed. Photo: Balfour

A former UFV student from the university-college era is now a Federal Court judge.

Justice Shirzad Ahmed was appointed to the Federal Court on September 14, 2017.

The Federal Court is Canada’s national trial court. It deals with cases in a broad range of areas of federal jurisdiction, including national security law, intellectual property law, maritime law, aboriginal law, and administrative law, which includes the vast area of immigration law.

Justice Ahmed’s connection to UFV goes back to the early 1990s when what was then called the University College of the Fraser Valley was just beginning to grant degrees.

Justice Ahmed knows what it’s like to be a refugee — stateless and far away from family and friends. As a young adult, he left Southern Kurdistan, an area that suffered great oppression under the regime of Saddam Hussein and remains mired in conflict. He resided in Italy before immigrating to Canada.

Justice Ahmed launched his post-secondary studies at UFV (then UCFV) as a mature student in 1992, finishing his BA at Simon Fraser and earning his law degree at the University of Calgary.

He remembers his time at UFV fondly.

“UFV is very close to my heart because of the people,” he said.

“The best education I received was at Fraser Valley because of the amazing faculty members and the incredible access we had to them,” recalled Justice Ahmed upon receiving UFV’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011. “It was a very community-oriented place, with small classrooms and a wide range of amazing students, including many mature students. I made friends for life there, both among the students and the faculty and administration. The work was very hard there. The faculty had very high standards. People think about universities such as UBC and Dalhousie as prestigious universities, but sometimes the best university experience is right in your own backyard.”

As his career has progressed the university has honoured him several times over, first as a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, then as one of the Top 40 Alumni chosen to mark UFV’s 40th anniversary in 2014. In 2015, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree (honoris causa) for his dedication in defence of human rights.

Prior to his appointment to the Federal Court, Justice Ahmed was a sole practitioner in Calgary, practising exclusively in the areas of immigration, refugee, human rights, and civil liberties.

Justice Ahmed is dedicated to the pursuit of social justice. He is a strong advocate for the protection of human rights internationally, and is invested in mentoring students and junior members of the legal profession in the areas of immigration, refugee, human rights and civil liberties such that Canada will continue to set the standard for global human rights practices.

He strongly believes in the importance of community service. He acted as a student advocate for students in need at both UFV and SFU. He served as an appointed community representative member of the UFV Board of Governors; and served as a member of the Board of Directors for Fig Tree Foundation, a Calgary-based non-profit organization seeking to assist and coordinate international humanitarian relief.

In 2009, Justice Ahmed was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence, Alberta’s highest award. In 2008, he received the Canadian Bar Association and the Law Society of Alberta Distinguished Service Award for Pro Bono Legal Service.