By: Rocelle Esteban, Staff Writer
MPP Roman Baber was interviewed for the “Justice in Pieces” series and shared his experiences and story in law and politics. He is a Member of the Provincial Parliament for York Centre, elected in June 2018. MPP Baber is a lawyer, called to the Ontario Bar in 2006 and practiced in the areas of insurance and commercial litigation prior to his election.
Background and his Law Practice
Born in the Soviet Union, and living in Israel when he was young, MPP Baber came from humble means. He and his family moved to Canada when he was 15 and was fortunate to gain the great Canadian equalizer of education and decided to go into law school. He has practiced law for 12 years before his election.
When asked about what brought him into law, he answered the in the following manner: First it is helping people. He believes that the main driver of what legal professionals do is to get people through what is often a challenging situation. Second is he believes that the legal system is the pinnacle of civilization. He further notes that if something wrong happens, there is always a resolution, and we should see for that resolution to rectify what is wrong.
Lastly, understanding the legal system makes a person more worldly. It provides you with background and knowledge of business, politics, and other areas that interest you.
Running your Own Practice vs. Working at a Law Firm
In the interview, MPP Baber was asked about the difference in his experience having his own law firm and working for a firm. He started by encouraging students to go practice on their own, especially when you have a few years of experience on your belt.
He further said that being a legal professional does not mean that you must know it all. However, because your client is entitled to quality representation, you cannot be negligent. You must make sure that you acknowledge that you may not know something, and get advice from people.
“The key is to learn,” he said. During the first few years, it is important to gain experience, and it may be through employment. Find a mentor who can give you advice, so you can feel confident enough to go on your own and do private practice. MPP Baber encourages students, especially those who have an entrepreneurial spirit, to go and start their own practice once they have gained enough experience.
Getting into Politics
When asked about his decision to run for office, he joked, “what do you call a lawyer that goes bad? A Member of Parliament.” MPP Baber said that he always had the affinity to run for public office, as he genuinely feels the need to serve his community and the public and he encourages everyone the same.
He compared this decision to see a banana peel on the street. There are some people walking who would just walk around it and some would pick it up and throw it in the garbage to eliminate the chances of an accident. He further commented that if one has the ability and skills to help other people, then they should.
He also believes that his experiences coming from the private sector can be valuable to the government and he wants to use the benefits of those experiences to serve his community.
Standing Committee on Justice Policy
In the interview, MPP Baber was asked about the Standing Committee on Justice Policy and his role. He notes that in his capacity as Chair of the Committee, his role is to be impartial and he follows what transpires throughout the process.
The Standing Committee on Justice Policy is where bills, relating to justice or correction, or general government legislation as well as child or animal welfare, which are generally referred to as ‘Justice and Protection’, go to before they become a law. This is where witnesses appear and testify before the committee on how they feel about certain things about the bill, where different stakeholders are also involved.
MPP Baber shared that they have done wonderful work in the past year where they have passed considerable and monumental legislation.
MPP Baber was also asked about how the current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting his job and reaching out to his constituents. He acknowledged that everyone is impacted, not only his government but people and business within his community. He further said that this unprecedented situation has been difficult. Whatever is seen in other institutions is seen in governments as well.
Despite the challenges, he said that everyone needs to continue working, helping, and supporting each other to protect the health and safety of Ontarians.
When asked about what he has learned in this pandemic, MPP Baber shared a couple of lessons. First is the indirect impact on the government where they had to operate smarter, more efficiently, and adaptive in a brief time e.g., the filing system has been modernized in the last 8 months more than in the last 18 years.
The other thing he further shared is that he learned to encourage discussion coming from different views, as we do not know enough about this virus. Free discussion should be encouraged despite how this pandemic has been heavily politicized, and rely on fair information in making decisions.
He has also commented on the camaraderie and the non-partisanship that he felt among all the parties. Everyone has come together and put politics aside to serve the people throughout this pandemic.
The Toronto Raptors
Roman Baber is known to be a big NBA fan, particularly the Toronto Raptors. With all the movements that happened in the offseason, he was asked about how he felt about these movements and trades.
He feels that the team is going through a rebuilding process this season, but said that he is still encouraged by their ability to rebuild the team, and he has complete faith in the Raptor’s organization and led by their General Manager Masai Ujiri and their head coach Nick Nurse to leading the team to greatness again.
In the interview, he fondly shared about the time when the NBA started a team in Toronto in 1995 and watched his first NBA pre-game hosted by Toronto, played against the New York Knicks.
He is hopeful that sports will be back in the city of Toronto after this pandemic blows over.
MPP Baber’s Words of Wisdom
MPP Baber provided some advice to the students. Those in the legal profession are entrusted with the privilege and access to justice to help people who are going through challenging times, and with the privilege comes responsibility. MPP Baber presented these responsibilities on two points:
First, responsibility to clients; Clients trust you to do everything possible to help them. Make sure to seek advice, find a mentor who can also help you discharge honest and quality service to your clients, and impact their lives positively.
Second, the responsibility for the rule of law. “We are a nation of laws,” MPP Baber said. He emphasized how the legal system cannot be jeopardized and should remain intact to ensure justice. People in the legal profession should safeguard that.
He further shared one of the lessons given by his mentor, “If it doesn’t feel right, trust your gut.” This means, do not break the law, and do not compromise the justice system.
MPP Baber concluded the interview by advising students who want to be involved in politics to try it as it is a good networking opportunity, and a great opportunity to make a difference.