A practice in the service of Canadian culture

English closed captions available.

Tariq Qureshi, I am a Senior Counsel with the Department of Justice, at the Legal Services Unit of the Department of Canadian Heritage. I am originally from Montreal. I came to Ottawa to study law at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law.

I didn’t really have a particular area of practice that I was interested in until I took a course in communications law. That’s when I realized that the area I wanted to practice in was broadcasting and telecommunications.

Naturally, when I was looking for an internship, I focused on firms that practiced in the field and, by chance, in the corridors of the law school, I saw a small poster for an internship at the CRTC legal services, the CRTC being the tribunal that regulates the industry. I thought to myself “this is the perfect place to intern”. So I applied and, fortunately, I got an internship at the CRTC. I stayed at the CRTC for a couple of years, and then I made the jump to the Department of Justice when I joined the legal services of Canadian Heritage to do broadcast law. I was exposed to a domain that I was even more passionate about than communications law: intellectual property law. My primary area of practice is copyright law.

The mandate of the Minister of Canadian Heritage is very broad and varied. It covers areas such as official languages, multiculturalism, sport in Canada and cultural industries, an area I am particularly passionate about. So as legal counsel, along with nine other lawyers, we provide all legal advice to this client department.

If your main area of interest is copyright law, working in the legal services unit of Canadian Heritage is the place to be.

On a day-to-day basis, my practice is directed primarily towards the copyright branch, that is to say, providing all the legal advice they need to establish copyright policy in Canada. This extends to providing legal advice at the international level, Canada’s copyright obligations, assisting with policy development, drafting legislation, amendments to the law, as well as all sorts of issues concerning interpretation and the general framework in Canada regarding copyright.

The advantage of the Department of Justice is that it is an extremely large department with a wide range of practice opportunities in the area of intellectual property and copyright in particular.

There are the legal services of Canadian Heritage; the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development also has a legal service unit with an intellectual property group. Beyond the Department of Justice, within the government, there are other organizations that have a very specific area of responsibility for intellectual property and copyright.

I am thinking, in particular, of the Copyright Board, which has its own legal services unit that advises an administrative tribunal. Beyond the practice of law, legal experience can be applied not only at the level of legal practice, but also in the policy areas within the department.

Eighty per cent of my clients have legal training and have even practiced in the field, but generally speaking, the areas are extremely varied, starting with international negotiations, advancing Canadian policy at the international level, such as negotiating treaties. At the domestic level, following legislative developments before the courts, interpreting the law, interacting with rights holders, understanding their problems, working closely with clients who are extremely sophisticated, who sometimes know the legislative framework much better than the lawyers who work in the legal service unit – this makes for an extremely dynamic and interesting work environment.

The arts and culture sector employs nearly 655,000 people in Canada and generates over $56 billion in economic activity. It is an industry that offers many opportunities for lawyers interested in areas such as film and video, broadcasting, music, publishing and the performing arts.

Mr. Tariq Qureshi, Senior Counsel at the Department of Justice, is one of those lawyers working in the cultural industries sector. He actively contributes to the development and implementation of public policies that support the development of Canadian culture. He provides legal advice to his federal public service clients in a variety of highly specialized areas such as communications law and intellectual property.

Mr. Qureshi shares his reflections on his journey since attending the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. He offers inspiring advice about career opportunities within the federal government for lawyers with an interest in copyright law and, most importantly, a passion for Canadian culture.

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