Shortly after immigrating to Canada from South Korea as a teenager, Jennifer Roggemann had an encounter with our justice system that opened her eyes to the impact someone with her particular background, academic drive and desire to help could have on the lives of other newcomers.
“A family member got into legal trouble,” she recalls. “It was all a cultural misunderstanding, but we had to go to court.” From there, the cultural misunderstanding continued. “My father’s head was down — in embarrassment at having to be there — and the judge told him ‘not to sleep in my court.’” This led to further reprimand from their own counsel who explained angrily that they needed to get the judge on their side. Says Roggemann, “I remember thinking that if I’m ever able to speak English proficiently – if I ever become a lawyer – that would never happen.”
More than 25 years later, Roggemann, who helms Roggemann Immigration Law, a highly regarded boutique firm in Waterloo, has not only helped countless people become Canadians, through her legal acumen; she has helped them belong to a community, through her volunteer leadership.
This year, as she transitions off the Waterloo Region Immigration Partnership’s Leadership Council after nearly a decade of service, Roggemann has occasion to reflect on how its collaborative, constructive and compassionate community undertakings have made Waterloo feel like home to immigrants and refugees from across the globe.