Malliha Wilson, a Senior Partner at Nava Wilson LLP in Toronto, Ontario, will often be described as a Tamil-Canadian lawyer who followed in the footsteps of her Grandfather S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, a proud Ceylon Tamil lawyer, politician, and Member of Parliament. However, despite her strong background—her father was also an author and historian of Tamil ethnicity—Malliha Wilson proves to be much more than that description. Here are five ways that Malliha Wilson is more, much more, than a lawyer.
1. She is a human rights activist
Malliha Wilson was called to the bar in 1983, and by 1987 was already set to work as both a human rights activist and a counsel for the rights of all people in Canada. Taking on the role of Counsel for the Ministry of Government Services, Ms. Wilson was involved in the complex litigation role of the State in rights-based issues, and cut her teeth on how to legally approach litigation that led to “reconciliation.” From her time as lead lawyer for the Temagami and Mississauga land claims negotiations, the relatively new law practitioner was able to steer the conversation to ethics and the rights of the First Nation citizens of the country.
Today, Malliha continues to fight for the Canadian government to hold human rights abusers accountable, lobbying for the use of the Magnitsky Act to ensure Canada’s business is not conducted with countries that continually ignore them. Currently, she serves on the boards of the Human Rights Watch, International Justice Circle, and is an editor on the Philippe Kirsch Institute Global Justice Journal, ensuring that human rights are enjoyed by Canadians, and around the world.
2. She is a proud Tamil-Canadian
The Civil War in Sri Lanka began at the same time that Malliha was called to the bar, but there was a lot of unrest leading up to its initial outbreak. As a result of hostilities, the number of Tamil’s in Greater Toronto has risen from less than 150 in 1983 to several thousand.
Despite his work to bring non-violent resolution and a peaceable solution to tensions in Sri Lanka, Malliha’s grandfather passed away in 1977 at which protests and fighting started to become destructive. Malliha, who had spent summers with her maternal grandparents, would go on to say that her family “had to get out” of Sri Lanka.
However, her time in the country leading up to war stayed with her and set the foundation of her approaches to representing ethnic minorities in Canada.
3. She was the Assistant Deputy Attorney General
To be the Assistant Deputy Attorney General of the Government of Ontario is one thing—which Malliha Wilson was between 2008 and 2016—but to be the first visible ethnic minority to hold the role is an impressive feat. For Malliha to hold office was a huge reassurance to the Tamil community in Canada, particularly to women, which made it possible for other people of ethnic minority groups to be inspired and follow.
4. She was a Special Legal Advisor at IMCO
The Investment Management Corporation of Ontario (IMCO) is an independent company that ensures that the public-sector have access to high-quality investment advice and management. After her term as ADAG concluded in 2016, Malliha moved into a position as Special Legal Advisor and was thus responsible for bridging the gap between deserving public institutions, and large sums of money.
5. She believes in the Labour Law
Though her current role is with Nava Wilson LLP, Malliha Wilson’s experience and roles have often seen her sitting on the supreme court as part of high-profile cases regarding the Labour Law of Canada, representing the workers themselves. She has also written many articles and opinions on how the workforce of the country should be treated with fairness.
From humble beginnings to a senior partner and an impressive body of work in between, it is clear that Malliha Wilson is much more than a lawyer.