Celebrating Asian Heritage Month (May): With Alex Yiu

Asian Heritage Month is an opportunity to learn more about the diverse history and culture of Asian Canadian communities and acknowledge the many achievements and contributions that people of Asian origin have made to Canada.

This year, the theme of this month is “Preserving the Past, Embracing the Future: Amplifying Asian Canadian Legacy.” This theme celebrates the contributions from people of Asian origin in Canada and their rich heritage, while also acknowledging their voices, stories, and achievements. In recognition of Asian Heritage Month, the LESA blog would like to spotlight an avid LESA volunteer and board member, Alex Yiu.

Journey in Law

Alex’s journey in law began with his father, Bosco Yiu, who was the driving force behind his decision to pursue a career in law. In 1976, his father graduated from the LLB program at the University of Alberta and in 1977 he was admitted to the Alberta Bar. Alex fondly remembers the stories that his father would tell him and his brothers about his days as an energetic law student wanting to establish a life for himself, his mother, and his family in Canada.

I remember my father telling us that being a lawyer is an enormous privilege, that having a legal education can open many different doors, and that a lawyer’s reputation can come and go in an instant. These words have always resonated with me and ring true to this day as a member of the legal profession.” 

In 1999, Alex received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in French from the University of Alberta. In 2006, he followed his father’s example and earned his Bachelor of Laws. He was called to the Alberta Bar in 2007, and to the Yukon Bar in 2013.

Alex began his career at a mid-sized Edmonton firm. Soon after, he decided to pursue an LLM at McGill University. Alex spent two unforgettable years in Montreal, soaking in as much knowledge as possible about international human rights law, international migration law, and refugee law.

After completing his LLM, he returned to Edmonton and practiced with a small firm before joining Field Law in 2010. Alex practiced in Field’s Insurance Law Group until 2014, when he accepted a position as legal counsel to the Court of Appeal of Alberta. In 2017, he returned to private practice and joined Ackroyd LLP as a senior litigation associate. Alex is now a partner at Ackroyd, and practices primarily in civil and commercial litigation, First Nations and Métis law, administrative law, and environmental law.

Chinese Canadian Cultural Heritage

Alex is a second generation Chinese Canadian. In the early 1970s, his parents immigrated to Edmonton from Hong Kong to join several of his father’s family members in Edmonton. His background as a first-generation Chinese immigrant has profoundly shaped his identity and legal career:

“I am grateful that my parents and my grandmother taught me how to communicate in our dialect (Cantonese), the importance of respect for one’s elders; and, instilled in me the importance of perseverance and hard work. Who would have thought that exactly 30 years after my father’s admission to the Bar in 1977 that I would be presented by my father to (then) Chief Justice Allan Wachowich of the Court of (then) Queen’s Bench for admission to the Alberta Bar. This is a moment that I will never forget in my life.” 

Alex’s background has allowed him to act for clients that speak French or Cantonese as their first language. In almost every case, the moment he began to speak in either French or Cantonese with clients he could feel their anxiety diminish and their trust in his competence as their counsel increase.

Volunteering With LESA

Alex’s volunteer work with LESA and tenure as a board member provides him with tremendous satisfaction and gratification. He enjoys being able to give back to the legal community and “pay it forward” through his contributions. One of the main reasons he is involved with LESA is to help improve legal professionals’ access to timely and innovative continuing legal education programming. Alex remains dedicated to furthering LESA’s vision of legal education excellence for lawyers, articling students, and legal support staff in Alberta.

For lawyers and students early in their legal career, Alex passes on the following inspiring advice:

“First, always remember who you are. Never lose sight of your personal values and ethics no matter where your career in law takes you.  

Second, soak in as much as you can from your mentors in the profession. Your mentor also has much to learn from you. Don’t forget this. The relationships you form with your mentors will be one of the most important and essential aspects for your growth as a junior lawyer.  

Third, remember that it takes a village. Take the opportunity to absorb knowledge from not only other lawyers in your firm/organization, but also from all of your office support staff as well as the personnel at the Alberta Courts and other quasi-judicial tribunals that you may interact with in the course of your legal practice.

Lastly, adopt a wellness practice that allows you to detach from legal practice and re-charge your batteries so that you can be fully present and engaged in your interactions with your clients, the Court, and yourself.” 

Asian Heritage Month acknowledges the stories of people of Asian origin in Canada. Many thanks to Alex Yiu for his dedication to the Alberta legal profession, his time volunteering with LESA, and his willingness to work with our team on this article. For further learning on Asian Heritage Month, visit the Law Society of Alberta’s resource here.

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