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Cecil L. Rotenberg, Q.C. – Biography

Cecil was frequently referred to as the “Grandfather or Senior Statesman of Canadian immigration and Canadian immigration law.” He was called to the Ontario Bar in 1959. Cecil had the distinction of being appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario as a “Queen’s Counsel,” a senior recognition of conscientious service to clients in the capacity of advocate. The Law Society of Upper Canada certified Cecil as a “specialist in the area of immigration law.” Incredibly, Cecil was qualified to practice law in the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong, as well as in the Province of Ontario.

In 1985, he founded the Immigration Law Reporter [2], a scholarly professional law journal that deals exclusively with matters of immigration, citizenship and refugee law. The journal was acquired in 1988 by the authoritative legal publishing firm of Carswell Publications, who then appointed Cecil as its Chief Editor. He also co-founded and co-edited ImmQuest [3] with me in 2005. ImmQuest is a monthly publication that features timely and investigative articles on key citizenship, immigration and protected person issues, legislative changes and case law.  In all, Cecil authored and delivered many papers on important current issues pertaining to immigration law.

Cecil also appeared on behalf of immigration clients before both the Trial and Appellate Divisions of the Federal Court of Canada, and the Supreme Court of Canada. He was a brilliant orator and a master strategist. He participated as lead counsel in so many cases both in and out of these courts. He is in fact also referred to as “the father of the procedural fairness letter.”  Others will write to his many accomplishments in Court, as, at minimum, that is a piece in and of itself.  Some of his most notable cases include: Chirwa [4], which centered on compassionate discretion; Muliadi [5] which brought into play the principle of procedural fairness in decisions to award visas. He was also responsible for the Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Chen [6], a Federal Skilled Worker case that focused on the use of discretion in awarding visas; and Hilewitz and De Jong [7]which ensured persons seeking entry to Canada who are medically inadmissible are accorded an individualized assessment and not refused based on a generic medical condition.

When not working, Cecil enjoyed collecting antiques, particularly glass pieces; travelling; gardening; boating; fishing; reading books; watching hockey, baseball and football; doing crossword puzzles; playing chess; and playing piano.  Most of all, he loved spending time with his family. He was a married father of 6 children and a proud grandfather of 10 grandchildren.   He was involved in a number of businesses, even cartoons. I will never forget Captain Blueberry – a character for children used to drive home the benefits of eating blueberries.   His obituary aptly summarized:

Countless people owe their new lives in Canada to Cecil’s tenacity, fearlessness, and dedication. He was at his most inspired and passionate in the courtroom. He set many legal precedents with his creative and novel applications of the law, resolving cases that were deemed impossible.[8]

The Supreme Court of Canada decision in Hilewitz may well be his crown achievement in the law.  Cecil poignantly concluded a piece entitled The Immigration Medical Exam – A Horse By Design That Turned Out to be a Camel!, as follows and what it has meant for the thousands of people that continue to benefit from his legal pinnacle:

So this indeed is the significance of the decision of the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada in Hiliwetz and De Jong.    We have lost good clients and damaged the reputation of Canada.  The camel is gone.  An individual is again an individual.


[1] Ong & Associates Limited. “Cecil L. Rotenberg, Q.C., Barrister and Solicitor”. http://www.ongandassociates.com/cecil.htm

[2] For more information, see: http://www.carswell.com/product-detail/immigration-law-reporter-4th-seriesrecueil-de-jurisprudence-en-droit-de-limmigration-4e-serie/

[3] For more information, see: http://www.carswell.com/product-detail/immquest/

[4] Chirwav. Canada (Minister of Manpower & Immigration) (1970), 4 I.A.C. 338 (Imm. App. Bd.) — followed

[5] Muliadi v Canada (Minister of Employment & Immigration), [1986] 2 F.C. 205

[6] Chen v Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration), [1995] 1 SCR 725, 1995 CanLII 125

[7] Hilewitz v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigratio