September 22, 2021

#MyImmigrationFuel – Athena Portokalidis

Posted by Athena Portokalidis - Bellissimo Law Group PC

Following Mr. Bellissimo’s blog post and my colleagues, I write this piece to share #MyImmigrationFuel.

Immigration law has always been important to me as it facilitated the entry of each of my parents from different countries into Canada. If not for immigration law, I would not be here.

I was fortunate enough to grow up hearing each of my parents’ stories about their upbringings, and ultimately what led each of them to start new lives in Canada. I remain in awe of the bravery and courage to leave everything familiar behind and essentially start over somewhere new – something I know many of our clients do and endeavour to do every day. While this sparked my interest in immigration law, it was not until I went to university that a flame was ignited!

By the time I graduated high school, I already knew I had an interest in law and studied political science and philosophy not only because I thought those subjects would best prepare me for law school, but because I wanted to understand the systems and theories that make the world go ‘round. A subject I seemed to return to many times throughout my undergraduate career was political theory. In one course in particular, we studied the theoretical underpinnings of democracy and modern politics, and one concept has stuck with me throughout the years: the creation of borders.

Borders are political constructs created to concentrate a sovereign power in a particular area. In theory, it makes sense to delineate where one area starts and ends for practical reasons, much like a fence a person may put around their property. Borders, in some respect, are also arbitrary. One does not have to look too far back into history for examples of how borders have changed or even been fluid. Borders also work to keep people out, and have made one of the few things people cannot control – where they are born – into one of the most significant factors impacting their lives. To me, it is incredible how invisible lines drawn in the dirt can make all the difference.

Theoretically, I am fuelled by the idea that where you are born should not determine where you remain, so I work in immigration law to assist those interested in exploring opportunities in Canada to be able to do so. Personally, I am fuelled by the sacrifice my parents each made not only to improve their lives but to improve mine. This is my way of paying it forward.

My father always speaks fondly of the lawyer who helped him immigrate to Canada, as the first time my father tried it on his own, he was unsuccessful. He described this lawyer as a powerhouse, someone whose reputation preceded him, who had helped other family members and friends successfully immigrate as well. When I started working at Bellissimo Law Group PC, I remember my father had asked where the office was. When I told him, he asked if J. Norris Ormston worked at the firm and when I confirmed that he did, my father told me Mr. Ormston was the reason my father was in Canada. I am honoured and humbled to work with him today. #MyImmigrationFuel.