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A Constitutional Law LLM helped Ali Ghiassi excel in politics

June 7, 2024


Ali Ghiassi had his political awakening a little earlier than most.

The graduate of OsgoodePD’s part-time Professional LLM in Constitutional Law was just seven years old when his family left Iran following the revolution that brought down the country’s monarchy.

“When you see something like that at a young age, it gives you a very clear understanding of how politics can impact peoples’ lives in profound ways,” Ghiassi says. “The revolution turned so many peoples’ lives upside down. It changed their world and everything that they held dear.”

In Canada, the young Ghiassi’s pursuit of his political passions would eventually lead him to law school, albeit indirectly.

“I was actually interested in the law because of my interest in politics and what I really wanted to explore was how can you bring about social change through the courts in democratic societies governed by the rule of popular sovereignty,” he explains. “In the law, I sought refuge in order and stability that were missing in the tumult of a revolution.” 

During his legal studies, Ghiassi discovered a new passion:

“I loved constitutional law,” he says. “I gravitated towards anything involving issues of administrative law, public law and the power of the state.”

In his early days in private practice, as Ghiassi established himself as a commercial litigator on Bay Street, he still found himself drawn to matters and clients with a public law connection, including work for municipalities and investors in disputes with sovereign states at international arbitrations.

“Even though the issues were commercial, it was in the context of how state power was exercised that interested me,” Ghiassi says.

While in private practice, after Osgoode launched its LLM in Constitutional Law, Ghiassi leapt at the opportunity to rekindle his first legal love as a member of one of its very first cohorts.

“It was a great way to learn about freedom of expression, the Charter, Indigenous rights, equality rights and so many other issues from Osgoode’s amazing faculty,” he says.

By the time of his 2008 graduation, Ghiassi’s classmates had made almost as much of an impression on him as his professors. He says he appreciated the chance to learn from colleagues with such a diverse range of previous experience, including lawyers working in private practice and government, as well as non-legal professionals seeking to deepen their understanding of Canadian Constitutional Law. In the years since, Ghiassi has followed their careers closely.  

“One of them ended up in the Court of Appeal and another is in the Senate, so it was a pretty distinguished cohort,” he says.

Ghiassi wouldn’t have to wait too long to put his Osgoode studies into action, even if the opportunity arose after he had left the practice of law. As a senior advisor to several Cabinet ministers at Queen’s Park including as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Finance, he was responsible for the design and delivery of provincial budgets and led Ontario’s negotiations with the federal government over the Canada Health Transfer and enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan.

“The understanding of federal-provincial relations that I gained from my Constitutional Law LLM – among other places – was very helpful,” Ghiassi says.

In more recent years, Ghiassi has brought his public policy expertise to the private sector. In his current role as vice-president of industry affairs and government relations at Canada Life, he continues to play a role in the future of key political issues, including pharmacare, dental care and financial regulation.

“Whenever there is any type of legislative or regulatory issue impacting the financial services sector, our team develops strategies to ensure that policy makers make informed decisions,” Ghiassi says. “We provide insight to the government so that they can get a sense of the impact their actions will have on our customers and shape their policy in a way that is helpful to Canadians.”

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