This is a very nice piece that appeared in the Montreal Gazette and was penned by Cote Saint-Luc resident Howard Liebman who is a dedicated, kind and considerate professional at the service of all residents. Happy birthday Howard!

Councillors Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac and Mount Royal riding Chief of Staff Howard Liebman at ICAO headquarters

Councillors Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac and Mount Royal riding Chief of Staff Howard Liebman at ICAO headquarters

BY HOWARD LIEBMAN, SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE JULY 28, 2013

MONTREAL – On Sunday I turned 40 surrounded by my wife, children and family. It is a milestone that coincided with another important marker in my life – the eve of my 10th year of public service as chief of staff to Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler. As I celebrate the two events, I find myself reflecting on how rewarding and fulfilling public service is.

I was recruited from my downtown law practice by Mr. Cotler, then the federal justice minister, for what was slated to be a leave of absence of a year, or maybe two. Entering the public sector from the world of corporate law was more than a small adjustment, and not without frustrations at the pace at which government moves. But I dove in.

Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler (centre) with Chief of Staff Howard Liebman) brief Cote Saint-Luc City Council (Glenn J. Nashen, right) on federal legislation matters.  Cotler sought support of his motion calling upon the federal government to request the International Olympic Committee to observe a minute of silence at the 2012 London Olympics in memory of the murdered Israeli athletes from the Munich Olympics in 1972.  Council adopted the resolution that night.

Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler (centre) with Chief of Staff Howard Liebman) brief Cote Saint-Luc City Council (Glenn J. Nashen, right) on federal legislation matters

Unlike many senior staff members for MPs, I am based not in the bubble of Ottawa but in the heart of Mount-Royal, a riding that I have called home since birth. One of my roles is as an ombudsman: I act daily as an advocate for individuals and groups in the riding who are petitioning government for redress of grievance. The areas are diverse: from immigration to industry, taxation to transport, and much more in between. No two days are alike. It is a privilege to be called upon by one’s own neighbours and community to touch a life, to try make it better.

Yet there are times I am left scratching my head – such as when someone’s pressing inquiry is not responded to in a timely fashion. Just this month, for example, a visitor to Canada was able to attend a family wedding in Montreal not thanks to the entry visa he had dutifully applied for five months ago, but at the discretion of a border agent – on the eve of the wedding. It was a happy ending, but was preceded by months of angst. (And the day after the wedding, an email arrived at my office saying it would take about 18 months for the visa.)

Mount Royal riding Chief of Staff Howard Liebman with Councillor Ruth Kovac and members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 97 at VE Day commemoration in Cote Saint-Luc last May

Mount Royal riding Chief of Staff Howard Liebman with Councillor Ruth Kovac and members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 97 at VE Day commemoration in Cote Saint-Luc last May

Thanks to the work that Mr. Cotler does in the areas of justice and human rights, I have been engaged in public diplomacy both locally and in all four corners of the world. (Though heaven forbid that I should come home from a wintertime trip to the Southern Hemisphere with a bit of colour; my family would never let me hear the end of it. It is hard enough to convince them that travels to faraway places like Singapore or Argentina, sometimes for only two days at a time, meeting heads of government and the like, is “work.”)

Especially memorable have been two visits to South Africa, where I took part in meetings with the South African parliament’s justice committee, that country’s human-rights commissioner, and cabinet ministers on issues of common cause to our two countries. I have also taken part in work on the continuing search for Middle East peace, meeting leaders, opinion-makers and stakeholders in the region.

But how humbling an experience it was to land back in Canada after one of those trips and be sent – along with the federal justice minister – for secondary customs inspection! (Yes, it really happened.) Ditto for extra security checks at the airport. No red carpet here.

Howard and Heather Liebman

Howard and Heather Liebman

As I turn 40, anchored by a supportive family, and reflect on my chosen path of public service over the more lucrative private sector, I consider myself incredibly fortunate for all that I have been able to learn and to contribute. It gives me renewed energy and dedication for continuing to strive – in Mount-Royal and far beyond – for a better and more just tomorrow.

Howard Liebman is a Montreal lawyer, husband and father of three boys. He is chief of staff to Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler.

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