Job Title: Legal Counsel, Alberta Human Rights Commission
Why He’s Top 40: For being the youngest person to hold the position of legal counsel with the Alberta Human Rights Commission and for his work as a filmmaker and supporter of the art form.
What Do You Like Most About Edmonton?: Mill Woods Park. “I play cricket there, I’ve volunteered with Canada Day celebrations, I take my daughter to the water park, and the best sledding in the city, by far, is there.”
After completing a bachelor of arts in film studies and sociology at the University of Alberta, Arman Chak moved to the Big Apple to go to film school. “I really wanted to make it my career. I’d made two films, one had played in Edmonton at the Local Heroes film fest,” he says. But it didn’t take long for Chak to realize that the odds of being able to make films and feed himself were slim. “I decided to leave arts as a secondary part of my life,” he says.
So, Chak headed back to his hometown of Edmonton and decided to take a very different path, law. It’s a decision he’s grateful to have made. “I can’t think of anything more rewarding than helping a family go through a legal issue and find resolution in a reasonable period of time,” he says.
Early in his career, he left a private practice for the public sphere. Now, he holds the title of legal counsel for the Alberta Human Rights Commission, which deals with discrimination complaints in the province. “The work of the commission is to educate, to enforce and ultimately to prosecute. My work involves every single element of that,” says Chak, who’s the youngest person to ever hold this position.
But Chak’s community influence extends beyond the scope of his day job. Since 2005, he’s offered pro bono legal services and monthly clinics via the Edmonton Community Legal Centre. “Legal issues tend to make people into statues: They don’t know what to do, they’re afraid that one step or another could be catastrophic,” he says. Pricey legal fees don’t help any. But, the legal system is built for the community, says Chak, who is passionate about improving public access to legal services.
But Chak has not abandoned his artistic side and has remained heavily involved in the city’s film scene. Since the early ’90s, he’s volunteered and held board positions with the Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta (FAVA). Chak has written and directed eight short films, as well. Most recently, he wrote and directed a “scaremedy” called The House, which made its debut in August via The Mosquers, a mini-festival featuring films about Muslims. “Next year, my goal is to work on a feature,” he says.
This week, incoming U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline. What should be Alberta’s response?