758 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2019
Andrew Tam was no stranger to the plight of street-entrenched drug
addicts who existed on the “margins”. His role as defence counsel was often
to be the sole voice for those who had lost, or been taken from, their families
Andrew’s journey to becoming a prominent defence lawyer was not ordinary.
Born in Hong Kong, Andrew immigrated to Canada at the age of nine
with his parents and two sisters. He spoke Cantonese and little English, and
his startling path of singular focus to excel in Canada began. Not only did
Andrew become quickly fluent in English, he became a lion of grammar
and style, studying Latin and its influence on Canadian language. His
French was never as good (he continues in classes now), but Andrew felt it
only proper to learn both official languages of his new home.
Andrew grew up in Port Coquitlam working in a diverse array of jobs that
help fill the “common sense” requirements of any member of the judiciary.
He served tables, washed cars, delivered pizza and assisted patients with
mental health challenges in a care facility. All of this was learned and lived
while shining academically. These experiences no doubt helped shape a
man who has an ease with everyone he meets, and a refreshing lack of
Andrew obtained his bachelor of philosophy degree at Simon Fraser.
There are always whispers that philosophy prepares one well for the practice
of law, or at least the logic portion of the LSAT, and Andrew is walking,
talking, arguing proof of at least the former. Always one to enjoy a good
match of duelling logic, Andrew is quick to identify and, in his subtle and
friendly way, call out a fallacy when he hears one.
Andrew attended UVic Law starting in 1995 and there met his future law
partners. One program that left an indelible mark on his career was the
much-celebrated UVic Law Centre. During intensive training that leaves
students ready to assist less fortunate clients who had fallen through the
legal aid gaps (some would say grottos) and were being denied access to justice,
the foundational motto was “Be Courageous”.
Andrew had taken that lesson to heart and, faced with a potentially dangerous
situation in the underground parkade, he made the decision to confront the figure
who was rummaging through his truck. As he prepared to do so, Andrew
remained calm—a personality trait that has been a consistent hallmark of his.
In 20 years of working with him, I never saw Andrew lose his composure,
or even raise his voice. Through murder trials, “war-room-filled-with-boxes”
conspiracy trials and the inevitable pressures of running a small business,
Andrew always remained professional, rational and smart. This calm has
no doubt produced his youthful looks and vexing lack of grey hair. One col-