University of Toronto

Innis Alumni & Friends

Lesra Martin

Class of 1988 – HBA, Innis

At the age of 15, Lesra Martin couldn’t read or write.  Living in an inner city ghetto of Brooklyn, New York, he was dismissed by society.  Yet his heart carried hope and courage. When he was provided with an opportunity to obtain an education, he seized it! Of his eight siblings, Lesra is the only one with a high school diploma. He completed high school as an Ontario scholar in 1983 and received an Honours B.A. from the University of Toronto in 1988. He achieved his law degree from Dalhousie Law School in 1997 and served as a Crown Prosecutor in Kamloops, BC.  He now has his own law firm, Martin & Martin Lawyers, in British Columbia.

Lesra Martin’s heartrending story has mesmerized and inspired millions through the major Hollywood feature “The Hurricane”.  The film’s star, Denzel Washington, marvelled over Lesra’s real life odyssey from a poorly educated Brooklyn teen to a respected attorney. Inspired by his experiences, The National Film Board of Canada produced the documentary “The Journey of Lesra Martin”, and the compelling film has been screened at film festivals throughout Canada, The United States, and South Africa.

He was invited to speak before the General Assembly delegates at the United Nations, where he gave an impassioned speech about the devastating effects of literacy and poverty, and at Cambridge University, where he spoke before world leaders. He has been featured on countless television and radio shows, most notably as a special guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and  The Washington Post to Sports Illustrated and Reader’s Digest Magazine have chronicled aspects of Lesra’s life.

Lesra has received numerous awards and certificates of recognition for his willingness to be a role model and mentor for youth. He was acknowledged with a lifetime membership with the National Black Caucus of Special Educators, a division of the CEC (Washington, D.C.).


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