How data can support the fight for human rights.

Sunil Gurmukh

Human rights lawyer | Assistant Professor & Assistant Dean (EDID), Faculty of Law, Western University
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Sunil Gurmukh was inspired to fight for human rights at an early age.  

“My parents always encouraged me to help people, and it’s because of their sacrifices that I’m able to do so today. I teach, study and practise human rights law to leave this world in a better place than I found it, to do right by my daughters and equity-deserving groups.”

Sunil's research focuses on shining a light on the problem of racial profiling, other rights violations in policing and hate crimes in Canada. As assistant professor and assistant dean (equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization) at Western Law, he also teaches courses on racial profiling in policing and hate speech in Canada. And he emphasizes that this mission is even more effective when it’s done by a team.  

“Human rights is about teamwork. It’s about bringing people along with you.”

Sunil is certainly doing that now. Leading the Hidden Racial Profiling Project (HRPP) at Western University’s Faculty of Law, he fights to make invisible racial profiling visible, along with law students who gain valuable experiential learning. “There is a culture of politeness in Canada that leads many to believe these inequities do not exist here. However, systemic racism in policing is a daily reality for Black and Indigenous people.”

Sunil is an accomplished human rights lawyer who has argued cases before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada. He partnered with Western Law to identify court decisions with police violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, identify the race of victims and expose hidden racial profiling.

Sunil

ʼs
Impact
Principles

  • Amplify the voices of equity-deserving groups.
  • Inspire students to use their voices, insights and passion.
  • Simply believe change is possible.

Sunil shared the HRPP’s case-law research on police violations of the Charter with the Toronto Star. Together, they exposed pervasive and systemic failures by many police services to respect our fundamental rights, which has already led to change. He is hopeful that there will be further change as the HRPP identifies the race of victims.

“For decades, we have heard about the lived experiences of racism in policing from Black and Indigenous people. Unfortunately, those experiences have often been discounted by a lack of data. We hope by unearthing data on the race of victims of police violations of the Charter, it can lead to significant change.”

Sunil has received a wealth of honours for his work, among them the Western Young Alumni Award and he was included in Canadian Lawyer Magazine’s “2019 Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers.” He emphasizes that his impact and achievements are the result of the contributions of many to his work.  

“I’m inspired by so many people. When I’m teaching at Western, I’m trying to encourage my students to amplify the voices of equity-deserving groups. I love their insight and passion. I want them to create change, and they’re doing it. It is because of them, my parents, the Faculty of Law and my colleagues that we’re able to make change.”

Sunil faces the fight for equality with an unwavering sense of optimism. He is quick to point out that while inequities exist in Canada, he has seen important changes – such as protections added to Canadian human rights laws for the transgender community, alternatives to police presence when someone is in crisis, enhanced training and acknowledgements and apologies for systemic racism.  

“Change is possible. I’m an optimist. I believe in my core that change is possible.”

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