From Victim to Advocate: OBA President's Award Winner Susheel Gupta

  • April 21, 2016

Susheel GuptaEarly one morning in June of 1985, when Susheel Gupta was just 12 years old, he woke up to the phone ringing in his family’s home. Minutes later, he received devastating news that would change his life forever: his mother, Ramwati, had been killed in a plane crash. The plane was Air India flight 182.

In the years that followed, Susheel and his family were forced to navigate a legal system fraught with flaws that left them feeling ignored and without justice. Thankfully, Susheel found inspiration and mentorship from compassionate individuals such as local lawyers and police officers, who taught him that if he wanted to change the system, he should work within it. He watched his father advocate for victims' families, as head of the Air India Victims' Families Association, and push for a public inquiry and criminal investigation that would take more than twenty years.

Susheel went on to study law at the University of Ottawa, articled with an administrative tribunal, and was called to the Bar in 2000. He was later hired by the federal prosecution service, mostly dealing with crimes involving narcotics and technology crime. Over the years, he has served most of his career in the public service with the agency now named Public Prosecution Service of Canada, as a prosecutor and computer crime advisor, special advisor at the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, and as counsel in the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes section of the Department of Justice. Mr. Gupta is currently an employee of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, on leave without pay as he serves a second term as vice-chair of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

In his personal time, has worked as a member of the executive of the victims' families association and as its spokesperson. He is chair of the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime and also co-chairs the steering committee of the $10-million Kanishka Project, established with funds from the federal government to oversee the distribution of research grants in the areas of law enforcement and counter-terrorism. Susheel is a long-time member of the Ontario Bar Association.

 In a 2013 essay he submitted for the OBA’s “Why I Went to Law School” campaign, Susheel wrote: “I’ve met a number of people who were passionate about justice and who taught me that we have a great system in Canada. That led me down the path of wanting to be part of the justice system, to try and do my part to make our country safer and ensure that no one would have to suffer as we did.”

In recognition of Susheel’s significant contributions to the advancement of justice in Ontario, on April 20th the Ontario Bar Association awarded him with its prestigious President’s Award, presented by OBA President Ed Upenieks at the association’s annual award gala.

“Susheel has devoted his life to improving our justice system and helping victims of terrorism around the world. Susheel is a truly remarkable lawyer”, says Upenieks.

As a survivor, community member and public servant, Mr. Gupta has surpassed the goals he set on his journey forward from that devastating morning in June of 1985. By channeling his grief over his mother's murder into something meaningful, Susheel has transformed his family’s tragic story into something remarkable.

The OBA is proud to acknowledge Susheel for is examplary service to the profession.

Also awarded at the Aprl 20th Awards Gala were seven other exemplary individuals. Please check back to learn more about their exceptional contributions to the legal profession and community at large.

OBA's Award for Distinguished Service
Angela J. Swan, Aird & Berlis LLP
Jerry B. Udell, McTague Law Firm LLP
Frank E. Walwyn, WeirFoulds LLP

OBA's Linda Adlam Manning Award for Volunteerism
Karen Perron, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

OBA's Heather McArthur Memorial Young Lawyers' Award
Brock B. Jones, Ministry of the Attorney General - Criminal Law Division-Crown Attorney's Office

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