Lesra Martin

Lesra Martin

Kelowna, British Columbia
Lawyer & Advocate - Systematic Racism & Discrimination Expert
Racial justice advocate, Lesra Martin is an acclaimed lawyer who helped bring about release of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, defining what it means to make a difference. Lesra Martin is one of Canada's most recognized advocates and public figures well known for his incredible story of overcoming obstacles and dedicating his life and career to equity, diversity & inclusion (ED&I) to shift the outcomes for others who are faced with barriers and challenges of racism, systematic discrimination and oppression in Canada.
  • Change Management
  • Communications
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Leadership
  • Peak Performance
  • Personal Growth
  • Resilience & Adversity
  • Teamwork
  • Campus & University Speakers
  • Community Engagement Events
  • Conference
  • Education & Teachers
  • Finance & Insurance
  • Guest Panelist & Guided Q&A
  • Inspirational
  • Motivation


Childhood dreams didn’t exist in Lesra Martin’s world, a place where day to day survival was a grim reality. Born in 1963, he was the second eldest son out of Earl and Alma Martin’s eight children. Although the family was poor, his parents managed to instill in him a sense of responsibility and hard work. But his father’s ill health, his parents’ drinking problems, and a series of family misfortunes eventually pushed the Martins from a comfortable, middle class life in Queens on to welfare, and the dangerous, nightmare streets of Bushwick.

By age 10, Lesra’s family depended on his job bagging groceries to buy food. At 11, the malnourished kid with the toothy, ragged grin was working in a bar, sweeping floors and saving his tips to buy extra rice and beans for his siblings. Life was a relentless day-to-day struggle, a balance between hope and despair. Gang life literally consumed Lesra’s oldest brother, and by his teens, Lesra faced much the same bleak future. In July, 1979, accompanied by his father to show him the way, hopped on to a subway train and journeyed to a new summer job at a Brooklyn environmental lab. Lesra Martin was befriended by a group of Canadian entrepreneurs who were visiting the lab. Attracted to his “….spark and light and curiosity…” they saw a bright kid bursting with potential who had few real opportunities in life. Their unexpected friendship sparked an incredible saga that would take Lesra Martin out of the inner city and into a new life in Canada where he would face one of the most painful challenges of his life.

In spite of their many hardships and burdens, the Martin family was held together by a deep and enduring bond. Lesra Martin will never forget the look of pain on his parents’ faces when they were faced with an agonizing choice: to keep him in Bushwick with his family, where gangs, prison, or drugs would eventually rob him of a future; or to allow him to accompany a group of strangers to a foreign land with the promise of helping him further his education. Lesra Martin was torn between the generous offer and the responsibility he felt towards his family. Yet he wanted to leave, and ultimately, his parents found the courage to let him go.

The journey of Lesra Martin brought him to Toronto in the fall of 1979, hopeful about his new life. It didn’t take long for his tutor to discover that Lesra was functionally illiterate. Thus, began Lesra’s incredible, pain-filled journey to learn to read and write. Bolstered by the Canadians’ compassion and dedicated commitment, he spent the next several years fighting the devastating psychological and emotional scars that stemmed from his life of poverty in the ghetto. For years, Lesra was tormented by inner voices that told him he was “too dumb and stupid” to learn. He was afraid of books, afraid of words.

Along the way, Lesra found the courage to face his fears, inspired in part by “The Sixteenth Round”, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s searing account of his wrongful imprisonment for the 1966 murders of three New Jersey residents. Taking heart from Carter’s spirit in the face of extreme adversity, Lesra Martin wrote the world renowned boxer setting into motion a friendship between himself, The Hurricane Carter, and the Canadians that led to a five year fight that helped win Carter’s release from prison in November, 1985. By then, Carter had spent nearly 20 years in jail. That unique, fateful friendship between Carter, Lesra, and the Canadians resulted in the 1992 book “Lazarus and The Hurricane.” In turn, the book inspired the recent Universal movie “The Hurricane.”

The life lessons encountered on the journey of Lesra Martin and Rubin Carter’s book provided the breakthrough Lesra needed in his struggle for literacy; the Canadians provided the dedication and commitment Lesra needed to prove himself capable of overcoming his fears. Lesra graduated as an Ontario Scholar in 1983, then later completed an Honours BA in anthropology at the University of Toronto in 1988. He studied for his Master’s in Sociology at Dalhousie University. Later, in 1997, he earned his law degree from Dalhousie Law School. After he articled with a Vancouver law firm, he served as a Crown Prosecutor (similar to a district attorney) in Kamloops, British Columbia.

In 1995, while attending Dalhousie, he met fellow law student Cheryl Tynes, a Halifax native. Love grew out of a deeply committed friendship, and they married in 1998. Cheryl was called to the bar in September, 1999. “I began a journey at 15,” Lesra says, remembering his life in the ghetto, “a journey to find a consistent pace, a belief I’d live in a safe community, with food on the table, and the eventual hope that I’d find someone to love. In the end, it became so much more.”

Once, on a 1996 trip to New York to visit his family with Cheryl, Lesra sat and studied the people on his subway car. Suddenly he felt an overwhelming sense of fear; what if he hadn’t made the subway car on that day back in July, 1979? What if he hadn’t met the Canadians? He knew the answer: he’d likely be in prison or strung out on drugs, or dead.

His parents had many problems; their lives were infused with constant struggle and hardships. Yet Lesra realized that his parents, by allowing him to leave the only home and family he knew, gave him a precious gift that brought hope and optimism. “I’ll never forget who I am and where I came from,” he says. “I am who I am because of my life in the ghetto. I never take anything for granted. Every day is a gift.” Lesra Martin once inner city kid dismissed by society, carried hope and courage along his path to affect profound change in the lives of many, including his own. His journey featured in a Hollywood film, Lesra Martin helps recognize behaviours and systems that are in the way of improving the Black Lives in Canada and the USA.

Lesra has changed directions in his own life since the release of the movie “The Hurricane.” He has embarked on a career as a motivational speaker, appearing before the United Nations, speaking at “Literacy 2000″ hosted by Correctional Services Canada, and was the keynote speaker for The Council for Exceptional Children symposium in New Mexico. He has appeared before many community and corporate groups, and literacy foundations. In April, 2000, he was honoured with an award from the Council for Exceptional Children. Lesra Martin now lives in Kamloops, BC operating a family-run, locally owned and operated business serving clients throughout the interior of British Columbia.



Coming Soon!

Lesra Martin Topic Presentations

in the spirit of kindness - lend a hand when you can

  • Virtual PresentationKeynote PresentationWorkshop SessionHalf Day TrainingFull Day Training

global community – global citizens

  • Virtual PresentationKeynote PresentationWorkshop SessionHalf Day TrainingFull Day Training

access to opportunity is the key

  • Virtual PresentationKeynote PresentationWorkshop SessionHalf Day TrainingFull Day Training

put yourself in the picture

  • Virtual PresentationKeynote PresentationWorkshop SessionHalf Day TrainingFull Day Training

hope heart and human spirit

  • Virtual PresentationKeynote PresentationWorkshop SessionHalf Day TrainingFull Day Training

imagine the best

  • Virtual PresentationKeynote PresentationWorkshop SessionHalf Day TrainingFull Day Training


Thank you so much for the wonderful presentation. You gave an inspiring speech and people are still talking about it.

Ottawa Life Sciences Council

What can we say? Lesra’s ‘performance’… was a significant factor in the success of our inaugural ‘Strength through Adversity’ fund raising event. We know you have heard accolades from many — but please accept … an official thank you from the planning team. We could not have achieved our goal without your involvement

G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia

By speaking to others about your life experiences, you not only proved that anything is possible with the right mindset, but also your stories and examples inspired students to follow their dreams and stand by their values

Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Six O’Clock Series

His unique and poised public speaking style was a pleasure to listen to. Anyone can stand in front of a podium and preach about commitment and success, but it isn’t every day that someone like Lesra comes along with his story… effective and inspiring…

Atlanta International School, Georgia

Articles & Media

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How to book Lesra Martin for an event?

Lesra Martin keynote speaker is an expert presenter and has a wide range of experience speaking to a wide variety of audiences and organizations. Lesra Martin delivers keynotes, workshops & training sessions. They may also host or emcee events. Hire Lesra Martin from Kelowna, British Columbia for your event to inspire the audience to take action and make change in their work and their lives. Your workplace will benefit from our keynote speaker and their keynote talks and speeches will shift the mindsets or behaviours for the audience members in Canada. 

Interested in booking Lesra Martin for an event?

Are you looking to hire Lesra Martin for your event? Lesra Martin Kelowna, British Columbia is a dynamic and engaging speaker that offers audiences researched content paired with expertise and a dynamic speaking ability. Lesra Martin is also a Canadian corporate consultant and coach and facilitates workshops and training sessions for a corporate audience. Lesra Martin is an expert keynote presenter and speaks on wide variety of topics. Hiring a great speaker for your event is important and working with a thought leader like Lesra Martin from Speakers Canada’s roster will engage audiences into the content of the presentation to bring awareness and a fresh perspective for their approach to their work and their lives. Book Lesra Martin to educate, motivate and activate the audience through an interactive and entertaining presentation at corporate meetings and gatherings.

Known as a popular key note speaker in Canada, Lesra Martin creates life changing experiences for the participants with practical insights and strategic advice they can implement right after the session. Working with a one our leading expert speaker like Lesra Martin from Kelowna, British Columbia offers organizations a fresh perspective to assist the people of the organization. No matter if it is a government, association, or business crowd, Lesra Martin is a perfect speaker for your event. Through unique practical insights for trending topics and years experience speaking to different organizations, Lesra Martin focuses on changing individuals to make better decisions at work and their lives. No matter if you are holding an in person or virtual event, having an influential speaker such as Lesra Martin will engage, motivate, and activate the audience to make a change in their lives and inspire action for results to meet organizational goals. Your workforce will benefit from Lesra Martin’s presentations and speeches, with measurable results set to shift the people of the organization and core direction of the company. Book Lesra Martin speaker for your annual general meeting, conference, summit, or convention in Canada.

How much does it cost to hire Lesra Martin for a keynote presentation or virtual event?

Lesra Martin is an expert professional key note speaker with a lot of experience speaking and delivering engaging talks to organizations and audiences in Canada. Each of Speaker Bureau Canada’s talent have different ways to assess their fees, and Lesra Martin speaker fee ranges depending on the size of the audience, event format (in person or virtual), event location, and if the organization booking them is a non profit, association, government department/government agency or business/corporation. The speakers we work with are flexible with their fees, and it is important for us to learn more about your event before we approach them, as it is our role to work for you, and to help you find a speaker within budget. 

Please contact Speakers Bureau of Canada and provide us with your event details so that we can contact Lesra Martin to check availability or confirm the pricing and associated costs to hire a great speaker like Lesra Martin for your event. As Lesra Martin's agent and as a Canadian top speaker bureau and talent agency for speakers, we are able to propose each event opportunity from each host organization’s behalf to try to help you get in touch with Lesra Martin and confirm them for your in person or online meeting/event. We can also provide and advise on the booking process and potentially negotiate their fee. Speakers Canada is a client focused speaker agency, and we work for you in finding good speakers for your team meetings and booking processes.

Lesra Martin Disclaimer
Speakers Bureau Canada assists companies and event planning teams seeking to hire talent like Lesra Martin for speaking engagements, virtual meetings, conference appearances, training sessions and workshops facilitations. Our Canadian speakers bureau does not claim to exclusively represent Lesra Martin, however they are represented by Speakers Canada, and we work with them closely for their Canadian speaking opportunities and bookings. As Canada’s top speaker bureau, we represent Canadian motivational keynote speakers and professional guest speakers that will be available on your upcoming events date and location that are withing the budget. Our talented bureau speaker booking agency can help find business speakers or celebrity speakers that aligns with each organization, audience, event theme and the topic themes you hope for the speaker to address in their presentation. 

When SBC receives a request to book Lesra Martin we provide you with their speaker fees, travel costs and check their schedules. We work closely with the host organization’s event planning team and the speaker to handle the logistics and to relay or negotiate associated costs. Our talented team members then will work with our talent directly or their agent/manager/assistant to confirm the Canadian speaker fee and travel expenses, so that event planning teams can receive an official quote for the speaker appearing at the event. Speaker fees and travel costs vary per speaker and our role is to contact Lesra Martin about your event, after we have connected with the event organizers to learn all the event details and/or conference program. Each booking request is unique since session durations and audience sizes can vary which may affect the speaker’s fees. If you are looking to hire Lesra Martin, we recommend filling out the booking request form so a booking agent from Speakers Bureau Canada can get in touch with our talent to help you coordinate with your team to engage the speaker for a successful event.

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