Shane Martinez

2019 Precedent Setter Award Winner: Shane Martínez

Meet the lawyer who protects the country’s forgotten class of migrant workers
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on print
Shane Martinez

Shane Martínez

Barrister and Solicitor, Martínez Law
Called to the bar in 2011

Shane Martínez’s first big case is a classic underdog story. In 2010, as an articling student on a rotation at Justice for Migrant Workers in Toronto, he met Adrian Monrose, whose higher-ups at the Double Diamond Acres tomato farm in Kingsville, Ont., had twice referred to him and several co-workers as “monkeys.” Monrose, a migrant worker at the time, complained to management and lost his job. This meant he had to return home to Saint Lucia.

Shane Martinez

But that’s not where this story ends. Monrose was in a serious relationship with a Canadian woman, who sponsored him to come back to the country as an immigrant. Monrose returned and decided to fight back against his former employer’s act of flagrant racism.

Enter Martínez. He filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. His odds were slim. No migrant farmworker had ever won a case before the tribunal. “My opposing counsel had also been a lawyer longer than I’d been alive,” recalls the 37-year-old. “We faced adversity on every level.” In the end, he won. The tribunal deemed Monrose’s story credible and ordered Double Diamond Acres to pay $23,500 in damages. “We overcame a lot,” says Martínez. “It was deeply satisfying.”

Once he completed articling, he opened his own practice: Martínez Law. It was a big risk. He had no savings. No clients. And no connections. But he worked hard and spent plenty of time networking at the Old City Hall courthouse. Over time, he started to land clients.

For the most part, he takes on criminal and human-rights cases, representing marginalized communities. But he also has a small sideline in labour and employment law. “The income from those files allows me to take on other work,” says Martínez, who, along with his wife, Toni, welcomed a baby boy last year. “I can’t take on pro bono cases unless I can pay my bills.”

Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.

This story is from our Summer 2019 Issue.

Photography by Luis Mora, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja.