For someone who chose to study law “almost on a whim,” Rahul Sapra is excelling.
It started with a conversation he overheard on campus a few years ago.
“I was just randomly on my walk home from school one day, eavesdropping on the people who are having a conversation walking in front of me, and one of them was talking about the JD/HBA program that they did. And they’re saying how much they loved it, how they never thought they’d love law.
“I looked into it and it seemed very interesting. And I almost did it on a whim, I just applied to law school, got in and fell in love with it very, very quickly,” he said.
Sapra graduates this spring with a triple degree – law, science and business administration – and will be joining a Toronto-based law firm this summer as an articling student. Next year, he heads to Ottawa to begin a two-year judicial clerkship with the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada.
Approximately 8,000 students will graduate this spring, joining 330,000 Western alumni from 160 countries around the world.
“I love learning,” said Sapra who is now looking at pursuing a French diploma and hoping to add another Western faculty sweater to his growing collection, which now counts four representing the four Western faculties he joined over the last four years (He took kinesiology in his first year before switching to science). “I’m just going to keep coming back for more degrees.”
Last April, Sapra was among the inaugural winners of the Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella Prize, awarded in honour of Justice Abella, the first Jewish woman and refugee to sit on the Supreme Court of Canada. Awarded by the Royal Society of Canada, the award is presented to a graduating law student in Canada who is most likely to have a positive impact on equity and social justice in Canada or globally.
Sapra said receiving the award was a “tremendous honour” and extra special as he considers Abella one of his role models.
“She was the first refugee judge on the Supreme Court of Canada, and the first pregnant and youngest judge in Canada’s history,” said Sapra. “As a human, but also as a jurist, her decisions really advanced the law, especially of equality, in this country quite a bit.
“And now my job is to live up to that and make sure that I can deserve this award and I can uphold that legacy of Justice Abella and fulfill this responsibility that the school has laid out for me and the Royal Society of Canada.”
He hopes to become a litigator and specialize in constitutional law. Through charter litigation, he wants to advocate for minority and marginalized communities. “I find it a very rewarding work to do.”
Sapra was among a group of Western Law students who participated in the Hidden Racial Profiling Project, launched in 2020. The project involved an examination of the prevalence of racial profiling in recent criminal cases, looking at major police services in Canada.
“It’s using the law to advocate for those (marginalized) communities and shed light on what’s going on in those communities. And it’s been very exciting and very rewarding,” he said.
Sapra is inspired by the immense power of the law and its potential to do a lot of good in the world, one case at a time.
“I would like to be remembered as someone who used that power for good, and shaped a better, more equitable, more inclusive community using the law.”
Sapra is looking forward to going to Ottawa next year to start his clerkship for the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada. As a law clerk, Sapra will provide research assistance to the judge to help the judge make the best possible decisions.
But military law was not always on Sapra’s radar. “I didn’t think I was going to be a military law guy coming into law school. I thought since I go to Ivey, I’m going to do business law.”
His interest grew when he was working as a research assistant and came across a case that involved military law and constitutional law.
“It coincided that I’ve come to law school at a time where the military justice system is almost, I would say, in a period of transition, where you’re looking at sexual assault in the military and how, typically, people haven’t been held to account as much as they should be,” he said.
This was a big influence on him as he successfully applied for the law clerkship.
“And I was very clear in my application that I was applying to be part of that period of change, to be part of the change towards a system of greater accountability, and a system that takes these cases more seriously,” Sapra said.
Sapra is thankful for the amount of support he received at Western, as he worked to complete his triple degree.
“I just learned that I was adjudicated for graduation at Ivey because the academic counselor sent me an email saying how proud of me she was. It’s stuff like that that lets you know, you’re not treated like a number at Western, people actually care, which I really appreciate.”
As someone who loves learning, Sapra is open to the possibility of coming back to Western for another degree. “Maybe I’ll come back to Western to get a medical degree. I’m sure I will, at some point,” he said half-jokingly.
If not for that, he will definitely be back to visit as he had developed many friendships and relationships with the Western community that he feels he’s not ready to say goodbye just yet.
And besides, Sapra said, who wouldn’t want to come back for more serving of Western’s legendary ‘Spoke bagel’, which he described, “simultaneously crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, perfectly buttered every time, the perfect amount of cream cheese every single time.”