Isha was appointed to lead the Canadian Museum for Human Rights as its President and CEO in August 2020. She has extensive experience as a human rights lawyer, advocating and educating on issues of discrimination and harassment. After graduating from Balmoral Hall in 1991, Isha pursued her Bachelor of Arts at University of Manitoba and her law degree at University of Victoria. From 2000 to 2007, she managed an active litigation practice in Calgary (Borden Ladner Gervais) focused on labour and employment issues. From 2015 to 2019, Isha served as Executive Director and Senior Counsel of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, an independent agency of the provincial government that handles complaints of human rights violations and educates the public about human rights principles. During the past year, she worked for Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, reviewing conditions of confinement for people incarcerated in federal institutions. She has worked in the not-for-profit sector and maintains strong community connections as Chair of United Way of Winnipeg’s Board of Trustees. She is also Mom to three BH girls, Safiya ’22, Zehra ’24, and Lina ’27 Ratana.
“I am often asked when I decided to become a human rights lawyer. There was no single moment in which I made this choice. Rather, I learned a little in every position I’ve had about the kind of work that interested me and nourished me and the skills that I could develop to contribute to that work. I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunities I have because everyone has put challenges in front of me,” says Isha, adding that she feels lucky to be able to meaningfully contribute to issues that she is passionate about through her professional work.
She continues, “I have had many experiences of advocating in the public’s interest, which is a unique role. It allows you to push for systemic change because it is the right thing to do and that change will benefit us all. Being part of bringing about policy changes that recognize human rights has been amazing — whether it was the rights of transgender students in schools, access to healthcare for children with disabilities from First Nations families, recognizing gender identity on birth certificates, or creating awareness and training around harassment in the workplace.”
Isha feels that early influences from life at Balmoral Hall School still resonate with her today.
“I had a great experience at Balmoral Hall. I developed strong friendships as well as communication and leadership skills that I rely on today. I learned that there was nothing that I could not do or try to do and that has stuck with me. I chose to enrol my daughters here because I want them to develop confidence in themselves. That confidence will enable them to do whatever they choose to do in life. When I look back now, I can see how supported and encouraged I was to be a better human and that is what I want for my girls, as well.”
Asked what she would have done differently and what advice she would offer to young people, Isha replies, “I wish I had been more focused during my undergraduate learning. I took such interesting courses, but, distracted and overwhelmed by university life, I don’t think I digested as much as I might have. That said, I often tell young people to enjoy university life — you learn so much during those years about who you are, what you might want to do, and who you want to spend time with.”
Isha is a strong role model for BH girls of all ages. We are grateful for her involvement as a mentor to students and for her dialogue with Grade 8 students about her path from BH to CMHR.