Esmeralda M.A. Thornhill is a lawyer, linguist, and pedagogue by training… a lecturer, researcher, anti-racism trainer, and writer by experience… and a Community advocate and organizer by conviction.

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Washington, DC, 1987

Now retired from Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, this  seasoned Human Rights educator, became the first African Canadian woman in Canada to hold a a tenured Full Professorship  of Law when in 1996 she was appointed as the first senior scholar to inaugurate  the distinguished James Robinson Johnston Endowed Chair in Black Canadian Studies. From 1996-2002, she piloted this  unprecedented national initiative, housed at Dalhousie University, and “established to bring Black culture, reality, perspectives, experiences and concerns into the Academy”.

Called to the provincial Bars of both Quebec (1987) and Nova Scotia (1998), Professor Thornhill is also a 2006-2007 Canada-US Fulbright Visiting Scholar (Temple University). In 2012 McGill University invited her to serve as  (the First O’Brien Fellow in Residence and inaugurate its programme for human rights professionals to visit and contribute to the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. Since 2014, Professor Thornhill holds a Research Associate affiliation with the Simone de Beauvoir Institute of Concordia University where, in 1983 she instituted the first ever university -accredited course on Black Women’s Studies offered in Canada.

Education and Professional Training

In addition to an undergraduate Joint Honours degree in Latin and Spanish from McGill University, Professor Thornhill’s academic training includes Post Graduate Studies in Spanish, French, and Pedagogical Sciences at the Université de Montréal, McGill, and Denver (Leicester, England) Universities. She also holds a Law degree from the Université du Québec à Montréal and a Diploma in International and Comparative Law from the University of San Diego (Paris, France). Fluently trilingual in English, French and Spanish, this scholar has completed international internships examining ‘race’ and Human Rights in Canada, England, and France at UNESCO headquarters.

A steadfastly  committed anti-Apartheid advocate, from 1987-1988, Professor Thornhil was seconded to Washington, D.C. as an International Fellow to carry out  anti-Apartheid Legal Education and NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) Advocacy with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. During this time she was responsible for the United States’ Anti- Apartheid  Red Ribbon Campaign launched to save the lives of The Sharpeville Six,  then condemned to death. In addition, her research document chronicling the use of the death penalty by the South African Apartheid Regime is formally reproduced in the U.S. Congressional Record,  (“The Sharpeville Six and the Death Penalty in South Africa.” Congressional Record. Proceedings and Debates of the 100th Congress of the United States, 2ed., 134 No. 32, March 16, 1988).

Pioneering Initiatives and Expertise 

Over the course of her lifetime, a convergence of conviction, commitment, and creative energy have led Esmeralda Thornhill to innovate and pioneer significant initiatives that have proven to be ground-breaking in such diverse areas as Post Secondary Curriculum Development, Public Education, ‘Race,’ Literacy as an Ethical Imperative for  the Legal Profession, and Anti-racism Advocacy and Policy-making.

Public Service and Social Involvement

 Thanks to her interdisciplinary training, varied professional experience, and acknowledged expertise on the “material reality” of racism, Esmeralda Thornhill holds to her credit a solid track record of public service wherein she has moved seamlessly among, and addressed with equal ease sectors that are judicial, legal, academic, governmental, public, institutional and grassroots.

A critically conscious product of the Quebec Education, system, she has been consistently engaged in advocacy work since her early adolescence. Esmeralda Thornhill’s social  involvement has always been driven by a strongly rooted  belief in Organizational Building and Community  Mobilization for Collective Empowerment. Resolutely advocating both “International Strategizing” and  “Diasporic ‘Race’ Literacy” as global solutions for Peoples of African Descent, she is a founding member of a wide variety of organizations at local, national, and global levels, covering  such areas as social justice, education, law, youth, Women’s Rights and anti-racist pedagogy. 

Awards and Honours

Esmeralda Thornhill has received national and international recognition for her scholarly academic work, and has garnered acclaim for her achievements that resound well beyond  the halls of the Academy.