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Posted at: Jun 25, 2017, 1:47 AM; last updated: Jun 25, 2017, 2:51 PM (IST)

Shergill first turbaned SC judge in Canada

Shergill first turbaned SC judge in Canada
Palbinder Kaur Shergill

Sarbjit Dhaliwal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 24

Born in Rurka Kalan village, near Phillaur in Jalandhar, Palbinder Kaur Shergill was on holiday in Italy when she got a call from the Canadian Ministry of Justice regarding her appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, a state where Punjabis have a substantial presence.

The appointment was made with immediate effect as Justice Shergill replaces Justice EA Arnold-Bailey, who retired on May 31.

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Regarded as a leading human rights advocate, she has been representing the World Sikh Organisation and other organisations without charging any fee.

The first baptised and turbaned Sikh woman to be elevated to the Supreme Court, Justice Shergill came to limelight about 15 years ago when she defended Gurbaj Singh Multani’s religious right to wear a kirpan in school. A Quebec school had prohibited Gurbaj from wearing the kirpan after it fell  while playing in 2001. She contested this case right up to the Supreme Court of Canada and got the school order struck down. She also successfully argued in favour of a Jewish tenant who was stopped by the owner from  worshipping. 

Her father Gian Singh Sandhu, a businessman of significant standing, and mother, a homemaker, in Surrey, near Vancouver, said Palbinder Kaur excelled in debating in school and that made her opt for the legal profession. “My son and other daughter are also highly qualified and well settled in their respective fields. One of my adopted sons is doing business with me,” said Sandhu, who immigrated to Canada in 1970 and set up a saw mill. 

Palbinder Kaur Shergill grew up in Williams Lake, British Columbia, and received her law degree from the University of  Saskatchewan. Prior to her appointment to the Bench, she practised as a lawyer and mediator with her law firm, Shergill & Company, Trial Lawyers. Called to the British Columbia Bar in 1991, she has held leadership positions both within and outside the legal community.

She was appointed the Queen’s Counsel in 2012 and is a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for Community Service. She lives in Surrey with her husband, daughter and twin sons.

Shergill volunteers as a high school debate coach, plays the tabla and harmonium, and is kicking her way towards a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. She is fluent in English and Punjabi, has a conversational knowledge of Hindi, and is aspiring towards fluency in French.  

(With IANS inputs)


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