PALBINDER Kaur Shergill, Q.C., a sole practitioner with Shergill & Company, has been appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in New Westminster. She replaces Justice E.A. Arnold-Bailey, who retired effective May 31, 2017.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada noted that Shergill is the first turbaned Sikh to be appointed to the judiciary in Canada. She had served as general legal counsel for the WSO since 1991 on a pro bono basis.
Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced the appointment on Friday under the new judicial application process announced on October 20, 2016. The new process emphasizes transparency, merit, and diversity, and will continue to ensure the appointment of jurists who meet the highest standards of excellence and integrity.
Also, Leonard “Len” Marchand, Jr., a judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia, has been appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of B.C. in Kelowna, and Michael J. Brundrett, Crown counsel with the Ministry of Justice of B.C., has been appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of B.C. in Vancouver.
According to the Justice Ministry, “Prior to her appointment to the bench, Justice Palbinder Kaur Shergill practised as a lawyer and mediator with her law firm, Shergill & Company, Trial Lawyers. She has extensive trial and appellate experience and has appeared before courts and tribunals across Canada, including the Supreme Court of Canada. Justice Shergill was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2012 and is a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for Community Service. Regarded as a leading human rights advocate, she has been instrumental in helping shape human rights and religious accommodation law in Canada through her pro bono work as General Legal Counsel for the World Sikh Organization of Canada.
“Justice Shergill was born in Punjab, India, and immigrated to Canada with her family at the age of four. She grew up in Williams Lake, BC, and received her law degree from the University of Saskatchewan. Called to the British Columbia Bar in 1991, she has held leadership positions both within and outside the legal community. She has been involved with the Cabinet of Canadians, the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, and the Canadian Bar Association. From 2002 to 2008, Justice Shergill served on the Board of Directors of the Fraser Health Authority, the largest health region in the province.
“Justice 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. She lives in Surrey with her husband, daughter, and twin sons.”
THE WSO said that Shergill has been a leading human rights advocate and has represented the WSO and the interests of the Canadian Sikh community in several landmark cases heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, including Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem, dealing with freedom of religion, Multani v. Commission Scolaire, dealing with right of Sikh students to wear the kirpan in schools and Loyola High School v. Quebec (Attorney General) with respect to the right of a Catholic high school to teach the provincial Ethics and Religious Culture course from a Catholic perspective.
It added: “Shergill is a prominent member of the Sikh community in Canada and is regularly invited to speak on human rights and Sikh issues both nationally and internationally.”
WSO President Mukhbir Singh said: “The appointment of Justice Shergill is another milestone for the Sikh community in Canada. It is a matter of great pride that we today have the first turbaned Sikh appointed to the judiciary in Canada and that too someone who has worked so closely with our organization. Justice Shergill’s dedicated service to the legal profession and the community are well known and she has truly made a difference through her work. We were very fortunate to have had Justice Shergill as a key member of our legal team and we now look forward to her serving Canadians as a member of the B.C. bench.”