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‘Rehabilitated’ terrorist awaits decision on bar membership

|Written By Robert Todd

The Law Society of Upper Canada should allow a convicted terrorist entry to the legal profession because he has been “completely rehabilitated” and expressed remorse over his role in the 1984 hijacking of an Indian Airlines jet, says his lawyer.

“Notwithstanding his uncertain immigration status in Canada, he would be, and had demonstrated that he would be, an excellent member of the bar,” says Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP lawyer Frank Addario, who represented applicant Parminder Singh Saini before a recent good-character hearing.

The three-person LSUC panel, led by Ottawa lawyer and law society Bencher William Simpson, reserved its decision on the matter.

According to an agreed statement of facts obtained from the LSUC, Saini first sought admission to the law society in November 2006. He was at that time in the midst of getting his permanent residency and work permit.

In the “good character” section of his licensing process application, Saini acknowledged he had served 10 years in Pakistan for a hijacking offence.

He also revealed in the application he had spent three years in immigration detention in Canada starting in 1995. As well, he said Pakistan’s president had pardoned him of the offence in 1998. He attached a pardon certificate.

Saini, who is now 46, also noted in the application that he would complete his LLB studies at the University of Windsor law school in April 2006.

Saini has since finished his studies and articling requirement, but his admission to the bar has been stalled by the good-character investigation.

The statement of facts indicates Saini used counterfeit documents under the name “Balbir Singh” when he arrived in Canada in 1994, which allowed him to apply for refugee status and get a driver’s licence.

He used the false name for eight months and was detained after immigration authorities discovered his use of the phony documents.

At that time, the immigration minister said Saini was a “danger to the public in Canada.”

Saini was detained for three years before being released in July 1998, and his immigration status is still unsettled.

The statement of facts indicates that Saini, who was 21 at the time, hijacked the airplane “at the behest of leaders within his religious community” and that he was picked due to his ability to speak four languages, including English.

“The leaders promised the applicant, and he believed that he would be completely protected and taken care of by this Sikh organization,” according to the statement.

The statement said the religious leaders wanted to “alert the world” to the repression the Sikh community faced through the actions of the Indian government.

“This action resulted in the killing of many men, women, and children who were members of the Sikh community,” according to the statement. “Sikh religious shrines, including the holiest shrine (The Golden Temple at Amritsar), were desecrated. The Indian government tightly controlled the media about this action.”

The hijacking involved an Indian Airlines Airbus A300 travelling from Srinagar to New Delhi and carrying 265 passengers, according to the statement. Saini was handed a loaded weapon after boarding the plane, and he and his accomplices also carried kirpans. They demanded the plane land in Lahore, Pakistan.

Saini admitted three people suffered minor injuries during the hijacking, according to the statement of facts.

When the plane landed in Lahore, Saini “acted as a spokesperson for the group and he negotiated with Pakistan authorities,” according to the statement. Passengers were released, and the hijackers were taken into custody after more than 20 hours of negotiations.

Saini was sentenced to death, but that was later commuted to life in prison. He was released from custody for medical reasons in July 1994 and was granted full parole in January 1995.

The statement of facts also states Saini used a forged Afghan passport to enter Canada in 1995 and also to seek asylum. He was released by immigration officials pending a refugee determination hearing and worked using the assumed name.

Later that year, following a Canadian Security Intelligence Service investigation that revealed Saini’s real name, police arrested and detained him, according to the statement. He was ordered conditionally deported after being found inadmissible due to his hijacking conviction.

Saini went on to challenge a series of rulings from his detention review. A stay was granted of an order to deport him to India, and the Federal Court later determined that the risk he faced upon returning to India had not been appropriately assessed.

He was released from detention in 1998 due to the length of his term in custody and because his removal from Canada was not immediately pending.

In February 2000, the Federal Court accepted Saini’s pardon and ruled his hijacking conviction should not be a reason for his deportation.

But the Federal Court of Appeal overturned that decision in October 2001.

Saini has since been subject to a pre-removal risk-assessment application, which determined he may be at risk if he goes back to India, according to the statement of facts. A required review of that assessment is undecided.

Saini told a law society investigator he does not believe his hijacking conviction should be a factor in the LSUC’s decision.

“While I have no hesitation . . . in my humble and respectful opinion, the law society cannot look behind the pardon to assess a member’s good character because pardon nullifies the conviction and its effects,” he told the investigator, according to the agreed statement of facts.

“The rationale behind pardon is to certify a person’s good character so he’s not required to undergo any kind of proceedings based on his conviction for the rest of his life . . . .”

  • Law student
    Sorry but people need to be given the opportunity to start a new life. Let this man practice, many lawyers end up committing bad acts even though they had great pasts...and I bet you many people with horrible pasts can do great things as practicing lawyers.
  • Lawyer

    Raj Sharma
    Saini's situation may be analogous to Maurice Sychuk's application for readmission in Alberta. In essence, and without addressing the issue of rehabilitation, the admission of Saini would undermine the profession as a whole. http://immlawyer.blogs.com/my_weblog/2009/09/former-terrorist-wants-to-be-a-lawyer.html
  • A Pardon is a Pardon is a Pardon

    Neocynic
    If Pakistan has pardoned him of the offence, then surely Canada has no right to ignore that fact and deny him the justice we grant to pardonees ourselves. If you believe in rehabilitation, if you believe in allowing people a second chance, then surely you must take that pardon at face value and allow this man his rightful place in society.
  • Concerned Citizen

    JNC
    Very hard to respond to this information...as it is unbelieveable....and also very scary.....What is happening this country?
  • Let the man practice!

    Concerned Law Student
    For those criticizing this man, should first look around the world and see how many people, who were first convicted of being 'terrorists' actually changed and led remarkable lives afterwords.

    One striking example is that of Nelson Mandela.

    Further on, the individual is absolutely correct in my opinion by stating that the effect of a Pardon is to let individuals pursue their lives without any fear of their past haunting them.
  • Windsor Law

    Anonymous
    Methinks Windsor Law should also consider its own admission requirements, particularly if the Applicant does become a licensed member of the Bar.
  • Lawyer

    Katherine Heller
    I cannot beleive that the LSUC thinks that a Pakistani pardon for a terrorist should be honoured. Have they not read all the recent exposes about the close relationship between the Pakistani military and intelligence service and the terrorists. It is beyond belief in terms of the naivite of the Canadian establishment. Do they plan to do the same if the Pakistani who passed on nuclear weapon secrets to terrorist countries (and has since been pardoned, I believe) also applies for admission to the LSUC? God help us.
  • Lawyer

    Shashi Raina
    I agree with all the comments above about the law society's wisdom in even considering a convicted hijacker's application.

    With such a long convoluted history of criminal activity, treachery and deceit he should have been long thrown out of Canada. If a person like Saini is still in Canada, one can only imagine how many other criminals and fraudsters are vacationing in Canada and how much public money and resources are being wasted on the litigaiton launched by these people.
  • No Chance

    William Lawrence, Q.C.
    How in the world is this man still here? How many times did he come into Canada, using false documents, to make refugee claims to avoid his past and take advantage of our country? If he is admitted to the LSUC, they will become a laughing stock, and it will certainly bring the legal professions into disrepute and end up showering us with public scorn.
  • Concerned citizen
    The article reads like a hoax but alas is apparently true. Due process is critical to a democracy however if after the Law Society rules on the application and denial, followed by deportation, is not forthcoming, then perhaps the most appropriate thing to do would be to elevate him to the Senate.
  • Guest
    If you would not get a pardon in Canada for hijacking then clearly the standard applied in Pakistan is inferior to that in Canada. This alone should warrant examination of the circunmstances behind the Pardon. Secondly a pardon does not mean you committed no offence and surely it is the commission of the offence which is relevant to the question of good character. The asertion of 'rehabilitation' is unconvincing since this individual subsequently proceeded to falsify his name to Canadian authorities in order to enter Canada. Far from 'good character' this indicates a willingness to flout the rule of law to suit his own ends. In my opinion this is not a character trait to be sought in lawyers.
  • Lawyer (1973)

    christopher j haber
    How does the law society or anyone else for that matter know that this person is not lying through his teeth as he appears to have done his whole life to achieve
    his aims?
    A convicted hijacker welcomed to the bar!!! What else is next?
    If this guy is admitted why bother with any entry requirements at all?
  • Rehabilitated (?!) Terrorist

    Gordon McClellan
    If this application is successful it will be an affront to the principles that the Society represents. Any one of the criminal offences committed by this man should be sufficient to keep him out of the profession AND the country. To suggest that his outrageously serious crime of hijacking an airplane has been rendered irrelvant to any assessment of his character and suitability for membership in the Society, or admission to this country, is intellectually dishonest and specious nonsense- no offence intended to his counsel. It's the criminal conduct that's relevant to his character, not the pardon subsequently issued, for whatever reason, by the government of Pakistan. Forgery; hijacking; false documents; false identities; immigration offences; and perjury must be involved somewhere in all this!?! Good luck explaining to the public why he was admitted to membership!! That would reflect highly discreditably on the profession and the people charged with the responsibility of regulating it. Of course Mr.Saini said that his hijacking conviction shouldn't be a factor in the Society's decision. What else can one say about having committed a capital offence? Frankly it would have reflected much more positively on him if he had acknowledged the relevance of this profoundly serious offence and then provided a plausible and sympathetic explanation for his conduct- but then he'd have to explain away all his other characterologically relevant crimes as well. Instead he's acted as if his pardon is a magic wand that can erase historical fact with a simple wave, or serve as a get out of jail free card. He apparently still doesn't know the difference between right and wrong which is, ultimately, the most deeply disturbing aspect of his quest to become a lawyer in Canada.
  • Lawyer

    Sophie Langlois
    If Saini is accepted to the Bar, it will be a disgrace. If a Canadian would have done this, he would not have been accepted to the bar. We should take a good look at who the Bar turned down over the years and I am sure that many were turned down for less violent crimes. Justice should be followed and Saini should be forbidden to practise as a lawyer. God forbid, the Bar even asks lawyers about driving offences on the Application. Terrorists should not be accepted - it will send the wrong message to everyone!!!
  • what a crook , liar and cheat!!!!!!!!!

    Akbar Singh
    Holy mother of Pakistan, what is this criminal still doing in Canada?

    Why he has studied and is planning to join the biggest criminal activity of them all!!!!!

    Once a terrorist, always a terrorist. If you are confused, send him to the USA where they find out pretty damn fast who you are and where you belong.

    Pahrmar belongs in Gitmo.
  • Lawyer

    Penny Paul
    No one will trust lawyers if we allow this person to practise. For goodness sake (no pun intended) this is ridiculous that the law society would even consider his application. What kind of impression is this going to give the public? Lawyers must be held to the higherst standards.
  • Lawyer

    Sharon Griffin
    In my humble opinion, if anything would bring the administration of justice and the reputation of the bar into disrepute, it would be allowing a convicted terrorist to become a member of the law society.
  • Barrister & Solicitor,Kelowna B.C.

    Barry Oland
    Dear Sirs,
    The gentleman ought to be deported forthwith.His feelings of remorse are convenient.His true character is shown by his actions.Let him return to the Punjab and find employment there.
    How could one ever trust the word of Mr.Saini.
    Sincerely,
    Barry Oland
  • Mr

    Thomas Harding
    Are they insane? The man is a terroriost and murderer. How can that be permitted in our profession. We expect lay people to respect the Bar, then LSUC even considers this? Ridiculous.
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