Monday 28 September 2009

Should the former terrorist be permitted to practice law?

The Law Society of Upper Canada which governs all lawyers in Ontario, Canada, is at the time of this writing, conducting a hearing on the fitness and qualifications of Parminder Singh Saini, 46, who is applying for a licence to practice law in Ontario.

Tribunal chairman William Simpson, an Ottawa lawyer, has said the decision “isn’t easy” and has reserved judgment. Why isn't their decision easy to arrive at? To give this former terrorist a licence to practice law in Canada is purely academic since he is under a deportation order and he has not been given permission to work in Canada. The idea that someone can slip into Canada illegally so that he can study law and become a lawyer in Canada is extremely gross to say the least.

Let me say from the onset that I don’t think Saini should be licenced to practice law at all. Let me give you his background.

On July 5, 1984, when he was 21, he and four accomplices in the militant ‘All India Sikh Students Federation’ boarded an Air India flight in Srinagar in the Himalayan foothills and commandeered it at gunpoint twenty minutes after takeoff. The terrorists told the passengers that they were going to blow up the aircraft. In full view of passengers, Saini pointed a pistol at a steward's head and fired. The bullet did not hit him. He fired two or three more shots at the cockpit door. One bullet pierced the door, striking the flight engineer in his back. He then ordered the pilot to land in Lahore, Pakistan, and for the next twenty hours he and his accomplices kept everybody hostage as they tried to negotiate a list of demands before eventually surrendering.

Saini told the court during his trial that the hijacking had been a protest against the controversial army attack upon Sikh militants in Amritsar a month earlier that left hundreds dead and a revered temple badly damaged. The judge sentenced Saini to hang. Authorities later commuted the sentence to life in prison and after 10 years, they released him on the condition that he leave India.

He decided that if he couldn’t live in India any longer, then he would like to live in Canada. The problem facing him was that if he told the immigration authorities when he arrived in Canada what his real name was, they would discover that a former terrorist was planning to live in Canada and once that was learned, he would get the bum’s rush forthwith.

On January 21, 1995, he nevertheless presented himself to Canadian customs as Balbir Singh, carrying a fake Afghan passport. He said he had no criminal record and no family in Canada, and then after being admitted into Canada, he went directly to Brampton, Ontario to live with his mother and brother. Eight months later, CSIS caught him and ordered him deported.

For this reason, he decided to come to Canada under an alias. Saini lied his way into Canada, has never gained landed immigrant status, faces deportation and by ministerial order remains a national security threat.

This is the man who wants to be a Canadian lawyer.

I should add that a person doesn’t necessarily have to be a Canadian citizen to practice law in Canada but he must be licenced by the provincial law societies that licence lawyers.

This man is saying that he is fully rehabilitated. He blames his youth and naïveté for his role in the violent airline hijacking 25 years ago in his native India. Sorry, I don’t care how young a terrorist is or how naïve he is; there is no justification for his conduct twenty-five years ago. He said to the law Society; "I had no legitimate right to do that. It's not legal.” Come on. Anyone who is 21, knows that firing a gun in an airplane, especially when it is in the air and who also threatens to blow up everyone in the plane, is acting illegally and despite that, he still committed those crimes.

His lawyer is telling the Law Society that Saini deserves a second chance. It is true that he was pardoned after he served his time. But critics remain skeptical.

Aside from hijacking a plane and shooting at several of his 270-plus hostages and threatening them with death, Saini lied his way into Canada, has never gained landed immigrant status, currently faces deportation and by ministerial order remains a national security threat. Over the course of the last 15 years, (Canadian) courts and tribunals have declared that he is a danger to the public and security in Canada and that he shouldn't remain in Canada.

Nobody questions Saini's initiative and persistence. While fighting deportation to India, he earned a BA from York University and a law degree at the University of Windsor, finishing in 2006. He articled at a Brampton law firm and a Toronto immigration law firm and keeps an office at Singh and Associates, his brother's Mississauga immigration consultancy.

In two separate reviews, adjudicators declared him a threat. One noted an "almost total lack of credibility and trustworthiness" and "a continuing ability and willingness to engage in unlawful behaviour."

Saini has been fighting his deportation order and security-threat status ever since. In 2000 the Federal Court agreed the deportation order should be cancelled, but that ruling was overturned in 2001 by the Federal Court of Appeal. "Hijacking terrorizes all nations and society as a whole," the appeal judges wrote.

It is beyond me as to how a judge in India can order a citizen of that nation to leave the country for good. Every citizen has a right to remain in the country of his birth no matter how bad he is.

He came into Canada with an Afghanistan passport so perhaps we should deport him to Afghanistan. The problem with the proposal is that Afghanistan has no desire to import a former terrorist, no matter how much he claims he has reformed.

I think what Canada should do is ask India to send him an Indian passport so that he can be returned to India. It is not inconceivable that India will tell the Canadian authorities, “You let him into Canada, you keep him.”

There is another way to get rid of him. Ask the United Nations to give him a refugee passport. It is good anywhere in the world. When he is shipped back to India, then the government of India will have to deal with him. There is no way that they can legally return him to Canada since he was never a Canadian citizen. He may end up having to stay in the airport in India forever as a displaced person with no homeland but alas, that’s life.

Why is this obviously educated man who is trained in Canadian law applying for a licence to practice law in Canada especially when he knows that he will be invariably and eventually thrown out of Canada? Is it because if the Law Society gives him a licence to practice in Canada and despite that, he is forced to leave Canada, wherever he goes, (India, Afghanistan or wherever) he can brag that he is also a Canadian lawyer.

Since he has no legal status in Canada, it is illegal for him to work in Canada so even if the Law Society were to foolishly licence him, he still couldn’t practice law in Canada for a fee or a salary.

Am I shedding a tear for this undesirable person’s dilemma? No tears are short-circuiting my keyboard while I am writing this particular piece.

I will keep my readers abreast as to what the status of this man is by first reporting on what the Law Society plans to do with his request to be licenced, when I learn of its decision.

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