British Columbia

Sikhs celebrate B.C. woman's 'inspiring' appointment as first turbaned judge in Canada

Justice Palbinder Kaur Shergill appointed to B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster

Palbinder Kaur Shergill

Lawyer Palbinder Kaur Shergill from Surrey, B.C. has become the first turbaned Sikh judge in Canada. (Shergill and Company/Facebook)

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Sikhs from Canada to India are celebrating a B.C. woman's historic appointment as the first turbaned Sikh judge in the country.

Lawyer Palbinder Kaur Shergill will be serving as a judge at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. The announcement came Friday from federal Justice Minister Jody-Wilson Raybould.

There have been other Sikh judges in Canadian history, including B.C.'s former attorney general Wally Oppal, but the World Sikh Organization of Canada says this appointment is special.

"It's ... especially inspiring given that she's a woman and mostly the turban is associated with Sikh men," said Balpreet Singh who has worked with Shergill for the past decade in her pro-bono role as general counsel for the organization.

Palbinder Kaur Shergill

Palbinder Kaur Shergill on the steps of the Supreme Court of Canada prior to arguing an appeal in Loyola High School v. Quebec (Attorney General). (World Sikh Organization of Canada/Facebook)

Shergill ran her own boutique law firm in Surrey, B.C., handling personal injury, civil litigation and constitutional law.

The latter is what set her work apart as a leading human rights advocate, says Singh.

She has appeared in front of Canada's highest court at least three times arguing cases that have shaped human rights and religious freedom laws in the country.

In 2012, she was appointed Queen's Counsel, a honourary title given by the province to lawyers who have made exceptional contributions to the profession.

She is also a recipient of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal for community service.

Celebrations in India

Shergill was born in Punjab, India and raised in Williams Lake, B.C. Word of her appointment this week spread quickly across the Pacific.

Singh says politicians in India have sent congratulations and there have even been day-long celebrations in her home village.

"According to media reports, people and the media have been visiting her family there, people have been distributing sweets," he said.

"The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, the body that manages Sikh shrines and gurdwaras in India, has welcomed her to come India ... so she can be celebrated and honoured."

Shergill is currently on holiday in Europe according to Singh.

The federal government says outside of her legal work, Shergill volunteers as a high school debate coach, plays several traditional instruments and is "kicking her way" to a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

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