Patna-born Indian lawyer stripped of Order of Canada

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto : The Canadian government has stripped Patna-born Indo-Canadian lawyer T. Sher Singh of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian award.

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The Order of Canada was given to Singh in 2001 for his work as an advocate for “the importance of positive race relations and interactive dialogue among members of different religions.”

But in 2007 Singh was found guilty of professional misconduct by the watchdog Law Society of Upper Canada and banned from practising law. Before the ban, he was also suspended from the legal profession in November 2005.

In its ban order, the Law Society had said that Singh deposited cheques from a client into an account that was not his trust account and accepted trust funds from clients, but “failed to render an account, failed to perform substantial work on the file,” and failed to return any of the retainer fee in one case.”

He was also charged with misappropriating $2,000 from an Indo-Canadian client and continuing to practice even when he was suspended. Since the ban on him, the Canadian Governor-General’s advisory council, which chooses nominations for the Order of Canada and also recommends termination of the award, has been reviewing the award on Singh.

A government statement revoking the Order said Monday: “The termination of Mr. Singh’s appointment to the Order of Canada is pursuant to the Law Society of Upper Canada finding Mr. Singh guilty of professional misconduct and revoking his licence to practise law,” the statement said, adding that termination was effective from December 10, 2008.

The statement said that it (revocation) can be considered when the conduct of the awardee “constitutes a significant departure from generally-recognized standards of public behaviour which is seen to undermine the credibility, integrity or relevance of the Order, or detracts from the original grounds upon which the appointment was based.”

The Order can be revoked if the person “has been subject to official sanction, such as a fine or a reprimand, by an adjudicating body, professional association or other organization,” the statement added. Singh, who came to Toronto from Patna in the early 1970s, was the first turbaned Sikh to be given Canada’s highest civilian award.

Apart from being a regular columnist for Canada’s biggest daily Toronto Star, Singh also served on many high-profile professional bodies. He became famous when he made headlines by dragging former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney to court for appointing a corrupt politician to the Senate in 1990.

Singh could not be reached for comment.