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Canada revokes south Asian lawyer's citation and credentials

Last updated on: April 08, 2009 03:47 IST
The Order of Canada, given in 2001 to  T Sher Singh, community activist and lawyer in Guelph ,Ontario, 'has been terminated in accordance with the Constitution of the Order of Canada,' says a press release from the Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Governor-General of Canada's official residence.

It was terminated on December 10, 2008 but  the notice was included in the Canada Gazette on March 28,. Says  spokeswoman from the Governor-General's office Marie-Paule Thorn.

In a telephone interview April 7, she told that  the decision to terminate Order of Canada conferred on any Canadian is taken by the Order of Canada Advisory Council that's chaired by the Chief Justice of Canada and it comprises of, amongst others, Clark of the Privy Council,  President of the Royal Society of Canada,. Deputy Minister of Heritage Canada and others.

In case of  Singh, his appointment to the  Order of Canada was terminated 'in pursuant to the Law Society of Upper Canada finding Mr. Singh guilty of professional misconduct and revoking his license to practice law.'

It was first in November 2005 that  Singh was suspended from practicing law by the Law Society of Upper Canada but he continued to practice.  The Law society finally revoked his license to practice law  on Sept. 11, 2007 'finding him guilty of professional misconduct.'

Amonst other allegations, a couple from Ontario, Cathleen Adams and her estranged husband, complained that they paid Singh $1,500 each to mediate their separation issues in 2005, 'but he never followed through on a promise to draw up a formal separation agreement and ignored subsequent calls.'

Similarly another client, Charu Shankar complained that she hired Singh in 2005 to draw up a marital separation agreement but after she gave him $3,000 retainer, he did no work on her case, except send an introductory letter to her husband. 

Rideau Hall official spokeswoman Thorn said normally complaints against Order of Canada appointees come from the public for their behaviors, etc. In case of Singh, complaint "may have come from the public but I am not a member of the Order of Canada Advisory Committee' and so she wouldn't say how process terminating Singh's appointment to the Order of Canada started. 

After conduct of any Order of Canada recipient is brought to the notice of the  'Chancery of Honors' that there may be grounds for revocation of Order of Canada -- in case of Sher Singh it was the Law Society  of Upper Canada that contacted  the Order of Canada Advisory Council, said Thorn. 

Under the Constitution chance was given to Singh to explain himself. "He gave his explanation and even asked for an extension of time," she said.  "As I am not in the Advisory Council, I would rather not say anything.  I was told he was given a chance to explain himself."

Thorn said his letter cannot be released  as such documents are never released to the public. 

Under the Constitution of the Order of Canada, Singh had a chance "to resign" but he did not resign.  "The resignation is the personal option.  It  is deemed less harmful for the person," Thorn said. 

The Constitution of the Order of Canada provides a detailed procedure for termination of appointment to the Order of Canada: 'Termination of a person's appointment to the Order of Canada shall be on the recommendation of the Advisory Council made to the governor General.  The recommendation of the Advisory Council shall be based on evidence and   guided by the principle of fairness and shall only be made after the Council has ascertained the relevant facts relating to the case under consideration.'

The Order of Canada can be revoked  for several reasons, including conduct that are seen to undermine the credibility of the Order, or being subject to official sanction by an adjudicating body, professional association as happened in case of Singh.

Singh was considered a strong voice in the South Asian community.  He was a human rights activist as well.  He earlier sat on several committees and according to earlier reports, he was aspiring to be named a member of the Canadian Senate. 

He was a weekly columnist for the Toronto Star and used to appear on Rogers TV (now OMNI TV) regularly. 

All is in ruin for him and he said when he lost his license to practice law that all that was the result of 'years of stress' that have left him 'burnt out'
Ajit Jain in Toronto