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First Sikh woman appointed judge in Canada

Canada: June 28, 2017. (CBC) 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.

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 named to the Queen’s Counsel, an 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

Born in Punjab, India and raised in Williams Lake, B.C., word of Shergill’s appointment 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.