From hijacking to Osgoode Hall, the long, strange journey of Parminder Singh Saini

Get to know Parminder Singh Saini as the LSUC considers his case to become a lawyer

By Todd Harrison

On Tuesday September 29th, 2009


photo by Doug BullRegardless of your opinion of whether or not he should be allowed to practice law in Ontario, there’s no question that Parminder Singh Saini has had to overcome tremendous hurdles. Here’s a look at important events that have shaped his life up to now — many of which weigh on the members of a Law Society of Upper Canada tribunal who are presently considering his case.

1984: Saini, then 21, and four fellow members of the All India Sikh Students Federation hijack an Air India flight from Srinagar to Delhi on July 5. He fires a gun at the head of a flight attendant (the bullet did not make contact), fires more bullets through the cockpit door — including one that hits the flight engineer in the back — and takes command of the plane, forcing it down in Lahore, Pakistan. There he and his co-conspirators surrender after keeping the passengers and crew hostage for 20 hours while negotiating demands.

He is convicted in Pakistan and sentenced to death, but his sentence is later commuted to 10 years in prison.

1995: Using a fake Afghan passport that listed him as Balbir Singh, Saini enters Canada on January 21. He says he has no family living in the country already and claims to have a clean criminal record. He then moves in with family members in Brampton.

Eight months later, CSIS catches up with Saini and begins the process of his deportation.

1998: Saini is pardoned by Muhammad Rafiq Tarar, then the president of Pakistan (and a former Supreme Court judge). Saini’s father is instrumental in securing the pardon.

2000: After numerous appeals, the federal court rules that, because Saini was pardoned by Pakistan, his Canadian deportation order should be cancelled.

2001: A Federal Court of Appeal decision on October 21 reverses the earlier ruling and orders the deportation order to stand.

2006: Saini graduates from the University of Windsor’s law school.

2007: Saini articles at a Brampton law firm run by Manji Singh Mangat, and at immigration lawyer (and Maher Arar legal team member) Lorne Waldman’s Toronto firm. He also grants an exclusive interview to the CBC.

2009: The Law Society of Upper Canada convenes a hearing to determine whether Saini should receive his Class L1 licence. He is represented by Frank Addario.

Photo by Doug Bull