Manjot Hallen has two great passions as a lawyer. One defends injury victims as a partner at Warnett Hallen. The second is to promote greater diversity in the legal profession and, in particular, within the judiciary.
Hallen also wants to improve the image of the South Asian community, which is repeatedly tarnished by negative media coverage following gang conflicts in Metro Vancouver.
“There are more South Asian and Sikh lawyers, doctors and engineers than there are gangsters, if you just do the math,” Hallen recently told the Law by telephone. “One thing we can do is highlight these people and highlight the contributions they make to British Columbia rather than focusing on the negative. “
He puts into practice what he preaches as president of the A Night of Miracles gala at BC Children’s Hospital.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently appointed a judge of South Asian origin, Mahmud Jamal, to the Supreme Court of Canada. While Hallen applauded the ruling, he also acknowledged that British Columbia’s superior courts still have a large majority of judges with anglicized names.
In fact, there are relatively few superior court judges of Indigenous, South Asian, Chinese, Latin American or African descent, which was highlighted last December in a pair of tweets from Vancouver lawyer Veronica. Cheng.
Hallen is a member of the South Asian Bar Association, which advocates for greater diversity at all levels of the legal profession, including the judiciary.
“The good news is that we have done better in recent years and we continue to work in this direction,” said Hallen. “But are we still there? No. I think if you ask the courts — if you ask all levels of government — they’ll agree with us that we’re not there yet.
This year, Leonard Marchand became the first Indigenous judge appointed to the British Columbia Court of Appeal, which is the highest court in the province. This is a sign that the federal government is promoting more diversity on the bench.
However, this appointment will barely put an obstacle in overcoming the perceptions created by a photo of BC Court of Appeal judges in its 2020 annual report – it’s a sea of white faces.
There is more diversity at the Supreme Court level, with justices bearing surnames such as Ahmad, Basran, Choi, Dley, Iyer, Masuhara, Sharma and Shergill.
However, non-white and openly LGBT + judges are still relatively rare in the British Columbia Supreme Court, which is the highest trial court in the province.
“The ideal would be to have a more diverse justice system that would be able to relate to these different backgrounds and different educations that people may have,” Hallen said.
“Personally, I would like to see a more diverse justice system with different ethnic origins,” he continued. “I would like to see more women in the bench, and I would like to see more members of the LGBTQ community on the bench as well.
Stand up for the victims
Hallen noted that he was drawn to the practice of law because he was “still sort of an outsider” growing up in Richmond and Surrey as a South Asian Canadian in the 1990s.
“It was only natural for me to represent accident victims, who are really in a situation where they are David versus the Goliath of a huge, multi-million dollar insurance company,” he said. . “It’s something that fascinates me: being able to help people in this situation. “
When asked if there are any misconceptions about personal injury attorneys, Hallen replied that it is a myth that they are ambulance hunters or that the people who initiate ICBC claims take advantage of the system.
“People contact us when they are really injured,” Hallen said. “They contact us when they have already had the opportunity to speak to ICBC or other insurance companies. And it becomes apparent fairly quickly that they are not receiving the benefits or compensation to which they are entitled.
He added that the reality is that people, through no fault of their own, are injured in motor vehicle crashes on a daily basis.
“These same victims are often exploited by insurance companies and insurance companies don’t treat them fairly,” Hallen said. “So it is natural that we exist and it is natural that victims who are not treated fairly contact us and hire lawyers.
“We are not looking for them,” he continued. “They find us because they need us.
The no-fault insurance law the BC NDP government created is “horrible,” Hallen says, because people with minor injuries don’t even have right to substantial damages for pain and suffering.
“All anyone is entitled to if they have an accident today is the cost of rehabilitation and part of their lost wages,” Hallen said. “I have hundreds of people who have contacted me since the entry into force of this law, some of them very seriously injured, and we can do nothing to help them because they are no longer entitled to any [meaningful] the pain and damage suffered. “
Cyclists are also at the mercy of ICBC in these cases, he added.
Hallen is a former president of the Liberal Party of Canada in British Columbia, which raises the question of whether he intends to ever run for political office.
He dodged this investigation, pointing out that he is the Honorary Consul in Vancouver for the Republic of Croatia.
“It’s hard for me to answer that question when I’m sort of a quasi-diplomat at this point,” Hallen replied. “I just wanted to highlight the positive contributions that the [South Asian] the community does and make sure we have enough conversations about it. “