SABA Spotlight Series – Melissa Krishna

SABA Spotlight Melissa Krishna

Melissa is a South Asian lawyer who moved to Canada from Bangalore, India, at the age of 11. Melissa is the Associate General Counsel at BentallGreenOak (Canada) Limited Partnership, a global real estate investment company. Her role requires her to wear many different hats including negotiator of commercial contracts to manager of real estate transactions to advisor on employment matters with respect to the company’s nearly 1,500 employees.

Melissa is a former board member of SABA. She enjoys volunteering, hiking and Bollywood dancing. In addition to English, Melissa speaks Hindi and Kannada.

1. Is your current career path what you originally intended?

Yes and No. In high school, as part of the co-op program, I did a placement at a lawyer’s office and knew after that that I wanted to be a lawyer. However, in law school, I was convinced I was going to be a tax lawyer until I got to spend some time in the tax department during articling and realized that it was not for me.

2. What are some moments in your career that you are proud of?

I led the largest M&A deal that was undertaken by the oil and gas company I was working with a few years ago. The deal involved the acquisition of a company that was listed on both the Toronto stock exchange and the Colombian stock exchange. As such, there were many regulatory challenges as well as deal complexities. The deal won the company a Dealmaker award and my work on the deal was instrumental in making me a finalist for the Tomorrow’s Leader Award.

3. What’s your favourite memory from being part of SABA?

One of the things that I cherish from being part of SABA is the fact that we instituted a mentorship program this year. Having benefited from informal mentors, I’m very passionate about mentorship and am thrilled that we are able to leverage our large membership base to create such relationships to empower and enrich young lawyers. I have generally thoroughly enjoyed my time on the SABA board because of the smart, engaged and dedicated lawyers that form the board.

4. What’s your favourite South Asian snack?

My all time favourite South Asian snack is probably my mom’s medhu vada. I’ve never had a vada that is more crispy or perfect than the ones my mom makes!

5. What was the best advice you received about the practice of law?

I was told to try to give the other side the benefit of the doubt and to understand what is motivating them to argue the point that they are making – this has helped me significantly in not only resolving negotiations amicably but quite often, in my favour.

As an articling student, I was told: “No one expects you to know any law at this point, the best thing you have to offer is your reliability”. This advice has served me well throughout my career as I try to ensure my clients (internal and external while in private practice) feel that they can depend on me.

Justice Russell Juriansz Retirement and Creation of New Award


TORONTO, ONTARIO – The South Asian Bar Association of Toronto (SABA Toronto) congratulates one of its most important members, the Honourable Justice Russell G. Juriansz, on his retirement from the Ontario Court of Appeal. After first being appointed to the bench in 1998, his ground-breaking and historic career included, among many other accolades, becoming the first South Asian appointed to the Ontario Superior of Justice and the first racialized person appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal. Justice Juriansz was sworn out of office on August 30, 2021.

Justice Juriansz was called to the bar in 1974 and spent 24 years as a constitutional and human rights lawyer, appearing before the Supreme Court of Canada on several occasions. He and his wife Kaye Joachim worked tirelessly to protect human rights in Canada.

To commemorate and honour the career and achievements of Justice Juriansz and his wife, SABA Toronto is proud to announce the creation of the Juriansz and Joachim Award for Excellence in Human Rights. The award will recognize outstanding singular or cumulative contributions to the promotion and advancement of human rights as defined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other human rights legislation in Canada. The award will be presented annually at SABA’s Gala and Awards night, and will foster donations to the endowments currently existing in Justice Juriansz’ name at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Speaking at his swearing-out ceremony on August 30, 2021, current SABA President, Devin Persaud, thanked Justice Juriansz for his innumerable contributions to the bar and his passion for improving the law and the legal process.  Notable SABA members have also offered the following heartfelt messages:

As a lawyer, Justice Juriansz was a lion of the human rights bar. As a judge, he brought that same intelligence, thoughtfulness, and empathy to bear, which made him one of our finest. Justice Juriansz has been many “firsts” and, in just being so, South Asian lawyers across North America have stood on his shoulders. He has been a mentor to and champion for many lawyers of all backgrounds, providing sage advice and guidance on how to navigate our profession and our duties. His presence on the bench will be sorely missed but never forgotten.

Ranjan Agarwal, SABA President (2015 – 2017)

Humble, brilliant and supportive are the words that come to mind when describing The Honourable Juriansz.  His support of SABA since its onset and his model to our members has been inspiring.  His accessibility and engaging presence in the legal community has encouraged and influenced so many.  As the first South Asian Justice on the Court of Appeal, he has paved a road for many to follow and for that, we are forever grateful.

Sudevi Mukherjee-Gothi, SABA President (2010 – 2011)

Beyond the obviously tremendous intellect, Justice Juriansz carried himself with a charm and dignity that made me feel privileged to be in his company.  As I got to know him, my admiration grew as I understood what he went through being a trailblazer for the South Asians in Canadian society and our legal system.  His leadership and tenacity in pushing for greater meaningful South Asian representation in law firms and the judiciary was unwavering.  Justice Juriansz inspired many of us, including myself.  He is a reminder that we are never too old to find role models.

Bobby Sachdeva, Miller Thomson LLP

SABA Toronto congratulates Justice Juriansz on his retirement and extends heartfelt wishes to Kaye and the rest of their family on the next stage of their lives.

About SABA Toronto

The South Asian Bar Association of Toronto is Canada’s largest equity-seeking bar organization, dedicated to promoting the objectives of South Asian members of the legal profession. SABA represents South Asian legal professionals and ensures that their interests are recognized, respected and voiced with the Law Society of Ontario and various levels of provincial and federal government. SABA aims to unite its over 800 members, deliver programming for professional growth and advancement, promote access to justice and give back to South Asian communities.  Its membership is dynamic, ever-expanding and includes legal professionals from large and small law firms, sole practitioners, government agencies/ departments, non-profit organizations, and corporations. Members of the judiciary, academics and law students also form an integral part of SABA Toronto.

South Asian Bar Association of Toronto

SABA Toronto Elects new Executive and Board Members


TORONTO, ONTARIO – The South Asian Bar Association of Toronto (SABA Toronto), which recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, held their Annual General Meeting on July 28, 2021. During the meeting, new board members and a new executive were also elected. SABA also recognized its Student Recognition Award Winners during this meeting.

SABA Board of Directors, 2021-2022

The 2021-2022 Board of Directors of SABA in alphabetical order by last name are:

  • Anisha Bhardwaj
  • Monty Dhaliwal
  • Davin Garg
  • Maneesha Gupta
  • Ravi Jain
  • Komil Joshi
  • Arun Krishnamurti
  • Sarah Malik
  • Amrita Mann
  • Ashok Menen
  • Devin Persaud
  • Janani Shanmuganathan
  • Mohena Singh
  • Amrita Tamber
  • Annie Tayyab
Aaron Bains will continue to serve on the board as Past-President

SABA Toronto would like to thank all the outgoing Board members for their leadership and hard work.

SABA Board Executive

Devin Persaud of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP has been newly elected as the President of the South Asian Bar Association of Toronto. “It is my privilege to lead this storied organization and I look forward to working with our new board on continuing SABA’s essential mandates. We will continue to support and uplift both our members and our communities as we emerge from the effects of the pandemic. We also look forward to showcasing our city in preparing to host the national SABA convention in 2024 for the first time,” said Persaud.

Annie Tayyab has been elected as Vice-President, Monty Dhaliwal elected as Secretary, and

Mohena Singh appointed as Treasurer.

SABA Student Recognition Award Winners

SABA Toronto would also like to congratulate our Student Recognition Award Winners: Farrah Kudus from Queen’s University Faculty of Law, Priyanka Bahl from the University of Ottawa, Darren Gill from the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, and Shruti Ramesh from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. All award winners were selected due to their outstanding contributions to their schools, SALSA Chapters, local communities, and outstanding academic achievements.

About SABA Toronto

The South Asian Bar Association of Toronto is Canada’s largest equity-seeking bar organization, dedicated to promoting the objectives of South Asian members of the legal profession. SABA represents South Asian legal professionals and ensures that their interests are recognized, respected and voiced with the Law Society of Ontario and various levels of provincial and federal government. SABA aims to unite its over 800 members, deliver programming for professional growth and advancement, promote access to justice and give back to South Asian communities. Its membership is dynamic, ever-expanding and includes legal professionals from large and small law firms, sole practitioners, government agencies/ departments, non-profit organizations, and corporations. Members of the judiciary, academics and law students also form an integral part of SABA Toronto.

Congratulations to Justice Jamal on his Appointment to the Supreme Court


SABA Toronto extends a warm congratulations to Justice Mahmud Jamal for his nomination to the Supreme Court of Canada, which was announced earlier today. We are excited to see this historic nomination of a judge with South Asian heritage to the highest court in the country.

Justice Jamal has had a distinguished legal career. Immediately before his nomination to the Supreme Court, he served as a judge on the Court of Appeal for Ontario. Before his time on the bench, he practised with Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in the fields of appellate litigation, constitutional and public law, class actions, and commercial litigation. He appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada in 35 appeals addressing a wide range of civil, constitutional, criminal, and regulatory issues. He also appeared before various provincial courts, the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, and Tax Court of Canada, and federal and provincial administrative tribunals. He is bilingual.

We are proud to count Justice Jamal as a long-time supporter and member of SABA Toronto. Justice Jamal was a director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, The Advocates’ Society, and the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History. He was a member of the Supreme Court Advocacy Institute and a trustee of the Canadian Business Law Journal. He has taught constitutional law at McGill University, administrative law at Osgoode Hall Law School, and published widely in his areas of practice. He was also chair of Osler’s pro bono program and a member of its Partnership Board.

We wish Justice Jamal the best as he goes through the formal appointment process.


SABA Toronto félicite chaleureusement le juge Mahmud Jamal pour sa nomination à la Cour suprême du Canada, qui a été annoncée plus tôt aujourd’hui. Nous sommes ravis de voir cette nomination historique d’un juge d’origine sud-asiatique à la plus haute cour du pays.

Le juge Jamal a une carrière juridique remarquable. Avant sa nomination à la Cour suprême, il a été juge à la Cour d’appel de l’Ontario. Avant de siéger à la Cour, il a exercé le droit au sein du cabinet Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP dans les domaines du droit constitutionnel et public, du droit des recours collectifs, du droit d’appel et du litige commercial. Il a plaidé devant la Cour suprême du Canada à 35 reprises dans des causes portant sur un large éventail de questions touchant au droit civil, constitutionnel, criminel et réglementaire. Il a également plaidé devant diverses cours provinciales, la Cour fédérale, la Cour d’appel fédérale, la Cour canadienne de l’impôt, ainsi que devant plusieurs tribunaux administratifs fédéraux et provinciaux. Le juge Jamal est bilingue.

Nous sommes fières de compter le juge Jamal parmi les partisans et membres de longue date de SABA Toronto. Il a également été administrateur de l’Association canadienne des libertés civiles, de La Société des plaideurs et de la Société Osgoode pour l’histoire juridique canadienne. Il a été membre de l’Institut de plaidoirie devant la Cour suprême et fiduciaire de la Revue canadienne du droit de commerce. Il a enseigné le droit constitutionnel à l’Université McGill, le droit administratif à la Faculté de droit Osgoode Hall et a publié de nombreux articles dans ses domaines de pratique. Il a également été président du programme de pro bono du cabinet Osler et membre de son conseil de partenariat.

Nous souhaitons bonne chance au juge Jamal dans le cadre de la procédure de nomination officielle.



Sarah Malik is an Assistant Crown Attorney with the Ministry of the Attorney General. She prosecutes a variety of offences under the Criminal Code of Canada. Prior to that, she was a criminal defence lawyer with Hicks Adams LLP where she successfully represented clients facing a variety of offences in the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario. Sarah obtained her Juris Doctor from the University of Ottawa and her Honours Bachelors of Arts from York University. She has a passion for social justice and is an advocate for diversity, equity, and opportunity in the profession and society at large.


Sarah grew up in Canada from the age of 11 years. Sarah enjoys South Asian food, particularly Haleem, which is a savory stew consisting of meat, lentils, spices, and herbs. In addition to English, Sarah is fluent in Urdu and can understand Hindi and Punjabi.

  1. What attracted you to criminal law?

I was not always sure that I wanted to be a lawyer, let alone a criminal lawyer, but it is one of few professions I considered seriously. I wanted to work with people and advocate for them so I wanted to be in a social justice field. I learned from participating in a mock trial competition in high school and then later mooting in law school that I wanted to be in the courtroom. Hence, I ended up pursuing that passion. I have been blessed and fortunate enough to have received opportunities that have allowed me to continue on this career path. I like that as a criminal lawyer, I can advocate for people, fight for their rights, and can have a direct impact on their everyday lives.


  1. What are some moments in your career that you are proud of?

I find the quiet moments of the day to day work the most rewarding. Any day where I can either help a client who had their life turned upside down as a result of criminal charges or assist a complainant or the public to tell their evidence in court makes the work meaningful. If I can help any person get through a difficult day, then that day is worth it. The bigger precedent setting wins and jury trial wins do matter for sure and are a great dose of encouragement and pride we all need from time to time, but it is these quieter moments involving a lot of emotions, high stakes, and a variety of challenges that also make the career worthwhile.


  1. What is your favourite memory from being part of SABA?

Being a part of the SABA board has been a wonderful experience. Organizing the 2019 annual gala has been one of my favorite memories. It was the first SABA gala that I planned as a member of the board. It was rewarding to see the long nights and the efforts pay off with a wonderful event that brought so much of the legal community together. 


When the pandemic hit in early 2020, I was directly involved in transitioning SABA events and advocacy efforts to a greater electronic format without affecting our ability to be a voice for the membership. Being able to do this fast, effectively, and while helping the organization adjust to the change caused by the pandemic was rewarding. This laid the groundwork for SABA Toronto to continue to be a leading legal diversity organization in Canada.

  1. If you weren’t a lawyer, what else would you be? 

I may have become either an academic or a journalist. These are professions I have considered aside from law. I enjoy the process of taking the time to research a topic and present a story. I suppose, in a way, that is what lawyers do everyday, but to approach it from another angle continues to intrigue me.

  1. What is the best advice you can give about the practice of law? 


Be authentic and the rest will follow. Never compromise your principles, ethics, faith, and well-being for anything. There will be challenges and they will come from different angles. Hard work as well as a good support system (whether from colleagues and/or a trusted group of legal and non-legal friends and/or family) is absolutely vital in this profession. Things will unfold and happen exactly as they are meant to.


SABA & Hillsdale Help India fundraiser for UNICEF India

A huge thank you to those who donated through the SABA & Hillsdale Help India fundraiser for UNICEF India. We have now surpassed our goal and raised more than $36,000! Your generosity has made a difference: over the last month, a total of 16630 oxygen concentrators; 15961 oxygen cylinders; 19 oxygen generation plants; 11516 ventilators/Bi PAP; and about 6.9 L of Remdesivir vials have been delivered/dispatched.
SABA would also like to thank Hillsdale for matching donations up to $15,000! We and UNICEF India appreciate the support.
This is also your last chance to donate to the SABA North America fundraiser!
SABA Toronto is also proud to have partnered with SABA North America and various SABA chapters throughout Canada and the United States to raise additional funds through the end of May. All individual donations we receive at this link through May 31, 2021 will be used to support reputable charitable organizations fighting COVID in India.


Monty is an internationally trained litigation lawyer of Punjabi background. He is an Associate at Pallett Valo LLP, a full service law firm in Mississauga, where he practices in the areas of commercial litigation, estates, employment and labour, and insolvency and corporate restructuring. Monty is a graduate of the University of Buckingham law school in the United Kingdom. Monty’s favourite South Asian food is Aloo Paratha. He enjoys playing hockey, golf and cricket in his spare time. In addition to speaking English, Monty speaks Punjabi and Hindi.

1) What attracted you to litigation?
I’ve always been attracted to the adrenaline that comes with receiving a judgment or decision after putting your entire case out there as best as you can, for better or for worse. It’s a serious rush and one of the few measures of objective success one can have professionally. Winners and losers.

2) What should lawyers elsewhere in the country know about practicing law in Mississauga?
We get to play with the big guys while also serving smaller businesses and local community causes. That’s not always possible downtown.

3) What are some moments in your career that you are proud of?
I had the privilege of appearing before the Court of Appeal on a couple of occasions in the last few years, and it felt like a huge moment. Being a litigator, it was huge to appear in a Court that shapes so much of our province’s law.

4) What’s your favourite memory from being part of SABA?
Recently, I worked with Aaron Bains and Annie Tayyab to encourage South Asian judges to apply for the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy. I can’t believe I get to do things like this.

5) What was the best advice you received about the practice of law?
Regardless of whether you have the facts or the law, don’t let anyone outwork you.


Janani Shanmuganathan is a criminal defence lawyer of Tamil heritage. Born in Sri Lanka, Janani moved to Canada at the age of three. She co-founded Goddard & Shanmuganathan LLP, a litigation boutique that specializes in criminal law and professional regulation. Janani has argued almost 40 appeals at the Ontario Court of Appeal. 

Janani is a champion for diversity in the legal profession. In addition to being a SABA board member, she is vocal about the struggles of being a lawyer of visible minority. Last year, Janani was awarded the Precedent Setter Award, which recognizes early-career lawyers who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their practice and their community. 

Outside of the courtroom, Janani is trained in bharatanatyam, a form of classical Indian dance. 

1) What attracted you to become a criminal defence lawyer?

For me, being a criminal defence lawyer is a calling. I don’t really know what first attracted me to it, I’ve always just viewed it as something I was meant to do. It is a hard and stressful job, but an extremely important one. And it is immensely rewarding. I feel a sense of pride that people choose me to be their advocate and as the person to safeguard their liberty. 

2) Why did you start your own firm?

I had reached a point in my career where it made sense to be my own boss. I already had my own clients and was running my own files. And having my own firm means I have the freedom to pick and choose what cases I want to take on and affords me the flexibility to balance work and family.

3)What are some moments in your career that you are proud of?

More than individual moments in my career, I am proud about my career as a whole. I am proud that despite the immense stress that accompanies being a criminal defence lawyer, the microaggressions I have faced being a woman of colour, and my own feelings of imposter syndrome, that I am still in this profession. It is so important for racialized students in law school to see racialized lawyers still practicing law. Representation matters so very much. 

4)What’s your favourite memory from being part of SABA?

When I first joined SABA, my personal goal was to help SABA with their inaugural intervention at the Supreme Court of Canada. It was really neat that I was able to achieve that goal in the R. v. Chouhan appeal. As an intervener we only had five minutes for oral argument but we made those five minutes count by talking to the SCC about the lived experiences of racialized people. And although the Court ultimately did not decide our way, those submissions resonated with a lot of people. 

5) What do you think is the biggest opportunity for positive change in the legal profession? 

Diversity and inclusion. The legal profession is changing every day as more and more racialized people join the practice of law. My hope is that as more of us speak out about our experiences – for example, how it feels when people mistake us for the interpreter, or refuse to try and pronounce our names – the profession will change for the better. 

Written by: Vipal Jain

SABA Spotlight Series – Amandeep Dhillon

Amandeep Dhillon is a litigator of Punjabi background. His parents moved to Canada from Punjab, India. Amandeep specializes in the area of civil and corporate/commercial litigation. He co-founded Kramer Simaan Dhillon LLP, a litigation boutique with six lawyers practicing in contract, shareholder, construction, real estate and defamation disputes.

This year marks Amandeep’s fourth year with the SABA board. When not in court for his client, Amandeep can be found on the basketball court or on the running path.

1) Is your current career path what you originally intended?
Yes and no. As a young boy, before I decided to go to law school, I wanted to be a sports broadcaster (Suneel Joshi without the moustache). When I started law school, I thought I was going to be a criminal lawyer. I never thought I would end up at my own firm, practicing civil and commercial litigation. However, I have enjoyed every single minute of my career – both the litigation side and the business side that comes with running my own firm (with my partner). The variety of matters I am retained for keeps me engaged and I find myself continuously learning and growing.

2) What are some moments in your career that you are proud of?
I really enjoy trial work. It is a lot of work and can be exhausting, but the opportunity to advocate, cross-examine, to challenge, to persuade, gets the adrenaline going. I find the process of creating a story to tell the trier of fact most engaging – you have to combine legal skills with a host of other skills good litigators have to possess such cultural competency and emotional intelligence to weave together a persuasive version of the facts.

The one trial that sticks out for me was a 2016 multi-week trial, where I represented a civil sexual assault victim. We were successful in getting (at that time) one of the largest judgments granted for the type and nature of assault my client was a victim of. My client waited more than 16 years to have her day in Court, and the depth and intensity of emotion, relief and vindication she felt and expressed after finding out she had won at trial, was not lost on me. It reinforced the value and importance of the work we do for many of our clients.

3) What’s your favorite memory from being part of SABA?
Chairing the awards committee for the annual SABA gala the last few years. I am impressed with the quality and depth of talented South Asian legal professionals – whether that be in private practice, government, academia, or outside the legal profession. It has always been a challenge to select the annual winners of the legal excellence award. I have enjoyed reviewing the applications, reaching out to the winners and working with them as we approach the gala. It is always inspiring to read the applications and I feel a real sense of pride in our community.

Further, and in general, I have really enjoyed working with a great group of smart, intelligent lawyers who are committed to improving the quantity and quality of opportunities for South Asian lawyers in the legal profession (whether that be getting appointed to the bench, private practice placements, or public appointments), and their professional development (through various professional development programs).

However, I am mostly proud of SABA for being a voice that speaks out against social injustice and inequality, whether that be provincially, nationally, or globally.

4) Who are some people who have helped guide you in your career?
Obviously my wife, Sonu Dhanju-Dhillon, who is also a commercial litigator, at Torkin
Manes. She is awesome at business development and has, on more than one occasion, nudged me in the right direction to facilitate the growth of the business side of my practice. As we both have similar practices, we often, and almost daily, are bouncing ideas and strategy off each other. She is not shy to challenge me on case strategies and theories. I have also been fortunate over the years to have a network of senior lawyers I could reach out to, to pick their brains, bounce ideas off of, learn from, and talk legal approach and strategy with. I am most fortunate to have my friend, Michael Simaan, as my partner. Michael is sharp, ethical and creative and always ready to discuss case strategies and legal issues at any time.

5) What was the best advice you received about the practice of law?
a) Have a growth mindset – whether that be networking to grow your practice and/or to open up new opportunities, or jumping into a file, taking CPDs or finding a mentor to expand and develop your skill set and to gain experience.
b) Learn to write. Cases can be won or lost, minds made up or changed, and impressions formed, before you walk into court and get to open your mouth, based on your written submissions. As an advocate, it is imperative that you are able to convey your position in writing in a concise, clear manner, and in as few words as possible, while painting the picture you want to paint to the party you’re trying to convince (judge, mediator, arbitrator). It is a skill that takes time, effort and patience.

Written by: Vipal Jain

Canadian Law Awards 2021

The Canadian Law Awards is proudly returning as a virtual event on May 20, 2021 to celebrate the nation’s leading law firms, in-house legal teams, individuals, deals and cases. It’s a true reflection of excellence in the legal profession over the past year.

The event will start at 12:45 pm ET with live virtual panels featuring some of the excellence awardees, who will share their inspiring insights, best practices and success stories. This is followed by the winner announcements hosted by CBC news anchor Suhana Meharchand. The virtual platform also offers a live chat option and a peer-matching function for online networking with peers in the wider legal profession.

Registration is free here. The full list of excellence awardees is available here.