A recipient of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Award is defending his acceptance of the medal after news of his pending trial for numerous firearms offences resurfaced.
Maninder Gill, manager of Radio India, faces firearms charges stemming from the Aug. 28, 2010 shooting of contractor Harjit Singh Atwal outside the Guru Nanak Gurdwara following a wedding at the Sikh place of worship.
"I've done lots of community work - that's why I got picked," said Gill, adding that Radio India has raised more than $10 million for tsunami victims, cancer foundations and numerous other charities.
Gill originally faced eight charges, including aggravated assault, discharging a firearm with intent, pointing a firearm, possession of a firearm for a dangerous purpose, unauthorized possession of a firearm and attempted murder. Gill said several of the charges, including the attempted murder charge, have since been dropped.
Gill allegedly shot Atwal in the thigh in the parking lot after the wedding, though he claims his actions were in self-defence. At the time, Atwal had reportedly been feuding with the station over comments made on-air that he claimed were defamatory.
Gill said he was attacked by "Khalistani goons" - in reference to a group of people who want an independent Sikh state in India's northern province of Punjab - for his anti-extremism stance in the Sikh community. He also claimed he received threats following the incident, including a targeted drive-by shooting on his house, prompting him to visit the police station 21 times since then.
"I am confident my charges will not stand when the trial will happen," said Gill, noting that the trial is set for March 2014.
The medal was presented to him by Newton-North Delta MP Jinny Sims at a banquet earlier this week. Gill also claimed that Surrey-North MP Jasbir Sandhu and Fleetwood-Port Kells MP Nina Grewal offered to nominate him for the medal.
Sims released a statement acknowledging Gill's past and explaining why she presented him with the award.
"It has come to my attention that Mr. Maninder Gill, a resident of my riding to whom I awarded a Queen's Jubilee medal has been ordered to stand trial," reads the statement. "I awarded the medal to Mr. Gill in recognition of the significant contributions he has made to his community and was not aware of the pending legal matter.
"I recognise the seriousness of the crime he has been accused of committing and apologise to those who were offended that he was presented with the medal."
Sims added that the Canadian legal system considers each accused person innocent until proven guilty and said she could not comment further until Gill's case has gone through the court system.
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