Sixteen years after Mukhtiar Panghali strangled his pregnant wife and burned her body, the Parole Board of Canada has granted him six months of conditional day parole to be served in a community correctional centre.
The board says a May assessment of Panghali's correctional plan determined he has shown increased accountability and attitude improvements, and has been downgraded from a high to medium risk of requiring intervention.
Panghali, a former high school teacher in Surrey, B.C., reported his wife Manjit Panghali was missing in October 2006. Police discovered her badly burned body five days later.
An investigation eventually determined that Panghali had strangled his wife in their home and then took her body to neighbouring Delta, B.C., to try to cover up the crime.
He was arrested in 2007 and charged with second-degree murder. In 2011, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 15 years.
Panghali has been in a minimum-security prison since 2016. The parole board said in its decision that he appears to have accepted responsibility for his actions and made noticeable efforts to change, despite initially pleading not guilty and unsuccessfully appealing his sentence in 2012.
"Reports indicated that you expressed deep regret for your 'regressive and rather archaic attitudes and beliefs about marriage and intimate relationships,'" the board said in its statement, adding that Panghali completed a number of courses on anger management, non-violent communication and community integration while in prison.
"[Correctional Services Canada] has reported that there is little more you can do within an institutional setting to address your risk factors as you have exhausted available programming," they said.
The parole board noted that Panghali had participated in 50 escorted temporary absences as well as a few unescorted leaves to visit family, all "without issue."
According to the report granting his conditional release, Panghali is respecting his daughter's wishes to not have any contact. She is being raised by Manjit Panghali's sister.
Women's advocate 'sickened' by parole decision
Ninu Kang, executive director of the Ending Violence Association of British Columbia, says hearing that Panghali has been granted day parole brought her back to when he killed his wife.
"Frankly, I'm sickened by it," she told CBC, adding that she remembers she considered leaving her profession at the time.
"This particular crime, followed by a number of other South Asian women killed in the community ... it was too much for me," she said.
Kang says she instantly thought of the lives of a young woman and her unborn child being taken away, as well as the impact the "gruesome" killing had on Manjit Panghali's daughter, family and loved ones.
She also worries about how the news might affect other women who have been victims of gender-based violence.
"Sometimes it feels like there is no justice," she said. "A woman can be killed, and the person that killed them can, within a few years of being behind bars, come out and ... live with relative freedom."
Kang says she believes in educating men to understand that women are their equals, and teaching them how to "show up differently as men" in today's society. She also hopes to see better protections for victims.
"I think the justice system still needs to continue to do a better job in terms of policies, practices," she said. "To ensure that victims are safe and that victims have their rights.
"And I think that we do need to do a better job ... making sure that the behaviour curbs, and women and non-binary folks are safer in our society."
The terms imposed on Panghali during his six-month conditional leave include not drinking alcohol or consuming drugs, having no contact with the victim's family, and reporting all relationships and attempts to initiate relationships with females to a parole supervisor.
While the parole board said it believes Panghali can successfully re-integrate into society, it said the "serious and violent nature" of his crime was not lost on them.
"Your actions were callous and vicious and have left the victim's family significantly traumatized," the report says, adding that these are still considered aggravating factors.
The board said the fact Pangali has no previous criminal history was a mitigating factor in its decision.