Warning: This story contains details of domestic violence
A judge has issued a Canada-wide warrant for a Vancouver Island doctor who has fled the country to South Africa.
Dr. Sujay Ishwarlall, who lived in the Victoria area and worked in Duncan, is wanted for contempt of court as he “flagrantly disregarded all previous court orders” during divorce proceedings, said Justice Catherine Murray in her March 2, 2023 decision.
The 45-year-old anesthesiologist has been ordered by the court to provide spousal and child support both retroactively and going forward to his former wife Shresta Ishwarlall, and is under a protection order not to go near her or their child due to his history of domestic violence.
The couple met in South Africa where Shresta was working as a teacher and Sujay as a doctor, and married there in 2005. The couple moved to Canada in 2011, lived in Saskatchewan until 2019, then moved to British Columbia.
Shresta was not able to work as a teacher in Canada, as her qualifications did not transfer, so she was substantially financially dependent on Sujay, who was making at least $450,000 a year.
The doctor has twice been charged with domestic violence against his wife, once in B.C. for an incident in 2020 and once in New Zealand when the couple was on vacation with their child in 2013.
In the 2013 incident Sujay became angry with Shresta and headbutted her in the face and dragged her around their hotel room.
When she tried to escape he shut the door on her toe. She had to go to hospital for treatment of her injuries. Their child witnessed the assault. The doctor pleaded guilty to the assault and recieved a discharge, with the judge in that case noting “serious domestic violence over an extended period.”
Following the assault he engaged in “intensive counselling” and was reprimanded by the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons, and directed to attend anger management counselling. He did some but not all of it.
“The counselling did not seem to have any impact. Dr. Ishwarlall continued to be physically, verbally, and mentally abusive toward Ms. Ishwarlall…” said Murray in her judgment. “One thing did change after the New Zealand incident however, Dr. Ishwarlall was careful to not leave telltale signs of his abusive conduct.”
It was after the assault became public knowledge in Moose Jaw, where they lived, that the couple decided to move to B.C.
In 2020 the pandemic meant Sujay was home with his wife and child more often and the violence escalated, the judgment says, until he was physically and mentally abusive on an almost daily basis.
The couple finally separated in July of 2020 after their child threatened to run away if Shresta didn’t leave Sujay.
Following the separation the doctor continued to call his wife from time to time to yell at and threaten her, consistently saying that she would never see any money from him.
In November of that year he was arrested a second time for domestic violence after an incident where he entered the family home without invitation, grabbed his wife by the hair and threatened to smash her face in.
On the date of trial, to Shresta’s surprise, the judge resolved the charges by way of a peace bond, which is similar to probation. Under the bond he is supposed to be reporting to a probation officer, taking counselling, and having no contact with Shresta or their child. That bond is not up until August, 2023.
Because Sujay was the sole breadwinner, there was an informal arrangement that following the separation Shresta could use two credit cards in lieu of spousal and child support, however the judge said that the doctor manipulated the credit cards to leave only a small amount of credit available, leading to Shresta often being unable to pay for basic expenses such as food.
She subsequently applied for formal child and spousal support, and got a job as a medical office assistant.
In May of 2022 Justice Mayer ordered Sujay to pay child and spousal support, but the doctor paid only three months of child support and no spousal support.
Judge Murray notes in the judgment that the doctor has fled to South Africa, selling off assets and clearing out and closing bank accounts on his way.
“He has left Ms. Ishwarlall and [their child] financially destitute,” Murray notes.
With the couple’s divorce granted in a two-day family court trial in February that the doctor failed to attend, Shresta has been granted sole custody of their child, and the judge issued numerous orders regarding spousal and child support as well as division of assets and the Canada-wide warrant.
Murray also notes that the courts in South Africa are required to recognize and support the judgment.