Court stops polls at Canada’s oldest Sikh temple

Saturday, September 4, 2010

VANCOUVER - The cancellation of elections to North America’s oldest Sikh temple, the Ross Street Gurdwara, by a court this week has opened divisions between moderates and hardliners in the local Sikh community.

Vancouver and its surrounding areas in British Columbia province - which were the first places where Punjabi immigrants from India arrived in the 1890s - are home to the largest concentration of the Sikh community in Canada.

The historic Ross Street Gurdwara was set up in 1908. Unlike other group/family controlled shrines, this is one of the three public gurdwaras in the Vancouver area where elections are held regularly.

The next elections are due in November.

But on a petition by the Sikh Youth Vancouver, the provincial British Columbia supreme court here has stopped the elections. The petition alleged voter list irregularities by the current management controlled by the moderate Khalsa Diwan Society .

In his order, Justice Paul Walker said a neutral person must be appointed to prepare new voter lists and hold elections.

“The hardliner Sikh Youth wants to gain control of this shrine also, after taking control of two other public gurdwaras in the Lower Mainland (vancouver and its suburbs). The court order is big blow to moderate Sikhs now controlling the management,” a prominent Sikh leader with no ties to any group told IANS.

Sikh Youth Vancouver had moved the court after being allegedly denied membership forms by the current management.

“The current management fears that Sikh Youth will enroll hardliners as members to win the next elections and thus control the shrine,” the Sikh leader said.

The current management has criticized the court’s decision, says it was delivered in haste.

“The judge didn’t listen to us. It is a not a fair judgment. We will meet next Tuesday and decide to challenge it,” said Jarnail Singh Bhandal, former president of the gurdwara.

He added, ” Sikh Youth Vancouver is nothing but a front for former Khalistani hardliners who want to control another shrine to further their agenda.”

The gurdwara is one the few Sikh temples where chairs and tables are allowed in the langar or community kitchen. Frowning upon this practice, the Akal Takht in Amritsar had issued a hukumnama or edict against seven local Sikhs in 1998.

Filed under: Religion

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