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Canada Controversial Guelph Sikh Temple To Proceed


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Rob O’Flanagan, Mercury staff

GUELPH — A proposed Sikh temple that sparked heated opposition in Guelph’s south end will go ahead without a challenge to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Dr. Ravi Rai, vice-president of the Guelph Sikh Society said there remain a few design hurtles to clear, but he is hopeful that ground will be turned on the temple construction by April, during the annual Vaisakhi festival.

The structure will go up on Clair Road East between Tolton Drive and Victoria Road, the site of Guelph’s largest new residential housing development.

It is Rai’s understanding that evidence to back the appeal was lacking, making it untenable. He said the Guelph Sikh Society lost roughly four months of its construction schedule and spent about $10,000 as it prepared for the appeal process. He said the society will seek reimbursement from the Westminster Woods Residents’ Association for those costs.

The association was forced to withdraw an appeal it made to the Ontario Municipal Board prior to a hearing scheduled for Dec. 9-10. Association chair Adam Minnion said the group received word from a board official that there was not adequate evidence to back the appeal.

“I had to withdraw the appeal,” said Minnion. “We still don’t really think that people have listened to us, but there were some things that materialized. There were some discussions I had with the OMB that really handcuffed our position and we really could not go forward without withdrawing the appeal.”

Minnion indicated that time restraints made it difficult to muster neighbourhood support for the appeal, and that appears to have contributed to the withdrawal. He believed there was evidence to show that the size of the proposed temple did not fit the city’s definition of small-scale.

“We were going to go forward with that evidence,” he said, but an OMB official said there was no evidence to back the association’s case.

Rai said while there was some strong opposition to the temple, the vast majority of people in Guelph supported it. The society wishes to thank the community for that support through a “mega food drive.” Two truckloads of food, most of it collected by youth in the Sikh community, will be delivered to the Guelph Food Bank on Sunday at 3 p.m.

“Christmas is coming, so we want to make sure that everybody gets food over those few days,” Rai said.

In an effort to accommodate the concerns and wishes of the neighbourhood where the structure will be located, temple planners made a number of concessions and alterations to initial plans, Rai explained. For instance, the front of the building will now face Clair Road, as opposed to residences to the west.

“We have to now make the actual drawings, which will be coming forth in the coming months,” he said. “We are trying to do our first ceremony on the 13th of April because that is one of the biggest days we celebrate. April 13th will be the day we go there, have the prayers and dig in the stone to start. If the plans are ready by then, we will break the ground.”

A fundraising campaign will also be launched to pay for the project.




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