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Canada Ontario Judge Rules In Sikh Temple Clash

Ontario judge rules in Sikh temple clash

By Sarah Sacheli, Postmedia News - November 2, 2011


WINDSOR, Ont. — An Ontario judge has ruled in the ongoing power struggle at Windsor's Sikh Cultural Society of Metropolitan, deciding which members are eligible to vote in upcoming elections and extending an injunction aimed at controlling the "lawless" behaviour of the old guard at the temple.

"This case was about a battle for power and control," begins the 22-page decision by Superior Court Justice Mary Jo Nolan. The case pitted a new executive, acclaimed to office in 2009, against Windsor allergist Dr. Sukhdev Singh Kooner, who refused to hand over leadership, tried to have himself named leader for life, and later staged a coup at the temple, Gurdwara Khalsa Parkash.

The fractiousness has given way to violence, with police called to the temple on several occasions. One man — a member of the new executive — said he was physically attacked in the driveway of his home while another says shots were fired at his house.

"The all-too-public struggle . . . cannot help but be a source of embarrassment to the vast majority of the members or attendees of the gurdwara who simply want to worship and celebrate cultural events in a peaceful and respectful environment," Nolan noted.

The judge ruled that Mohinder Singh Kandola, Gurbax Singh Wahid, Harjinder Singh Kandola, Kulbir Kaur Bhola, Balwinder Kaur Mann, Gian Singh Chandan and Pritam Kaur Chandan, acclaimed to office in 2009, are the valid members of the executive committee. A list of 301 members prepared by that committee and a further list of 155 people, including members suspended or expelled by the committee during the power struggle, will be eligible to vote in an election to be held in December.

Until Jan. 31, 2012, Kooner and his group of supporters will not be allowed to come within one kilometre of the temple except for worship on Sundays.

That restraining order is an extension of an injunction granted by another judge earlier this year.

"It would be fair to say they're disappointed with the decision, of course," William Sasso, lawyer for Kooner and 24 of his supporters named in the case, said Wednesday. He said he will be meeting with Kooner shortly to discuss the ruling and what steps the group may take next.

Kooner could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Harjinder Singh Kandola and the lawyers who represented him and other members of the new executive did not immediately return phone calls.

Since its inception in early 2010, the case has been heard by no fewer than five judges, with restraining orders against the old executive imposed four times. The judges expressed reluctance to interfere in the affairs of a religious organization, but Nolan noted that this case deals with "the fundamental principles of fairness."

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