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Canada Sikh Temple Brawl A Disgrace: Judge

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Sikh temple brawl a disgrace: Judge


Aftermath. An injured person is given assistance at the scene of a skirmish
at the Sri Guru Nanak Sikh Centre in Brampton in April of 2010.
The temple has had a "sad history of conflict," a judge noted.
Torstar Supplied Photo
Torstar News Service

February 13, 2012

A Superior Court judge called the power struggle that resulted in machete violence at a Sikh temple “disgraceful” and he doesn’t have praise for the resulting legal aftermath.

Brampton’s Sri Guru Nanak Sikh Centre made headlines in 2010 when a clash involving hammers, machetes and construction knives sent four men to hospital, and another four men into the criminal justice system for assault and weapons charges. According to court documents, the main incitement that day was a coup d’etat by a rogue group.

On April 18, 2010, this group claimed to vote out a recently elected board of directors, changed the locks, and filed paperwork with the province, seizing control of the temple. In his recent decision Justice David Corbett called the events a “lawless charade.”

The rogue group that staged the illegal overthrow is now listed as 15 defendants in a civil case for control. While some of the men had no history with the temple, others were former board members, founders and congregants who had been in good standing before internal disputes over membership and alleged financial mismanagement.

At the beginning of his decision, Corbett writes that the “long sad history” of conflict at the temple is an embarrassment that has to stop.

“Consider: groups of grown men, unable to agree on how to run their temple, have resorted to violence as if they were a group of pre-adolescent children,” he wrote. “What sort of impression does this create in the broader community of the Sikh religion and the Sikh community?”

While both sides engaged in “brinksmanship” and both are to blame for not bringing their issues to court earlier, the principal fault lies with the defendants, Corbett wrote. “. . . it is clearly true that the aggressive and provocative actions of the defendants created a situation where violence was not just possible, but also likely.

“For this, they should be ashamed of themselves,” he wrote.

Although their conduct was “highly provocative” Corbett writes that the “current directors or their supporters may have gone further than the law allows in responding to this illegal conduct.”

In the decision, Justice Corbett upheld an interim injunction that bars the defendants from pulling similar shenanigans pending the outcome of further litigation. Throughout the 65-page decision, he has harsh words for the defendants’ legal strategy.

“Litigation is not some childish game,” he wrote. “It is a not acceptable to lie under oath or to falsify documents to try to win a lawsuit for control of a temple.”

He scolded the defendants for making irresponsible statements about stolen donations under the protection afforded to witnesses in legal proceedings.

In a factum that reads like an “unbounded screed” the defendants alleged that the current board “has and is misappropriating funds.” They point to a 2006 video that allegedly shows one of their rivals taking money while helping count donations at the temple.

The temple says the video was made as a public service announcement as they occasionally have “Hymn Singers” from impoverished parts of India visit. The video served as a reminder to those guests who might be tempted by the riches, they said. Peel police investigated and concluded the “theft” in the video was staged, closing the investigation and calling it “unfounded.”

The defendants believe there are two videos and want the investigation reopened.

“Of course, that (police) conclusion does not preclude the defendants pursuing this issue in their counterclaim. But on the record before me, to this point I am not satisfied there is a basis for these allegations,” Corbett wrote.

In addition, other issues involving alleged fiscal mismanagement “relate to activities that took place when defendants were members of the board, activities which they themselves approved.”

The judge did not grant the defendants’ request for a third-party monitor of the temple, noting that they have to “do more” than assert a personal belief in wrongdoing.

Later, he wrote: “I make no comment on the relative cleanliness of the hands of the current board. That may have to await trial on the issues concerning financial irregularities. The defendants’ hands are grimy with deceit.”

On a lighter note, the court was “bemused” when defendants relied on “the Charities Act” to support their allegations. The legislation is from Prince Edward Island and does not exist in Ontario.

“Counsel did not lose a meritorious case for his client here. He ‘pulled out all the stops’ here, including a few that ought not to have been pulled,” Corbett wrote.

The defendants’ lawyer, Sidney Klotz, refused comment on the case when contacted. The separate criminal trial relating to the violence at the temple begins next January.

source: http://www.bramptonguardian.com/news/news/article/1296865



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