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Sikh News Sikh Youth Slate Wins Majority At Guru Nanak Temple

Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
The new face of Canada's Sikhs

By Robert Matas
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

The election of 19-year-old to lead one of the country's largest temples marks an important shift toward blending tradition with progressive ideas and recasting the Sikh image in B.C.

Nineteen-year-old Gursimran Kaur puts gender equality and fighting domestic violence at the top of her agenda as a new member of the management committee at one of the largest Sikh temples in North America.

But she is no liberal in religious matters. She and two other women won a decisive victory in their election to the management of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple in Surrey, B.C., promising to reintroduce traditional customs.

The slate defeated community leaders who have run the institution since the mid-1990s.

Born in the neighbourhood of The Golden Temple in India, Sikh's holiest shrine, Gursimran Kaur said Monday her stand on behalf of women's rights is grounded in the centuries-old traditions. "In our religion, the first guru told us equality for women is very important because she is the one who creates the whole world, she is the creator," she said.

Throughout the campaign, Gursimran Kaur, a Simon Fraser University student majoring in mathematics, received phone calls from women saying the temple needed advocates for women's rights. She quickly realized this would be her role.

Other women "would raise their voice through me," she said.
The victory of religious Sikh youth with progressive ideas reflects a significant shift in the community, holding out the promise of recasting the image of the turbaned Sikh in B.C. The official returns, signed by independent chief returning officer Ron Laufer, show that the 18 youth slate members each received support of around two-thirds of the 21,188 ballots cast in the election.

The newly elected management committee members are mostly too young to have played any role in confrontations within the Sikh community in recent years. Most were born and grew up in religious families in Canada, although Gursimran Kaur, who lives with her parents, came to Canada when she was four.

"This is a movement to address the needs of Canadian-born youth," Sukhminder Singh Virk, another member of the youth slate, said in an interview. The temple needs "a better connect with this demographic," said Mr. Virk, a 26-year old who just received his bachelor of law.
Temple politics in B.C. have been dominated by sharp religious differences for more than a decade. The disputes erupted in violence in 1997 over whether they could use table and chairs in the temple dining hall.

The community has also been under a shadow since the Air India disaster in 1985, the deadliest act of terrorism in Canadian history. Bombs planted on airplanes in Vancouver in protest over political issues in India killed 331 people.

The youth slate, who are mostly in their 30s, ran on a two-pronged platform. They advocate a return to traditional religious observance, and an expansion of temple programs mostly to respond to the needs of young families and youth. They promise better maintenance of the buildings and tighter management of finances.

They plan to develop programs to combat drug use and gang violence, and hold workshops on Sikh scripture and rituals in English to appeal to the younger generation. Their platform also includes new community services programs at the temple. Long range plans call for a safe-house for women.

The youth slate's campaign looked like a page torn from mainstream politics, with a Facebook site and Twitter messaging. They organized phone banks to contact voters in the days leading up to the election; they had 10 buses bringing temple members to the poll to vote. Despite pouring rain, some members waited more than 90 minutes to cast their ballots. The lineup stretched close to a kilometre at one point.

The incumbent slate of moderates were, on average, about 20 years older. Paul Gill, an active supporter of the moderate slate's candidate for president, Harjinder Singh Cheema, said their slate also brought voters to the poll. However their supporters "changed their mind" in the ballot booth and voted for the youth slate, he said.

"Many people have [joined] the temple in the past five to seven years," he added. "They do not realize what has happened in the past."

The moderate slate was undermined by this open approach to the membership. "Those that support the moderate philosophy are not that committed. They are like floating on the edge and do not have strong allegiance to either side," he said.

"Some people say, we can change now and we can change again in three years. . . we have to regroup and wait for another day."

For Gursimran Kaur, the introduction of workshops on violence against women and on women's rights is now her top priority.

"Domestic violence is one of the biggest issues in our community," she said. "No matter if they are older or younger or kids, they will ... learn how to live their life and what rights they have. We're going for women's rights first."

source: The new face of Canada's Sikhs - The Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER SUN dward@{censored} - November 17, 2009

Sikh youth slate wins majority at Guru Nanak temple

Social networking sites help young traditionalists win overwhelming victory over ‘old guard’ at powerful institution

A traditionalist youth slate has won an overwhelming victory in elections at Surrey’s Guru Nanak Sikh temple over an incumbent moderate group that had run the temple for more than a decade.

The mostly Canadian-born Sikh Youth Slate, which used Internet-based social networking sites, won 13,458 votes to the incumbent faction’s 7,257 votes.

“We all expected in the last few days that the youth slate would win. But we never really thought they would win in such a big fashion,” said Harjinder Thind, a talk show host on Red FM, which serves the Punjabi community.

“People wanted a change because they were not satisfied with the previous administration.”

Thind said the youth slateheaded by insurance broker Bikramjit Singh Sandhar, ran a “very smooth Barack Obamastyle campaign” while the incumbent group alienated many temple members with negative fear-mongering.

A big issue in the election was the same one that sparked fights at the temple in 1996 and 1997: an edict from India to remove tables and chairs in the dining rooms.

The youth slate wanted members to eat on mats but agreed to a compromise so that the elderly and disabled would be able to use tables and chairs.

“That compromise was a key factor in winning the moderate vote,” Thind said.

Many temple members also believed that the old guard had not been “up to snuff” and had allowed the temple’s cleanliness to deteriorate, he added.

The rejection of the old-guard slate also represents a desire for more democracy in temple politics, said Satwinder Bains, director at the Centre for IndoCanadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley.

“The old guard was a very small, closeknit group. Very few people held power,” Bains said.

“Hopefully, under the youth slate the temple will be more open, more egalitarian and more transparent.”

Bains said the youth-slate victory signals a shift in the Sikh community in which “young people who are educated are trying to interpret what the Sikh faith should be in today’s world.”

Bains said the youth slate members were very liberal despite their push for more traditional practices.

“And they are doing what the Sikh faith says they should do: Give food to the needy, for example. And not just to Sikhs. Some of them go give food on the Downtown Eastside.”

Sikh temples are as much political institutions as places of worship. They have control over substantial real estate holdings and millions of dollars in donations. They also have significant electoral clout with politicians.

University of the Fraser Valley’s Bains said it is too early to say whether this new group will favour one party over the other. “But I can tell you that all political parties will be looking at this new group with interest.”
Sukhminder Singh Virk, an official with the victorious youth slate, said the table-and-chairs issue, along with old categories of “moderate” and “fundamentalist,” no longer define Sikh temple politics. “We are young, progressive, Canadian-born Sikhs and our focus is on the community here.”

Virk, 26, is a graduate of Simon Fraser University who recently completed a law degree in Britain. Virk said his group can reach out to young Sikhs, and promote Sikhism to counter gang and domestic violence.

Maninder Gill, managing director of Radio India, said the old-guard moderate faction was hurt by infighting.

Gill also said the youth slate was not connected with groups which promoted a Sikh homeland in India called Khalistan.

“They are not associated with any previous groups such as Babbar Khalsa or the ISYF [International Sikh Youth Federation], and the old fundamentalist leaders,” Gill said.

“They are a new vision.”


Jan 4, 2005
Why are there sometimes violent clashes between sikhs when trying to gain control over a temple? Is there some sort of ulterior motive for gaining control?

I live in England, in a place called Walsall, there are two temples, one in Pleck district and one in Caldmore district.

The Caldmore one is bigger and has more sikhs visiting it. When the commitee was changed there were violent clashes, it's like they're gaining something from being in the commitee, (money perhaps??)

Also, once the Pleck temple youth kids had gone on a camp, and as they were passing Caldmore temple, they stopped to have some refreshments, but the commitee locked all the doors so that they couldn't eat the langar there.

How selfish is that. There must be some ulterior motive to being a member of the board in the temple, not everyone joins it out of the goodness of their heart. Things may differ in Canada though. :happysingh:


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
starforce ji

Sometimes people substitute their own intelligence for the wisdom of Akaal and the result is stupidity. Stupidity is always dangerous. In a strange way human intellect often manages to set the animal loose. When the human mind is untempered by a sense of humility about its own limitations, is even more dangerous than stupidity.

Mai Harinder Kaur

Oct 6, 2006
British Columbia, Canada
I am pleased to call these young people "traditionalists" instead of "fundamentalists." They see meaning in certain practices that are distinctively Sikh, most publicised, that of eating langar on the floor. BTW, Akaal Takhat agrees with them.

Very important to me, they believe in the importance of the 5 Ks. To me, these are vital parts of being a Sikh. I believe that those who would abandon these outward signs of being a Sikh in an attempt to "modernise" our faith are badly mistaken. These help to give us our identity and are visible signs of the importance of and the relationship between piri and miri. (Each has both a miri and a piri meaning/significance.)

They are also trying to actually implement the teachings of Sikhi that we brag about, yet rarely practice. This especially concerns the equality of women within the sangat.

Most importantly - to me - is that they emphasize the importance of amrit.

So, are they fundamentalists? That depends on how you define the word. They are certainly not wild-eyed fanatics interested in flying airplanes into buildings or forcing others to follow their ways, if that is your meaning of that word.

I believe they are trying to get back to the fundamentals of Sikhi. That would be a good thing.


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