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Canada Temple Blaze Suspicious


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Community grieves as random vandalism escalates

Members of Abbotsford's Sikh community are still reeling from last week's devastating fire that razed their temple to the ground.

Yesterday, charred remains and soot-blackened timbers were all that's left of the temple at 31957 Townshipline Road -- a victim of a suspicious blaze that broke out at around 4 a.m. Thursday.

"We are in a grieving process. This small little place has been our second family," said Harwant Brar, volunteer administrator for the Sant Baba Vasakha Singh Sikh Society, which bought the landmark building, formerly a chapel, in 2001.

The temple hosted an Englishlanguage Sunday school, offering worship services to English-speaking Sikh youth who wanted to learn about their faith in a language they understood.

It is part of the Gurmat Centre, which also offers a preschool, Punjabi language classes and scripture-reading classes.

The temple had been the target of sporadic vandalism, theft and trespassing in the past, said Brar.

"We were cautious and mindful that some sort of vandalism might occur because there's been a history of it, but we never expected anything like this."

When their last caretaker left last month, the society decided to remove its holy scriptures from the worship hall, due to fears of their being desecrated. They escaped the destruction. But other religious texts and items left behind were destroyed in the fire.

The temple was empty at the time of the fire.

Abbotsford police Const. Ian McDonald said evidence from the fire was sent to the lab for analysis, but results could take several weeks.

Members from the major crimes unit also canvassed the area over the weekend, interviewing neighbours and witnesses.

McDonald said the last police call to the temple was 18 months ago, when someone inadvertently dialled 911. There was a theft two years ago.

Meanwhile, Sunday services will be held at another place of worship on Blueridge Road, which has generously offered the use of its premises.
Brar said it's still too early to think about rebuilding as the loss is still too keenly felt by the temple's 250 to 350 worshippers.

"It's taking time to register," said Brar. "Personally, I don't understand what level of depravity is required for somebody to do such an act."

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call Abbotsford police at 604-859-5225.


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