US legal battle resolves conflict in Sikh community

Tuesday 09th July 2019 16:01 EDT

A legal battle over obtaining membership at a Sikh place of worship has been resolved after 10 years before the courts.

The executive committee of the Gurdwara Khalsa Prakash in Windsor had been limiting membership to maintain control of the Gurdwara, court documents say.

"It really made me feel bad because there was a time when I could not even come to the Gurdwara," said Manjinder Kooner.

At times, he had a no trespassing order for the property on County Road 42. Kooner was a member until 2012. He said that's when it was unfairly terminated. Following a recent Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision, Kooner said he and hundreds of others will get their memberships back.  And many applicants who were also turned away can re-apply.

For Kooner, the main reason he wanted to maintain his membership was to have a vote at the Gurdwara.

He was still able to attend religious functions, but even that became increasingly difficult during the divisive legal battle.

At times, court documents say tensions "erupted into violence," although Kooner said he never heard or witnessed any of that.

In his ruling, Justice Christopher Bondy said the Gurdwara's constituion was not being honoured.

Gurdial Dhami applied to be a member, and was denied. He was one of nearly 300 people involved in the latest lawsuit. 

Dhami estimates it cost the group between $300,000 to $400,000 in legal fees over the years.

Now, he said it's time for people on both sides of the controversial issue to move forward.

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