Priest says he was beaten, threatened and expelled after brawl in Dollard des Ormeaux Sikh temple

By Robert Frank

Officers at Station 4 say that arrests are pending in the police investigation into anger and violence that again erupted at the Gurdwara Sahib of Greater Montreal Sikh congregation around 3 p.m., March 11, after some congregation members complained that the priest was being exploited.

In an interview, Hardeep Singh Randhawa, who has served as parish priest since 2005, told The Suburban that he was struck and pushed after three parishioners entered the basement room he lives in at the temple, where he had retreated to escape the brawl.

Giani Randhawa (giani is a Sikh term similar to reverend) added that his alleged attackers then threatened to harm his wife and family, who still live in India, expelled him from the premises and took away his keys to the facility.

The attack on the priest was preceded by a melée between about two dozen parishioners in the temple’s basement dining area, known as Langer Hall, after some of them had expressed concern about Giani Randhawa’s working conditions.

The priest told The Suburban that he worked about 14 hours per day on week-days and 16 hours per weekend day, often doing menial tasks, for which he received $175 per week (which works out to $1.72 per hour). In addition, he was given the basement room to reside in and could partake in the food served at the parish.

He expressed fear that parish officials will now retaliate by complaining to immigration officials in an attempt to get the priest, who resides in Canada “on compassionate and humanitarian grounds” expelled from the country.

Congregation president Gurdeep Singh Sohal said in a telephone interview “we had already given [Giani Randhawa] notice because the temple has lost about 50 percent of its income since outbreaks of violence last June.”

“We did so about four weeks ago when [the board of directors] sat down with him, and he already knows that.”

However, Giani Randhawa told The Suburban that he never received such notice. Rather, he said he was summarily fired on March 11, and given two hours to collect his belongings and leave the temple where he has resided for the past seven years.

According to an eyewitness, journalist Manjeet Singh Atthwal of the Montreal newspaper Desi Times, police who were called to the scene declined to enter the temple to investigate the attack on the priest.

“After I identified myself as a journalist, the police officer told me that nothing had happened there,” he recalled. “She told me that it was a longstanding civil dispute between two parties.”

Mr. Atthwal added that after Giani Randhawa finally emerged from his room and visited Station 4, Const. Caroline Trottier initially declined to take the priest’s statement, calling it a civil dispute. However, he said, she ultimately relented.

A senior police official told The Suburban that officers are often reluctant to enter places of worship unless there is clear evidence of a crime.

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