Holy Man Faces Boot—Priest Denied Landed Status
January 24, 2008
Members of the GTA Sikh community are rallying to save their lead priest from being sent home to India after eight years as their main spiritual adviser.
Gurdeep Singh, 38, was refused landed immigrant status last year and community members fear he may be scooped up and sent packing by immigration officials.
He is one of many foreign priests being allowed here to work, but not reside, their Toronto lawyer said.
Singh was sponsored here in 1999 to act as a lead priest and adviser of the Gurdwara Nanaksar, on Timberlane Dr. in Brampton, said temple secretary Gurmeet Singh.
Gurmeet Singh said the refusal has left the priest without status in Canada, but he can't be removed yet because an application for a visa extension is pending.
“He is an outstanding priest who was educated and trained in India,” Gurmeet said yesterday. “The community wants to keep him here as their spiritual adviser.”
He said the priest doesn't receive wages but his expenses are paid for by the temple, which has a congregation of about 10,000.
Gurmeet said community leaders have had unsuccessful meetings with immigration officials in a bid to sponsor Singh here as a landed immigrant.
“This man leads all the services and is invaluable to the community,” he said. “He is very highly qualified and well-loved by the community.”
Lawyer Mendel Green said Singh was refused landed immigrant status because his English skills were lacking and officials fear he may go on welfare.
“Immigration is treating these highly skilled priests as temporary workers,” Green said yesterday. “The community must have the stability to know their leader will be here tomorrow.”
Green said Ottawa is cracking down on foreign priests. “There seems to be a big problem with communities getting their priests,” Green said. “The immigration department is not using any common sense in dealing with this situation.”
Immigration spokesman Madona Mokbel said there's no conspiracy to ban priests.
“All these cases are dealt with on a case-by-case basis,” Mokbel said yesterday.