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Sikh priest faces sex crime and assault charges in Kelowna

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source: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/...lt-charges.html

Sikh priest faces sex crime and assault charges in Kelowna

Monday, January 12, 2009 - CBC News

A Sikh priest in Kelowna ( B.C. Canada ) is facing charges involving a sexual relationship with a teenage girl and the beating of his wife.

Police say Lukwinder Singh, 29, faces charges of sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor involving a sexual relationship with the girl that began in October 2007 when she was 15. Police said the girl was not Sikh, but was being helped by the congregation at the temple.

The temple had been doing charity work to support a local women's shelter in recent years, according to temple officials, but it was not clear if the incident was linked to that work.

Some of the alleged incidents occurred inside Singh's suite at the Gurdwara Guru Amardas Darbar temple, police said.

Singh appeared in court Thursday to face the sex charges, as well as an assault charge involving his wife. The case is expected to be back in court on Feb. 5.

The girl is now in foster care, said police.

Temple acted quickly: officials

RCMP spokesperson Const. Steve Holmes said police received the complaints in late December.

"[The] investigation would suggest there was more than one incident within the charge but [the] Crown is looking at it in totality," said Holmes.

Singh was fired from his job with the temple on Saturday, even though none of the allegations has been proven. Temple spokesperson Tarsem Singh Goraya said the congregation is devastated by the news and still in shock.

Singh was popular during the seven years he served as priest, and there were never any complaints, said Goraya.

But temple officials went to the police right away after rumours began swirling in the congregation, he said.

"In the society, if things happen, we must come forward. And when it comes to our attention, we did come forward, and it was big step, a hard step, but we had to say what is right, and in our opinion, this is the right step," Goraya said.

The temple was planning to bring in counsellors to help people deal with the incident, especially since it might involve sacrilege on temple ground.

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