Candlelight vigil at a Surrey Hindu temple
April 26, 2014: A candlelight vigil at a Surrey Hindu temple that had been vandalized over the weekend drew more than 500 people Tuesday night, its president said.
Normally 300 to 400 people attend the Lakshmi Narayan Hindu Mandir temple's annual vigil to mark the anniversary of the Air India bombing, which killed 329 men, women and children in 1985.
"It was very, very nice; very good support from the general public," Parshotal Goel, president of the temple, said. "This time it became a little more significant because of the hate crime."
He's referring to a pair of vandals smashing up some windows at the temple's entrance early Sunday morning. Goel and other temple members consider it to be a "hate crime," but the Surrey RCMP continues to investigate it as an act of mischief. Nobody had been arrested by press time Wednesday.
The vigil, which lasted about two hours, remembered the bombing victims. Air India Flight 182 exploded off the west coast of Ireland on June 23, 1985, killing all on aboard. Sixty children aged 10 and under were among them.
The Boeing 747 was heading from Montreal to London when it broke in half some 31,000 feet above the Atlantic. Authorities believe Sikh terrorists loaded a bomb onto the airplane in Vancouver, seeking revenge for the Indian Army's 1984 attack on the Sikhs' Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.
Video surveillance camera footage at the temple, located at 8321-140th St., showed two men who appear to be South Asian striding up with bats and later running away with nothing in hand. A broken bat bearing the name "Brar" a Sikh Khanda symbol and inscription "Veradero Cuba" was found lying amidst busted glass below one of the shattered windows.
New Democrat MLAs Harry Bains, Sue Hammell and Bruce Ralston attended the vigil but the temple's general secretary, Vinay Sharma, said members where "disappointed" that no Liberal MLAs or members of Surrey city council came.
Dave Hayer, who used to be a Liberal MLA and hopes to run for the Tories in the next federal election, was at the vigil.
"I staunchly condemn what appears as a violent act of racism following an attack on the Lakshmi Narayan Hindu Temple," Hayer said. "This act of malicious vandalism is unacceptable, and those who committed it should face the full penalty of the law."
Jinny Sims, the NDP's immigration, multiculturalism and citizenship critic, did not attend but issued a statement saying attacks on places of worship "should not be taken lightly.
"The united condemnation from people of all faiths is an example of both the Canadian spirit and resiliency of Surrey residents," the MP for Newton-North Delta said. "I have full confidence that the police and authorities will take the appropriate steps to ensure perpetrators are held accountable.