Respecting diversity in our community

Last night, Council received an application for a zoning by-law amendment to permit the construction of a Sikh Temple at 410 Clair Road.  The meeting was well attended by members of the Sikh community and the neighourhood around the proposed development.  The purpose of the meeting was to receive public input on the proposed development.  This input will be reviewed by our planning staff as they consider what their recommendation to Council will on the proposed development.  With any proposed development application, concerns about parking, traffic, urban design and compatibility, lighting, and noise, are common concerns raised by neighbours. This application was no different.

What was different were the comments in some of the correspondence received by Council on the proposed development and which have found their way on to various local blogs.  

These comments show an appalling lack of respect and understanding of the Sikh religion and for Sikhs in our community. 

I don’t believe these attitudes are reflective of our community and as Mayor, and a Canadian, I find them unacceptable. 

As a community we have made a significant commitment to welcoming immigrants and new Canadians into our community – to help them settle and integrate into the community and the workforce.  We are doing a lot of things right but we know we can do better.

The Local Immigration Partnership is a community-collaboration with the mandate to develop an integrated settlement strategy for Guelph.  The work of the Guelph Inclusiveness Alliance, representing numerous organizations in the city, set us on the path towards developing this strategy. The Intercultural Leadership Advisory Board aims to promote a greater understanding and appreciation for the growing diversity in our community.  Twenty-one percent (21%) of Guelph residents are immigrants including me. The Guelph Citizenship Committee, of which I am the honorary co-chair, hosts meaningful and welcoming citizenship ceremonies to welcome our newest Canadians into our community. Immigration Services has more than 30 years of service in helping immigrants settle in Guelph.  And there is much more.

Unfortunately, we still have work to do to eliminate racism and discrimination from our community.

About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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15 Comments on “Respecting diversity in our community”

  1. Thomas Says:

    Karen, I think it is a little different for the people who bought property in Westminster Woods knowing that that land was zoned for a retirement property than a huge temple!

  2. Paul Says:

    We just moved from Brampton. It was a great place years ago. I’m all for ethnic diversity, but last year my son was the only caucasian in his class. My daughter complained about kids in her work group speaking another language constantly. Again, I’m a strong believer in diversity, but the temple will change the demograhic to an extreme.

  3. Jeff Says:

    Why is it that yourself and seemingly the rest of city council want to downplay the real concerns of the tolerant, understanding and inclusive people of the south end by focusing on the ignorance of the few? This should not be a discussion on race, religion or creed. I think it is a great disservice to our community that our members of council continue to discuss this application in a racial context. This approach has only served to further alienate people and polarize the community. I suppose we will all be able to thank you for the decades of difficulty that lay ahead integrating this Temple into our community because the real opportunity to build consent and agreement was spent discussion issues of race.

  4. Bill Hulet Says:


    If you don’t want the community to think of the opposition to the proposed Gurdwara as being the result of bigotry, I would suggest that people of good will should be a little more public on Ian Findley’s blog.

    People are dancing around making wild accusations about what is going to be built. Once anyone stands up to them and makes a reasoned response, we start getting the strange comments about wanting Guelph to stay “white” and that they don’t like having to “wade through the smell of curry”.

    I’ve gone to the trouble of looking up a website that community groups can use to plan the size of a church according to archetectural principles. If you look at it, you see that the proposed 18,000 square foot, 3 acre site is just about right for a congregation of about 400 members. This would allow for things like classrooms, pastoral offices, a gymnasium, etc—plus adequate on site parking.

    In response I’ve seen wild accusations that a building is planned that will seat 2,000 people.

    One last thing that might cut back the tone a bit. Why not post using your real name? I do it. The mayor does it. You’d be amazed what a difference it makes to discourse if no one is hiding behind aliases.

  5. CSH Says:

    Brampton has a majority of Skih community. So there are cities with a majority of Italian community or Jew community.
    This is unavoidable in a multicultural society and i see nothing wrong with it.
    Its not that the sikhs are dominating the areas, they are closing their existing temple and building a new one as the community has grown.
    One goes to a temple once a week or so but to work 5 days a week. Sikhs are going to find home where there are jobs.. not where there are temples.. temples are built after the community has formed and denying this just on the basis that the number of sikhs will increase is undemocratic…
    On the other hand if there are issues with the structure, parking, zoning etc then the management should be asked to make changes and build the temple according to specs that meets all requirements…

  6. Ken Carey Says:

    Brampton has a majority of Skih community.

    from Wikipedia (2001 data)
    Some 67.78 percent of Brampton claimed various Christian denominations. The largest was Roman Catholicism (35.11%), followed by various Protestant denominations Anglican, United Church, Lutheran, at (27.96%), while the remaining numbers of Christians (4.70%) consists mostly of the Eastern Orthodox rite. Other religions with a notable presence include Sikhism (10.63%), Hinduism (5.43%), and Islam (3.53%). More than 10 percent of the population does not identify with a particular religion.[8]

  7. Paul 2 Says:


    I can’t let you get away with your blog unchallenged.

    Anyone, who wants to see a QUANTIFIED response to Bill’s comment above, please read my December 12, 2009 at 3:36 am posting on the Ward 2 blog. It can be read found at:

    Please also see Bill’s Church planning website at:

    Specifically look at point number 3 and form your own opinion….

    He has yet to comment on this….I’m anxiously waiting for one.

  8. Bill Hulet Says:

    Well, if you want to have “fun with figures”, let’s go ahead. Let’s look at your claim that

    “I’ve carefully taken the time to assess the building capacity. As per the Ontario Building Code, this building of 1670 square metres can accommodate 2226 people.”

    That would give each person in the building only three quarters of an square meter per person. Don’t you think it stretches the imagination a we bit to assume that the Sikh community wouldn’t want a few things like a lobby, a cloak room, bathrooms, a kitchen (it is part of their religion to serve food at the Gurdwara after all), offices, etc? You haven’t offered us the original source of your numbers so I can only speculate. But it looks to me that you’ve conflated the number for a public hall with that of an entire building. It is hard to have a public discussion if you only feed people bits and pieces of numbers and don’t cite original sources.

    Yes, if you assume that there are going to be over 2,000 people at the Gurdwara then a three acre parking site is too small. But if you assume that the number is about 400, the number is OK. So the question is, where does that number of 2226 come from? Care to let us see your original source?

  9. Paul 2 Says:

    Hey Bill,

    I gave you the source of the numbers….The Ontario Building Code. If you need the specifics, you need to look at Article – Occupant Load.

    For space with non-fixed seats, the requirement is .75 metres square per person. For standing room it is .40 metres square per person. For dining, it is 1.10…etc.

    And yes, perhaps I have “stretched the imagination” and assumed an empty shell of a building (1670/.75=2260 people max), but what has the applicant given us to work with? Not very much. The onus should be on them to provide the City and its residents a crystal clear intent of this building. THEY should provide the building capacity and THEY should provide internal layouts. As of today, nothing is of public record. All they have provided is the lot layout with some exterior building dimensions and the fact that it is a two and a half storey building. They have stated that the building area is 36.3 metres x 46 metres. Let’s have some “fun with numbers” again:

    The building area is 36.3 x 46 metres. This equates to 1670 square metres or approximately 18,000 square feet. I think the vast majority of people have seen this as the floor space total. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FOR ALL TO BE AWARE….THIS IS ONLY ONE LEVEL!!! THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE A SECOND LEVEL OR BASEMENT.

    Using the City parking by-law (, the MINIMUM amount of parking spots required is one for every 10 metres square. So if the applicant will have one floor with very high ceilings and a very well lit basement (note the basement is mainly above grade with 23 windows, not including north elevation), the minimum amount of parking spots required is 167. Note I say minimum, because the by-law also states 1 spot for every 5 seats, whichever is greater. So, until the capacity is known, let’s continue to play with the G.F.A (gross floor area). Again, imagining the worst case scenario…we go 3 floors x 1670 square metres. We now stand at 5010 metres square G.F.A. This also equates to almost 54,000 square feet and a whopping 501 parking spot requirement….not even close to the 175 spots or so that have been allocated.

    Bill, I respect your dedication and values here. But please respect our concerns as residents of this neighbourhood. This facility is intended for far more than 400 people, I hope I have proved at least that. I do not see 2000 occupants as an unreasonable number and sincerely fear that traffic and street parking implications will be severe.

  10. Bill Hulet Says:

    Paul 2:

    Well now we are entering the realm of speculation. You are speculating that this is going to be more of an empty shell for people to meet. I am speculating that it is going to be like every other religious building I have ever seen—with various amenities like kitchens, offices, classrooms, etc.

    I didn’t go to Council when the presentation was made, but I was talking to someone last night who was either there or watching on tv. He said that someone did raise the issue of what the inside was going to be like and he was told that that they were planning on putting in a basketball court. Serving food is an important part of the Sikh faith, so there is going to be a kitchen and probably a food serving area. Add storage, a few offices, etc, and you end up with the same sort of space needs as any church. If you walk into any church in our community and you will see that less than half of the total area is devoted to the meeting area.

    Tell me honestly, would you be this afraid of the “unknown” if it was a Catholic church?

  11. Paul 2 Says:

    Hey Bill,

    Empty shell or not, what is the total square footage of the G.F.A.? That’s what I am waiting to find out. Until then, you are right, speculation is the name of the game.

    Bill, I’ve lived within a kilometre of two Gurdwara’s in the past, and honestly, I had no problems with either of them. If fact one of them took in homeless to offer them food and shelter which is highly commendable.

    One of them was on a large plot of land located off of a main street away from any housing. Any overflow parking was on the main city street and it did not affect any of the local subdivisions. The other was in an old Candian Tire in a commercial area where again overflow parking went to an industrial street. Local residents were not affected. Coincidentally both of them were much smaller than the one proposed.

    I am not oppossed to a Gurdwara in the south end of Guelph. If you read one of my previous entires in the Ward 2 blog, I even suggested the South West corner of Clair and Gordon ….again not even a kilometre away.

    I am not a religious person so I don’t care what kind of church was proposed in that area. Bottom line for me is it’s not a good location for any church or other high volume establishment.

    What I have a big problem with is the obscurity of this application. I hope City Council helps to get this clarified quickly for all to see.

    I’m retiring from this Blog. Thanks Mayor Farbridge for allowing residents to use this as a forum to voice their concerns.

  12. Rob Says:

    I’m siding with Paul 2 here. It’s not an issue of race or religion here, it’s an issue of that particular type of building smack dab in the middle of a community that pays fees(yes, we pay a condominium fee to live in Westminster Woods) to keep things looking as beautiful as they do. The design of this temple would stand out like a clowns nose on a china doll. The building itself doesn’t “fit” the estetics of our neighbourhood, period. That’s the issue here!!

  13. Kyle Long Says:

    Is this group that is proposing the Seihk Temple not the same group that annouced around 4 years ago that they intended to build a Seikh convention centre in Puslinch that would be a central meeting place between Brampton, London and Hamilton for major holidays?

    As for the allowable occupany and intended use:
    Ontario Building code states:
    4.3 square ft per person standing.
    8 square ft per person seated.

    There are many discrepancies in the application and therefore I think the project should be held back until a proper community impact study could be completed. The study should focus on accuracy of the application, intended use of the grounds and affects to the Westminster Woods community.

    As I live in West Minster Woods I am opposed to any religous place of worship in my community, that is why I bought my house here, that is why I have no problem with paying my $6500 in property taxes per year (just one house!) and that is why my children attend public school. However as Karen Farbridge believes, because I am opposed I am a racist; her veiw is very disappointing.

    Guelph has been designated as a city to grow, but at a controlled rate, only 20% by 2030. Why than the haste to shove a place of worship into someones back yard with out even thinking about it… especially when 99% of those who live in the community around the projected place of worship will not use it.

    How about some compromise, lets say we as the West Minster Community cannot stop the building of the Seikh temple. Than all the more urgent is the need for a community impact study. Lets take some time, have some forthought and make suggestions. Having the Temple conform to the INSIRAH Property management coventants that every home owner in West Minster Woods had to sign to protect against someone building something that does not fit the pallet of Orin Reids vision.

    How about the city council offers the residents of West Minster Woods some time to develope a platform as we all feel we have been put into a reactionary offence and this is not goos for any community. This reactionary feeling is what fosters mistrust. We should put together a commity of members fromt he Seikh community, City officals and members of the community.

    Also we have to psy INSPIRAH $180.00 per annum to have our public areas maintained. A church/temple/place or worship will be a public facility therefore to within the boundry’s of West Minster Woods it should be apart of INSPIRAH.

    Just a few thoughts.

    Kyle Long

  14. Kyle Long Says:

    Sorry for the spelling mistakes… the last paragraph should read:

    Also we have to psy INSPIRAH $180.00 per annum to have our public areas maintained. A church/temple/place or worship will be a public facility within the boundry’s of West Minster Woods, therefore it should be apart of INSPIRAH.

  15. Shannon B Says:

    FINALLY! some people who make sense of why this building should NOT go up.

    I have been fighting this debate and all I keep getting thrown at me, is that I must be a racist. Yes we pay ridiculous taxes here in Westminster Woods, yes we pay Inspirah condo fees, so why is it that because other things such as gas stations, stores, Walk in Medical facilities just make more sense than a religious temple that can only serve a small few here in the community.

    Why don’t we get those things into plan first, and then discuss a Temple.

    Better yet, why don’t the people who are for this, make an offer to City council to have it put in their community. Hmmm…maybe because they don’t want it there either?????

    I will be voting this October and NOT for the present representives who are there now.

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