Montreal

New Sikh temple in Hudson, Que., gives local community a gathering place close to home

Renovations are wrapping up at the brand new gurdwara in the Quebec town of Hudson, just in time for Gurpurab, the holiest day for the Sikh religion being celebrated Friday.

Gurdwara opened in August, after Wyman United Church moved to Saint-Lazare

Raj Multani is the gurdwara's secretary. He says opening the temple was years in the making. (Chloe Ranaldi/CBC)

Renovations are wrapping up at the brand new gurdwara in the Quebec town of Hudson, just in time for Gurpurab, the holiest day for the Sikh religion being celebrated Friday.

"It's a long way to come to Montreal island," says gurdwara secretary Raj Multani about the need to find a new temple for Sikhs in the province's Montérégie region, which covers the area immediately south and west of Montreal.

The population of Hudson and its surrounding areas have been steadily increasing, so it took a couple of years to find the right place.

A growing number of Sikhs work in the trucking industry in North America, including for trucking companies in Quebec. The area just west of Montreal is an ideal place for truckers, who often travel to Ontario, to find homes that are more affordable than in Montreal and Laval.

Since Sikhs started coming to Canada at the turn of the 20th century, gurdwaras have been more than just houses of worship. They provided a lifeline to language, culture and community as well as help for immigrants to settle. And they still do, according to Taran Singh, board member for the Guru Sahib Quebec Gurdwara.

"Safety is really at the base of it, especially when there are challenging discourses occurring in the political narrative and individuals are seeking a sense of belonging close to where they live," says Singh.

The renovation of the old Wyman United Church on Main Road in Hudson faced delays due to the pandemic. The building was purchased last December and the gurdwara officially opened in August. It is now open to the public and used on a daily basis.

The gurdwara is in a building that housed a former church after that congregation moved to Saint-Lazare, Que. (Chloe Ranaldi/CBC)

The church moved from Hudson to Saint-Lazare about 18 months ago. Residents had voiced their concern for the site's future, wanting to avoid a condominium development on the land.

At the same time, Sikhs from the Guru Nanak Darbar group of gurdwaras in Montreal had been looking for a new space for their religious community in the Montérégie.

"We wanted to continue the spiritual vocation of that building," says former Hudson mayor Jamie Nicholls. His administration approved the plans for the gurdwara, which he thinks is an asset to the region's diversity.

"The community chose Hudson, and it worked," he says.

When the gurdwara was lit up for Bandi Chhor Divas, or the Day of Liberation for Sikhs, earlier this month, Nicholls saw the decorations as a symbol of something bigger for the town.

"This may sound a bit cliché but I think they've brought a lot of light to the community," he says.

He also hopes the addition of the gurdwara changes the perception of who makes up the community in Hudson.

Julia Schroeder brought over treats from her popsicle shop when she saw workers renovating the temple over the summer. In return, she received a personal invitiation when it opened in August. (Chloe Ranaldi/CBC)

Julia Schroeder, owner and operator of POP Culture, a gourmet Popsicle shop in Hudson, dropped off some treats for the crew working on the Gurdwara over the summer. She says the Wyman United Church had a "sacredness" in town, so she understood people's anxiety about what would happen to it when it went on the market.

"People were tremendously relieved because this building can continue to bring community together," says Schroeder.

Members of the gurdwara's board of directors personally invited her to the inauguration when it opened.

Starting next fall, children will be able to learn the language in the Hudson gurdwara, and Multani says they eventually want to build a small, separate school.

But thanks to their persistence, Sikhs in the Montérégie will be able to celebrate the birth of the founder of the Sikh faith at a temple close to home this year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sonali Karnick is the host of All in a Weekend. Listen to the show on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. across Quebec.

with files from Chloe Ranaldi

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