Hindu priest on trial for sex assault made ‘big difference’ at Abbotsford temple, says witness

JENNIFER SALTMAN
VANCOUVER DESI

Abbotsford Hindu Temple

The Hindu Temple in Abbotsford. Wayne Leidenfrost/PNG

A Hindu priest accused of sexually exploiting two teenage members of his congregation made a “big difference” during his tenure at an Abbotsford temple, according to a woman who prayed at the temple.

The woman, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, was a defence witness at Karam Vir’s B.C. Supreme Court trial. Vir is charged with two counts of touching a young person for a sexual purpose and one count of sexual assault.

Vir’s trial, which began in Chilliwack last month, continued Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.

The woman said that before Vir arrived in 2008, the temple was unclean and had financial problems, which she described through an interpreter as “very bad, actually.”

She said Vir properly submitted donation receipts and operated according to temple rules. As a result, the temple’s assets grew and the facility was tidy.

She said that because of the changes he made, Vir had a “mixed” relationship with the temple management.

“Some were happy, some were not,” the woman said.

On March 12, 2010, leaders from the temple, located on Walmsley Avenue and run by the Fraser Valley Hindu Cultural Society, told police they had received anonymous letters accusing a person in authority of sexual misconduct.

Earlier that day, a 17-year-old girl showed up at the Abbotsford police station to make a complaint about Vir. About a month later she provided a video- and audio-recorded statement.

During the investigation the name of another possible victim surfaced and police contacted her. The girl, who had recently turned 18, also provided a statement.

Vir was arrested in November 2010 and fired shortly thereafter.

The trial continues.

jensaltman@theprovince.com
twitter.com/jensaltman

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