A priest from India who was working at the Hindu temple in Abbotsford was found guilty on Friday of sexual offences against two teenage girls.
Karam Vir, 33, was convicted in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster of two counts of touching a young person for a sexual purpose (sexual exploitation) and one count of sexual assault.
The charges stem from incidents that occurred between Vir and the girls in late 2009 and early 2010 when he was working at Abbotsford’s only Hindu temple, located on Walmsley Avenue.
The girls were under the age of 18 at the time of the offences.
Justice Neill Brown said Vir abused his position of trust and authority when he befriended each of the girls and then forced sexual acts on them.
The teens, who did not know each other, told similar stories in their testimony.
They each met Vir, who was in Canada on a work visa, on separate occasions when they came to the temple seeking solace from issues with their boyfriends.
Over time, they both established a friendship with Vir, which included socializing outside of the temple and late-night phone conversations. Up to 400 calls occurred between Vir and one of the girls between January and March 2010.
Both girls said they held Vir in high regard as a priest and did not view him in a romantic or sexual way.
They said all the sexual incidents occurred in the temple, where Vir’s living quarters were located.
One of the victims said that a series of events included Vir forcefully kissing her, groping her, exposing himself and, in one instance, pushing her down on the bed and attempting to have sex with her.
The other complainant said Vir forcefully kissed her and tried to touch her chest and put his hands down her pants. On one occasion, he offered her a soft drink in which she could smell alcohol, although liquor was prohibited in the temple.
Both girls said they pushed Vir away and told him to stop on every occasion, but they continued to visit him because of his role in the temple.
“They sought his counsel. He gave it, and the found it helpful so they continued to seek it,” Brown said.
During the trial, Vir’s lawyer suggested that the two girls knew each other and colluded in making up the sexual allegations against Vir.
Brown said he found no evidence of this, and referred to the fact that neither girl had wanted to testify, fearing repercussions from their community and families.
They easily could have told police that the only relationship between them and Vir was as friends, Brown said.
“The role they took by standing by their statements took incredible courage,” he said.
The allegations were brought to Abbotsford Police by other members of the temple, and Vir was charged in November 2010.
Following his conviction, Vir’s bail was revoked and he will now remain in custody while he awaits sentencing, which has been scheduled for Aug. 14. He also faces charges in Ontario in relation to allegations that he threatened his former wife, and charges in Abbotsford for assault and uttering threats.
Vir was handcuffed in the courtroom, and cried as he received a hug from a male supporter before being led away.
Crown counsel indicated that Canada Border Services Agency will seek to have Vir returned to India once he finishes serving his sentence in Canada.