After years of gathering in homes and basements, local Cambodian Buddhists open their own temple

Young women in traditional Cambodian attire take part in the Welcome Dance at the grand opening of the Cambodian Buddhist Temple of Windsor Sunday. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)
Young women in traditional Cambodian attire take part in the Welcome Dance at the grand opening of the Cambodian Buddhist Temple of Windsor Sunday. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)

About 300 people turned out to the new Cambodian Buddhist Temple of Windsor on Howard Avenue in LaSalle Sunday for a colourful and festive day-long grand opening.

The local Cambodian community opened its doors at the new temple in May. But on Sunday, they welcomed several monks, local politicians and others to ceremonies that included a traditional welcome dance and a ribbon cutting that several members took part in.

"It's a long time coming because we are 100 families strong here in Windsor and Essex County. However, we've never had one place where we can come and congregate as a community," said temple board member Ron Sim.

"Thank you for all you do and congratulations as you open your temple," said Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Andrew Dowie who was joined by Essex MPP Anthony Leardi and Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy.

Sim called the grand opening "a momentous day" while recalling that Cambodians started arriving in Windsor in the late 1970s and early 80s, many escaping the atrocities and genocide under the cruel regime of former leader Pol Pot.

Buddhist monks look on as dancers perform the Welcome Dance at the grand opening of the Cambodian Buddhist Temple of Windsor.
Buddhist monks look on as dancers perform the Welcome Dance at the grand opening of the Cambodian Buddhist Temple of Windsor.

Buddhist monks look on as dancers perform the Welcome Dance at the grand opening of the Cambodian Buddhist Temple of Windsor. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

More than 1.5 million people died during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979.

"This is the first time where we actually have a real temple, a real place where we can come in and just join and worship together," he said.

Sim grew up going to Cambodian Buddhist temple in basements, community centres and residential homes in the Windsor area. The first time he stepped foot into a formal Buddhist temple, he was in Cambodia.

The building itself was first built in 1988 and served as the first Sikh temple in the area. Since then it has changed hands and served as other places of worship.