SMR lawyers Mike Shirreff and Jessie Meikle-Kähs are counsel for two members of the Siri Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara of Alberta, a society that operates a Sikh temple in Edmonton (the “Society”). SMR commenced an oppression claim on behalf of their clients against the Society alleging that the Executive Committee had acted in an oppressive and/or unfairly prejudicial manner by increasing the membership fee for new members from $500 per person to $5,100 per person, among other things. The oppression claim alleges that the Executive Committee increased the membership fee in the months leading up to an election for the improper purpose of restricting the pool of eligible members who could vote to elect the executive members for the next three year term.

In November 2021, Justice D. Lee of the Alberta Queens Bench dismissed the Society’s application to strike the oppression claim. The Society had argued that the court did not have jurisdiction over what it claimed was a dispute of a private voluntary organization. In his oral reasons, Justice Lee held that the court had jurisdiction to hear an oppression claim brought by members of a society that was incorporated under the Religious Societies Land Act.

The Society appealed Justice Lee’s decision to the Alberta Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal heard oral argument at Edmonton on June 6, 2022 and dismissed the Society’s appeal in reasons for judgment issued on June 14, 2022. The Court held that recent jurisprudence from the Supreme Court of Canada does not preclude the court from considering a statutory cause of action brought against a religious organization that is a registered society.

The full reasons for judgment of the Alberta Court of Appeal can be found here.