Kirpan ban slammed by Canadian opposition, media

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto : The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) Thursday slammed the barring of four Sikhs with kirpans from entering the Quebec provincial assembly and demands for ban on the symbolic dagger in parliament.

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The Sikhs had gone to appear before a assembly committee which is debating a bill to deal with accommodation of religious minorities with visible symbols such hijab and kirpan. But security staff stopped them from carrying a potential weapon inside.

“It’s time to stop playing divisive, political games with Canadian’s religious beliefs. Canada has a reputation of tolerance and understanding, and we must continue to work together and embrace our differences,” said NDP leader Jack Layton who was instrumental in getting five Sikh symbols of faith recognized in the Canadian parliament in 2006.

He said his party is “disappointed that the Bloc Quebecois (Party) wants to ban Sikhs from carrying their kirpans in the House of Commons. Ironically, the Bloc supported the NDP’s motion to recognize the Sikhs’ five religious articles of faith, including the kirpan. We’re saddened at their sudden change of position and support.”

Layton said, “The kirpan is an article of faith worn by all initiated Sikhs. It is not a weapon. The kirpan is one of five religious articles of faith, mandated to be worn at all times for initiated Sikh men and women.

“Sikhs have been in Canada for over 100 years and their contributions to this country have been tremendous. We stand with the Sikh community in solidarity.”

The respected Globe and Mail also criticized the Quebec assembly for not letting in kirpan-wearing Sikhs.

“By barring four kirpan-wearing Sikh men from public hearings on reasonable accommodation on Tuesday, the Quebec National Assembly failed to live up to its obligation to promote the widest possible participation in the democratic process,” the country’s top newspaper said in an editorial Thursday.

Since the Canadian supreme court in its ruling in 2006 allowed Sikhs to wear the dagger in public places, the paper said, “To bar those who observe minority religions such as Sikhism is to render the (Quebec assembly) committee’s work incomplete and, frankly, ridiculous from the start.

“It is fair to set regulations around the size of the kirpan and how it is secured and sheathed. But it is wrong to bar it completely… Imagine the hostile message to religious minorities if the kirpan-wearing Liberal MP Navdeep Bains and others were barred from parliament.”

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at [email protected])