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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Beat Of A Different Drum : Quebec V. The Kirpan

  A group of 4 Sikhs were scheduled to make a presentation at Quebec's national assembly, but never got to do so. This morning, 4 Canadian representatives of the World Sikh Organization were slated to speak on Bill 94, which would accommodate religious minorities in Quebec civil service.

  The men had traveled from places as far as Toronto to speak and were given vague answers as to whether they would be permitted to participate as observant Sikhs wear kirpans, seen here, under their clothing. The religious object is worn tight to the skin and is as important as the more obvious turban, meaning removal is prohibited. 

  The men were stopped by security and told that they were required to remove their kirpans. Kirpans are permitted in Federal assemblies, but Quebec marches to a different drum on the issue. Quebec, inspired by French law, has also tried to ban hijabs and burqas to no avail. 

  Personally, I find it somewhat disturbing that these men were denied entry into a legislature, particularly when the issue is religious tolerance. Sikhs have been a prominent ethnic minority in Canada for over 130 years and have served with distinction in our armed forces and national police forces. Sikhs number over a quarter million and include members of various provincial and federal parliaments. There have been less than 5 instances in Canadian history of someone being stabbed with a kirpan- it's not a weapon of aggression. The 4-inch long blades are sheathed as a symbol of non-violence and defense of the weak.

  Many Canadians view Quebec as a separate entity, and incidents like this are exactly why. Nowhere else is this still being argued and Quebec needs to catch up with the rest of the country to stay relevant in national politics. To those who might tend to say "go back to where you came from", I will point out that the vast majority of Sikhs who live in my city were born here, as well as their parents and grandparents. Sikhs have been here since the founding of the nation; at least as long as Jews have. And if you'd object to a kid being forced to remove a kippa, you must object to asking a Sikh to remove his kirpan. 

1 comment:

  1. To me this speaks of the ignorance of certain people. Those who have educated themselves on the subject know that the kirpan is not a weapon. If security in Quebec had the necessary education, this wouldn't have been an issue.
    Tolerance and education cannot be viewed without each other as education is essential in building tolerance.


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