Canada''s Quebec province assembly bans kirpan

Bal Krishna

Toronto, Feb 10 (PTI) Canada''s French-speaking Quebecprovince''s legislature has unanimously voted to ban the''kirpan'' from assembly premises, weeks after four Sikhs weredenied entry for a parliamentary hearing for refusing tosurrender their ceremonial daggers.

The National Assembly of Quebec voted 113-0 yesterday toadopt a motion tabled by the opposition Parti Quebecois (PQ),barring the kirpan from the legislative building, drawingcriticism from the Sikh community.

It supported the decision by security officers, whodenied entry to four Sikhs who had come to the assembly lastmonth for a parliamentary hearing during which they wanted tosupport a Muslim woman''s religious right to wear a facecovering or ''niqab''.

Reacting to the development in the Quebec NationalAssembly, the World Sikh Organisation''s (WSO''s) Canada chapterexpressed its disappointed.

"The World Sikh Organisation of Canada is disappointedthat the Quebec National Assembly has voted unanimously infavour of a PQ motion to support the decision to bar thekirpan. We''re disappointed that the wearing of the kirpan,which is a human rights issue, has been politicised," it saidin a statement.

The vote "represents a turn away from the values oftolerance and multiculturalism," said Balpreet Singh, WSOlegal counsel.

The four Sikhs, who were opposing the Bill 94 that bans''niqab'' in Quebec, had been last month invited to appearbefore a legislative committee debating the issue ofreasonable accommodation of religious minorities.

But the group never got through the metal detectors atthe entrance of the National Assembly building as the head ofsecurity ruled the ''kirpans'' they carried were a potentialweapon.

In 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada had ruled that thekirpan, which Sikhs wrap in fabric under their clothing, isnot a weapon but a religious symbol, like a crucifix.

Louise Beaudoin, the Parti Quebecois member forMontreal''s Rosemont riding who presented the motionrequesting the government to prevent Sikhs from carrying theirceremonial daggers into the National Assembly building, toldreporters she did so because provincial Immigration MinisterKathleen Weil remained neutral on the kirpan ban.

Beaudoin said she wanted to know where Weil stands on theissue of security versus religious freedom. She said the Sikhsshould have been ready to make an accommodation by checkingtheir kirpans with assembly security.

"Frankly, they could have made an effort to respect ourinstitutions and our values," she said. (More) PTI CORR

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