Four members of the World
Sikh Organization of Canada were invited and subsequently uninvited to
the National Assembly in Quebec after demands were made they remove
Following the incident,
Louise Beaudoin, elected member of the Parti Quebecois, boldly
justified the exclusion stating “multiculturalism may be a Canadian
value. But it is not a Quebec one.”
Bloc Québécois has called for
the ban to extend to Parliament Hill where Sikhs are currently free to
wear the kirpan.
Quebec, Canada: Four
members of the World Sikh Organization of Canada were refused entry
into the National Assembly of Quebec unless they removed their kirpans.
UNITED SIKHS urges legislators from Quebec to use good judgment and
show respect for minorities living in the province.
Baljit Singh, Director of
UNITED SIKHS in Toronto, expressed his grave disappointment over the
discriminatory incident that transpired on January 18, 2011 at the
National Assembly of Quebec: "We are shocked that this kind of incident
would continue to be an issue in Canada." We call on elected
representatives of the National Assembly in Quebec and the Bloc
Québécois to exercise the same good judgment that exists in the rest of
Canada when dealing with articles of faith and freedom of religion in
general. The position taken by these elected representatives does a
disservice to Quebec and diminishes its image internationally". He
calls upon ordinary Quebecers to let their legislators know in no
uncertain terms that they do not take kindly to them tarnishing the
image of their province internationally by creating an impression of
intolerance to minorities in Quebec.
Sikhs are a well-integrated
community in Canada that have been continually afforded acceptance and
respect for their articles of faith by the larger community. While they
remain a religious minority, Quebec itself is a minority within
English-speaking Canada. “The kirpan always reminds me to stand for
justice and equality. It is this very notion of justice, equality and
preserving one’s unique differences that Quebec has historically fought
to maintain” pointed out Ranbir Singh, UNITED SIKHS Director in Toronto.
Canadian lawyer and community
leader, Mark Persaud states: "The recent mistreatment of the members of
the Sikh community at the National Assembly in Quebec is a stark
reminder that the rights and freedoms we enjoy as Canadians are
susceptible to attack. We must constantly be on guard to protect
vulnerable religious and cultural minorities in Canada.” Mr. Persaud
reminds Quebecers of their own history of facing discrimination and
prejudices and expects legislators from Quebec to be protective of the
rights of other minority communities. He urges the Quebec people to
speak out against this unfortunate incident and demand measures by the
legislature to protect minorities and prevent any future embarrassment
to the province.
Liberal MP for Mississauga
Brampton South, Navdeep Bains, further reinforced the need to promote
respect and understanding. In his speech to the House of Commons Mr.
Bains states he has always worn his kirpan since his election in 2004
without a problem and "it is necessary that our debate be reasonable
and respectful, avoiding the rhetoric which tries only to divide
Canadians." To watch the speech, please click here and read the English translation here.
Although the incident at the
Quebec Assembly was regrettable and unfortunate, it provides an
opportunity for dialogue with the various communities that enrich
Quebec and Canada. UNITED SIKHS stands in solidarity with the global
Sikh community and the political leaders that have condemned the
incident. Sikhs look up to the ordinary citizens of Quebec to stand
with them and ensure that a similar event does not occur in the future.
For background information on
the incident and current kirpan accommodation laws and policies in
Canada, please click here.