UNITED SIKHS
February 3, 2011
21st Maagh  (Samvat 542 Nanakshahi)
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Press Release
Sikhs Call on Legislators from Quebec to Respect Minority Rights


Highlights:

  • 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 their kirpans.

  • 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.


Issued by:

Susan Kaur

Legal Fellow

law-canada@unitedsikhs.org


View current Kirpan Accommodation  Laws


Liberal MP for Mississauga Brampton South, Navdeep Bains said, "It is necessary that our debate be reasonable and respectful, avoiding the rhetoric which tries only to divide Canadians."

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
vulnerable..."

PROTECT OUR IDENTITY CAMPAIGN
Protect Our Identity (POI) is an ongoing international campaign launched by UNITED SIKHS in August 2010 . It focuses on the need to protect the Sikh community's right to express its religious identity.  Initiatives under the POI campaign include:
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