OTTAWA – The World Sikh Organization of Canada said it is disappointed by a ruling of the Quebec Court of Appeal upholding the Quebec National Assembly’s prohibition on the kirpan.
In January 2011, the appellants in the case, Harminder Kaur and Balpreet Singh were part of a WSO delegation that had been invited to make a presentation at the Quebec National Assembly on on Bill 94 which would deny essential government services, public employment to individuals who wear facial coverings. The WSO’s team was excluded from the hearing before the Committee on Institutions because they were wearing the kirpan. The Sikh faith requires initiated men and women to wear the five Sikh articles of faith, including the kirpan, at all times.
Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Patrick Healy rejected the WSO’s appeal in a decision released on Monday on the grounds that the Quebec National Assembly may exclude individuals based on parliamentary privilege. The Superior Court decision below had upheld the authority of the QNA to “exclude kirpans from its precincts as an assertion of parliamentary privilege over the exclusion of strangers.”
Notably, Justice Healy remarked in the decision, “I make no comment whether the assembly’s exercise of the privilege to exclude the kirpan is a wise decision.”
WSO President Mukhbir Singh said, “while we are disappointed by the Quebec Court of Appeal’s decision, we aren’t surprised by it. Even the Multani case which secured the right of Sikhs to wear the kirpan in Canada was not successful at the Quebec Court of Appeal and had to be argued at the Supreme Court of Canada. In Canada, the Quebec National Assembly and prisons are the only two places with absolute prohibitions on the kirpan. It is unfortunate that the issue of the kirpan has been highly politicized in Quebec and is no longer about human rights and security but about identity politics. We are reviewing the Quebec Court of Appeal’s decision and an appeal to the Supreme Court is certainly something we are considering.”
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights of all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.