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Sikh kirpans is now allowed in Canadian embassies and missions abroad

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JEFF LACROIX-WILSON
OTTAWA CITIZEN

Eight years after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that kirpans – the ceremonial daggers worn by those of the Sikh faith – could be safely brought into schools under certain conditions, they will now be allowed into all Canadian embassies and missions abroad.

But not without some restrictions, documents released to the Citizen show. The documents also discuss potential security concerns.

In announcing that the kirpan can now be worn in Canada’s diplomatic missions, the department of foreign affairs and international trade said the policy “allows Canada to demonstrate its commitment to religious freedom without unduly increasing security risks to mission staff and visitors.”

“Canada’s diversity is one of our greatest strengths, and freedom of religion is a fundamental Canadian value,” said Minister of State Tim Uppal in a TV appearance. “Our government’s new kirpan policy will serve as an example and promote Canadian values around the world.”

The Sikh dagger is already allowed into Canadian missions in Delhi and Chandigarh, India, but only if the kirpan has dull edges and the blade is less than three inches in length. “To date no visitors have complained about this practice,” the department says in background notes obtained by the Citizen.

Kirpans are also allowed in the Indian parliament, to a maximum length of 9 cm “inclusive of 6 cm of blade,” documents say.

Missions of other western countries, such as the United Kingdom, United States and Australia, do not permit the wearing of kirpans unless they are very small, symbolic ones.

Canada’s newly announced policy allows Sikhs to wear the kirpan inside all 270 diplomatic missions across 180 countries, but only if the kirpan is “secured within a sheath, attached to a fabric belt, worn across the torso and under clothing prior to entering the mission premises.”

In addition, the person wearing it must “be in possession of the four other Sikh articles of faith”: a wooden comb (worn under the turban); an iron or steel bracelet; cotton undergarments; and unshorn hair covered at all times with a turban.

In drawing up the policy, the background notes say, Foreign Affairs “aims to strike a balance between allowing for religious freedom and upholding its mandated duty of care in terms of the security of mission staff and visitors.”

“Although incidents involving kirpans are rare, they can and do happen – such as the one that took place in Brampton, Ontario, in April 2010. This particular incident resulted in a kirpan-inflicted wound of 12 cm and a charge of attempted murder for the assailant.”

(In this instance, two men unsheathed their kirpans in a large crowd that had gathered outside a Sikh temple and one stabbed the temple’s 53-year-old president in the stomach.)

Further, the background notes say, “Given the diverse and complex nature of security in the international context, allowing for longer and sharper kirpan blades than those currently allowed in India by the Indian parliament could pose undue risk to the security of mission personnel and visitors – not due to the probability that they will be used as offensive weapons but due to the severity of injuries that could be inflicted if they were used … “

The department did not respond to questions from the Citizen about security concerns.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada, however, celebrated the policy as a step forward.

“The accommodation of the kirpan at Canadian diplomatic missions around the world is a deeply significant move that shows that the Government of Canada understands and respects the significance of the kirpan to Sikhs,” said Amritpal Singh Shergill, the organization’s president.

For Sikhs, the small curved dagger signifies one’s duty to stand against injustice. A video on the World Sikh Organization’s website compares forced removal of one’s kirpan to the removal of an arm.

In Canada, the Supreme Court reached a unanimous decision in 2006 ruling the kirpan is “not a symbol of violence … To assume it (is) is disrespectful to believers in the Sikh religion.”

“There are many objects in schools that could be used to commit violent acts and that are much more easily obtained by students, such as scissors, pencils and baseball bats,” the judges concluded.

There are approximately 22 million Sikhs worldwide. About 500,000 live in Canada.

Canadian News

Ontario to reopen province, guiding principles unveiled

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Ontario to reopen province, guiding principles unveiled

THE Ontario government on Monday released A Framework for Reopening our Province, which outlines the criteria Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will use to advise the government on the loosening of emergency measures, as well as guiding principles for the safe, gradual reopening of businesses, services and public spaces.

The framework also provides details of an outreach strategy, led by the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, to help inform the restart of the provincial economy.

Details were provided by Premier Doug Ford, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

“Our top priority remains protecting the health and safety of the people of Ontario and supporting our frontline heroes as we do everything in our power to contain and defeat this deadly virus,” said Ford. “At the same time, we are preparing for the responsible restart of our economy. This next phase of our response to COVID-19 is designed to help us map out what needs to be done, and when, to get us back on the road to recovery.”

The government is planning a stage-by-stage approach to reopening the economy to ensure there are appropriate measures in place so workplaces can open safely. Public health officials will carefully monitor each stage for two to four weeks, as they assess the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak to determine if it is necessary to change course to maintain public health.

  • Stage 1: For businesses that were ordered to close or restrict operations, opening select workplaces that can immediately modify operations to meet public health guidance. Opening some outdoor spaces like parks and allowing for a greater number of individuals to attend some events. Hospitals would also begin to offer some non-urgent and scheduled surgeries, and other health care services.
  • Stage 2: Opening more workplaces, based on risk assessments, which may include some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces. Some larger public gatherings would be allowed, and more outdoor spaces would open.
  • Stage 3: Opening of all workplaces responsibly and further relaxing of restrictions on public gatherings.

Throughout each stage, continued protections for vulnerable populations must be in place, along with the continued practice of physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, and significant mitigation plans to limit health risks.

“Recent public health indicators show us that we’re beginning to turn a corner in the COVID-19 outbreak, while economic data, feedback from businesses and insights from our communities are outlining how we need to plan for economic recovery,” said Phillips. “Turning on an economy after an unprecedented shut-down is not as simple as flipping a switch. We need to plan this out carefully to ensure we do not spark a sudden outbreak, undo the progress we have made and put the safety of the public at risk.”

To reopen the economy, the government will consider factors such as the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and the ability to implement protective measures to keep workplaces safe. The Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will provide advice to the government about easing public health measures using a range of set criteria, including:

  • A consistent two-to-four week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases;
  • Sufficient acute and critical care capacity, including access to ventilators and ongoing availability of personal protective equipment;
  • Approximately 90 per cent of new COVID-19 contacts are being reached by local public health officials within one day, with guidance and direction to contain community spread; and
  • Ongoing testing of suspected COVID-19 cases, especially of vulnerable populations, to detect new outbreaks quickly.

“It is because of the collective efforts of all Ontarians to stay at home and stop the spread of COVID-19 that we are able to consider plans to move into the next phase of our battle against this virus,” said Elliott. “The Chief Medical Officer of Health has outlined some criteria he will use to advise government on when we may begin to slowly and safely ease public health measures and restart our economy. To be able to do so, w e need everyone to continue their extraordinary efforts so that we can meet these thresholds and begin to move forward.”

Supporting the next phases of Ontario’s Action Plan, the new Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, chaired by Minister Phillips, will be consulting with key sectors in all regions to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the provincial economy and develop a plan to move forward. The government and Members of Provincial Parliament will lead discussions with business associations, chambers of commerce, municipal leaders, the postsecondary sector, corporate leaders, small business owners, community and social service providers, Indigenous partners, Franco-Ontarians, entrepreneurs and others.

The work of the committee will build on Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, the first phase of the government’s $17 billion response, that is delivering targeted relief for businesses and families across Ontario.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has had far-reaching economic impacts for businesses and communities across Ontario,” said Fedeli. “In the face of these challenges, businesses and individuals have stepped up to support our frontline workers, produce essential equipment and keep our supply chains moving. Our plan to carefully and methodically reopen Ontario’s economy will ensure that businesses are supported on our path to renewed economic prosperity.”

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Canadian News

Stephen Lecce, Ontario education minister appoints investigator to examine Peel District School Board

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Ontario education minister appoints investigator to examine Peel District School Board

ONTARIO’S Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, on Tuesday announced he has appointed Arleen Huggins to conduct an investigation into the Peel District School Board’s compliance with the Minister’s binding Directions to the Board issued on March 13.

“We expect our school leaders – trustees, senior administration, and educators – to ensure all students are learning in safe and inclusive classrooms,” said Lecce. “This is why effective, transparent, and accountable school board governance is essential to the success and well-being of students in Ontario’s publicly funded schools.”

Huggins is a practising lawyer with 30 years experience in employment law, human rights law, workplace harassment and discrimination investigations and commercial litigation. She is a former President of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers and a Former Chair of both the Canadian Bar Association Standing Committee on Equity and the Ontario Bar Association Equal Opportunity Committee.  Huggins was also on the founding Board of the African Canadian Legal Clinic and has served on the Doctors Without Borders Human Resources Committee and the federal Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee (JAAC) for the GTA.

With the issuance of 27 binding Directions to the Board on March 13, the minister provided clear direction with specific timelines and deliverables to address systemic discrimination, particularly anti-Black racism, as well as dysfunctional governance, leadership and human resources practices within the PDSB.

“When it comes to confronting racism and discrimination, I will not accept delay or inaction,” added Lecce. “The message I am sending is — do better. Our kids deserve better. And I will do whatever it takes to ensure these issues are addressed immediately and effectively.”

The Ontario Government said it is committed to ensuring PDSB complies with the minister’s binding directions so that parents, students and the community get the positive change that they need and deserve.

Huggins will deliver her report to the minister on or before May 18.

The PDSB is responsible for 257 schools in Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, and over 155,000 students representing a rich array of racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious backgrounds.

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Canadian News

COVID-19″ More Indo-Canadians returning are from India

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More flights carrying Canadians leave India

CANADIAN High Commissioner in New Delhi, Nadir Patel, tweeted on Wednesday morning that the 15th special flight from India to Canada – had left Mumbai, bringing home more Canadian travelers stranded in India.

He added: “More special flights taking place in the coming days, thanks to all for your patience while we work through the complexities.”

On Tuesday, the 14th special flight with Canadians took off from Kolkata and Patel tweeted: “Huge thanks to our colleagues Australian High Commissioner Barry O’Farrell & his team for collaborating to make this happen.”

The 13th special flight with Canadians had departed from Bangalore on Monday, covering six states in the south.

And last Sunday (April 26) the 12th special flight from India departed from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with nearly 300 Canadians aboard.

More flights carrying Canadians leave India

More flights carrying Canadians leave India

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