27 January 2011

KIRPANS IN QUEBEC - follow up statement

Where have my brains been hiding? Why didn't I see this immediately?   This whole thing was a set-up by Bloc Quebecois.

I was reading this editorial (I'll copy/paste it below) when I realised what a dolt I've been. Quebec has been fuming ever since the Montreal public schools were ordered to let that kid keep his kirpan in school. This accommodation (or not) for the niqab was the perfect opportunity to get even with us and take it even a bit farther.

The Quebec government is well aware of the importance of the kirpan to Sikhs because of the above case. When they invited the Sikhs to testify, they knew very well they would be carrying kirpans. They purposely made no arrangements with security to permit the Sikhs in, knowing that they Sikhs would refuse to surrender their kirpans. They knew the Sikhs would rightfully raise a huge stink at being treated so unfairly.

This publicity give the Bloc the chance to up the ante and get kirpans banned not only from the Quebec Legislature but to also try to get them banned from the Canadian Parliament where Navdeep Singh has been attending with his kirpan for more than six years and, I might add, has made no attempt to stab any opposition MP.

So we've been seriously punked! What are we going to do about it?

I realise that probably everybody else saw this from the beginning, it's so obvious.

My dear readers please sign the petition (if you haven't already) :   Say NO!! To Bloc's Call to Ban KIRPANS in Parliament

and also join the Facebook Cause with the same name.  

The article that brought about this much belated epiphany (italics mine):

Only in Quebec you say?

Other provinces have long tolerated minority rights. Not us

The Gazette
January 27, 2011

What is it about Quebec that makes it more dangerous for orthodox Sikhs to wear the kirpan here than elsewhere in Canada?

After Sikh boys in other provinces had been allowed to wear the dagger-like religious symbol to school for a hundred years, why was it still considered unsafe in 2002 for a Sikh boy to do the same here, even under severe restrictions?

And in the latest incident involving the kirpan, why was a Sikh delegation barred from the National Assembly last week after refusing to surrender their kirpans, when a Sikh member of Parliament is allowed to wear his in the House of Commons?

(And why, after Liberal Navdeep Singh had been doing so for more than six years, did the Bloc Quebecois only get around to objecting after the incident at the Assembly?)

Safety was the official reason given by the Assembly's security service for forbidding the Sikhs to wear their kirpans. But, as ruefrontenac.comblogger Marco Fortier pointed out, the kirpan is no more dangerous a weapon than the table knives in the Assembly's restaurants.

And it's not as if the Sikhs just showed up unannounced on a bus tour, catching everybody at the Assembly by surprise. They had been invited to appear before an Assembly committee examining a bill on, ironically, religious accommodations.

But since the committee had neglected to make prior arrangements for them to be admitted while wearing their kirpans, the Sikh delegation wasn't heard.

More than one made-in-Quebec compromise between the Sikhs' religious beliefs and the need for security at the Assembly was available.

The delegation could have been escorted by Assembly constables, as was a Sikh leader invited to a ceremony at the legislature last year.

Or they could have been allowed to wear their kirpans sealed inside their clothing. That was the solution suggested by the Supreme Court of Canada in its 2006 "reasonable accommodation" decision in the case of the Sikh boy forbidden from wearing his kirpan to school. 

In applauding the exclusion of the Sikh delegation, Louise Beaudoin of the Parti Quebecois expressed disagreement with the Supreme Court's decision. "Multiculturalism might be a Canadian value," she said. "But it is not a Quebec one."

The conditions under which the boy could wear his kirpan to school originated not with the Supreme Court, however, but with the boy's French-language school board. They were expanded in a decision by a Frenchspeaking judge of Quebec Superior Court.

And contrary to what Beaudoin implied, the Supreme Court's decision was not based on multiculturalism.

Rather, the court ruled that forbidding the boy to wear his kirpan to school violated his freedom of religion under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

And that freedom is protected not only by the Canadian Charter but also by Quebec's own Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms -adopted seven years before the Canadian Charter.

(Beaudoin's position is wrong, but at least she took one. Liberal Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil, the sponsor of the accommodation bill, refused to say whether the Sikh delegation should have been admitted.)

So "reasonable accommodation" reflects Quebec values as well as so-called Canadian ones.

Or at least it reflects what used to be Quebec values, before the backlash against the Supreme Court's decision on the kirpan.

Since then, the parties have been competing over the identity question for the votes of the majority, at the expense of the Quebec Charter and the rights of minorities, and not only religious ones.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

Reprinted from Sikh Philosophy Network