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Canadian Sikhs angry as Quebec assembly bans kirpan

world Updated: Feb 10, 2011 12:02 IST

IANS
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The legislative assembly of Canada's French-speaking Quebec province on Wednesday passed a unanimous motion banning the kirpan from its premises.

All 113 members of the assembly, including Premier (chief minister) Jean Charest, voted in favour of the ban on the Sikh symbol.

The motion was introduced by the opposition Parti Quebecois (PQ) after last month's incident in which the assembly security staff denied entry to four Sikhs of the World Sikh Organization (WSO) who came to testify before a House committee debating Bill 94 which aims to ban Islamic face coverings.

Reacting to the ban, Prem Singh Vinning, president of the World Sikh Organization, said the Sikh community rejects it, adding that the kirpan is accommodated in the country's parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada.

"It's unfortunate that the PQ believes multiculturalism is a value in Canada but not in Quebec. We feel multiculturalism is not just a Canadian value,but a liberal democratic one that allows us all to live together harmoniously," said Vinning.

The French-speaking province, which has so far held two referendums to separate from Canada, is trying to assert its secular, Francophone character after an Egyptian woman refused to remove her niqab in her French class in a Montreal college in 2009.

The niqab snowballed into a major issue, resulting in the introduction of Bill 94 to curtail religious symbols in the province.

The four Sikhs' refusal last month to remove their kirpans while going to appear the House committee discussing this bill led to Wednesday's motion banning the Sikh symbol from the assembly premises.

Louise Beaudoin, of the opposition Parti Quebecois who introduced the motion, described it as a choice between freedom of religion and security.

"We need to choose one of these rights and, when you're in a secular state, you choose that freedom of religion has its limits," she said.

Referring to the four Sikhs who refused to remove their kirpans, she said, ""They could have made an effort to respect our institutions and our values."

However, the Quebec ban contradicts a 2006 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada which allowed Sikhs to carry kirpan under their clothing in public places.

Among the seven Sikh MPs in the Canadian parliament, two of them - Navdeep Bains and Tim Uppal - wear the kirpan.