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Quebec parliament votes against kirpan ban

Last updated on: February 25, 2011 02:47 IST
A Bloc Quebecois motion to ban the kirpan from the precincts of parliamentary buildings moved on February 14 was defeated with the Conservatives, Liberals and the New Democratic Party voting against it. The move came close on the heels of Quebec politicians banning the Sikh ceremonial dagger from the Quebec National Parliament.

'The board of internal economy, a committee of the House of Commons, considered a motion put forth by the Bloc Québécois to ban kirpans from the precinct of Parliament, that is to say from the buildings on Parliament Hill,' Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the next day.

'The Conservative government represented there by Minister John Baird led opposition to the motion and it was defeated. And so, that issue has been put to bed, at least here at the federal level. The kirpan constitutes a legitimate expression of religious freedom as an obligation of baptised Sikhs and reflects the motion supported by our government and other parties in 2006 that was adopted by the House of Commons recognizing the Five K's as essential symbols of Sikhism.' 

If there was an attack on other articles of faith of Sikhism, the Conservative government, he added, would 'look at each instance as it arrives. It depends on the context where this might happen… (But) we'll continue to maintain that the kirpan and the other elements of the Five K's are legitimate expression of religious freedom.'

Kenney said that the opposition to the kirpan and other articles of faith were 'based on ignorance and wherever one of these things comes up in civil society where there's a misunderstanding about the nature of… any of the Five K's, we will certainly try to explain that to the people involved as best we can.'

He encouraged the Sikh community to 'continue its efforts to educate Canadians about the nature of their faith.'

The minister also said that the Quebec National Assembly's stand against the kirpan was 'not new.'

'The Québec separatist parties have always said they oppose multiculturalism and in fact, a Bloc Québécois MP (member of Parliament) had a bill in the House last year to end the application of the federal Multiculturalism Act in Québec, which we opposed,' he added. 'All we can do is try to explain to Quebecers that our approach to multiculturalism should not be seen as a threat to the identity of Quebecers.'

Image: Gurbaj Singh Multani wears a ceremonial dagger, known as a kirpan, after a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Photograph: Chris Wattie/Reuters

Ajit Jain in Toronto