Kirpan not allowed in Canadian court
Toronto: The kirpan issue is back in the news in Canada. In a country where courts have allowed Sikhs to wear kirpan in schools, police forces and public offices, and where an MP carries it inside Parliament, a Sikh man was not allowed to appear in court because of his kirpan.
Tejinder Sidhu, 25, who Monday went to a Calgary court to testify in a car accident case, was turned back by security guards because he was wearing a kirpan, a small dagger that Sikhs are mandated to carry by their religion.
Sidhu said: “I was asked by the court to testify in a fatal car accident case which I had witnessed. I had helped the victims out and called the police. So I was summoned by the court by subpoena to testify.”
He said before he entered the courthouse through a metal detector, he informed the security guard that he was wearing a kirpan. “He said I cannot enter the court with the kirpan. Either I have to remove it or go back. I was taken aback. I told him that Sikhs in Canada can carry the kirpan anywhere. But he didn’t budge,” he said. Sidhu said he tried to convince him that the Canadian Supreme Court had cleared all legal hurdles for Sikhs to carry the kirpan. “But it was all wasted on him. It was the most humiliating experience of my life,” he said.
After failing to convince the security guard, Sidhu wanted to have a word with his seniors. “But he didn’t listen. Finally, I decided not to appear in the court. I told the guard to inform the judge that I was here, but you (guard) turned me back because of my kirpan,” Sidhu said.
Before leaving, Sidhu also warned him that there could be legal consequences for him for violating the court subpoena.
Sidhu said: “Why do Sikhs have to go through it again and again?
The Supreme Court ruled in our favour in 2006. An MP wears a kirpan inside the House of Commons. The nation’s Parliament has recognized five Sikh symbols. So where is the problem?” Sidhu said he was determined to take the issue to the highest levels.
The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), which moved a motion in the Canadian Parliament seven years ago for recognition of five Sikh symbols, criticised the security guard for not allowing Sidhu in the courthouse.
“Sikhs have been in Canada for over 100 years. Their kirpan is recognized and allowed inside the Supreme Court of Canada and even in the House of Commons. I don’t see why a public courthouse cannot be as understanding,” said Wayne Marston, an NDP MP and human rights critic.
He said the kirpan is one of five religious symbols, mandated to be worn at all times for baptized orthodox Sikh men and women. “If kirpans are not allowed in a courtroom, are we indirectly limiting practising Sikhs from being lawyers or judges?
This type of discrimination must be stopped immediately,” the NDP leader said.