R NRI Quebec Sikh truck
drivers battle Port Authority over turbans
Quebec Sikh, argues that
throughout history Sikhs have preformed dangerous tasks without
Quebec Sikhs battle Port Authority over turbans
Updated Tue. Mar. 7 2006 11:37 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
After a major nationwide victory allowing their children to go
to school wearing ceremonial daggers last week, Quebec Sikhs have
another cultural battle on their hands.
This time the fight is between Sikh truck drivers and the Montreal
Quebec Sikhs are angry about a new law that requires all truck
drivers coming into the Port to wear hard hats.
Sikh truck drivers say that wearing a helmet is not possible because
it is against their religion to remove their turbans.
Prithvi Saluja, a Quebec Sikh, argues that throughout history Sikhs
have preformed dangerous tasks without helmets.
"Indian Sikhs have served the Royal British Army in World
War One and WWII and they didn't wear helmets at that time, they
didn't need extra protection from the bullet," Sulaja said.
However, France Poulin, from the Montreal's Port Authority, argues
that it is simply a question of safety and protecting the workers
on the job.
Ansar Azad, who runs the Indo-Pak Driving School, estimates that
half of his students are Sikh. He doesn't understand the Port Authority's
"To me, it's safe enough," Azad said.
Saluja hopes to find a middle ground.
"There has to be some sort of mutual understanding other than
the law. The law is okay, it's for safety, but there are some exceptions
you have to make," Saluja said.
According to Poulin, there seems to be some unofficial compromise
among Port workers.
"In certain cases, certain terminal operators have allowed
these specific truck drivers to conduct their business on the terminal
but they must remain inside their trucks to ensure their health
and safety," Poulin said.
In other cases, however, operators have not bent the rules, and
drivers not wearing the required hard hats have been refused entry
to the port.
Some Sikhs who have been refused entry have complained to the Human
Manjit Singh, a professor of religious studies at McGill University,
believes the only solution is to update the labour code.
"Well I'd like to see changes. What we call the reasonable
accommodation clause," Singh argued.
When asked about other options, Singh said, "There's absolutely
no compromise insofar as taking off the turban is concerned."
A Sikh turban, known as a dastaar, is a mandatory article of faith
under the Sikh religion. Sikhism is the only religion in the world
that requires a turban to be worn. The turban is a sign of nobility
Approximately 250,000 Sikhs live in Canada.
With a report from CTV Montreal's Tarah Schwartz