Court of Canada ruled, sikh students can bear kirpan (dagger)
Montreal, March 03 2006
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that barring Montrealer Gurbaj
Singh Multani from wearing his dagger-like kirpan to school violates
the nation's Charter of Rights. It cannot be considered a reasonable
restriction on his right to freedom of religion.
Justice Louise Charron wrote:
- A total prohibition against wearing a kirpan to school undermines
the value of this religious symbol and sends students the message
that some religious practices do not merit the same protection
- On the other hand, accommodating Gurbaj Singh and allowing him
to wear his kirpan under certain conditions demonstrates the importance
that our society attaches to protecting freedom of religion and
to showing respect for its minorities.
- The deleterious effects of a total prohibition thus outweigh
its salutary effects.
The Marguerite Bourgeoys school board and the family failed to
an accommodate each other. The school board on the grounds it could
pose a danger to other students.
- The Quebec Superior Court ruled the restriction was a violation
of his rights to religious freedom and that Multani could wear
the kirpan provided he adhere to several conditions.
- The Quebec Court of Appeal agreed that barring the kirpan contravened
Charter rights to freedom of religion, but ruled it was a reasonable
The court handed down its unanimous ruling-Whether the school's
ban was a reasonable restriction on Multani's freedom of religion
and whether it constituted a minimal impairment of that freedom
proved to be the turning point
Justice Louise Charron wrote for the majority: To
determine whether someone's right to freedom of religion has been
violated, it is important for that person to show that a particular
belief or practice is required by their religion and that belief
must be genuinely held. It is not necessary for everyone to practise
the religion in the same way for that belief to be accepted by the
The court said:
- The prohibition against wearing his kirpan to school has therefore
deprived him of his right to attend a public school. Forced to
choose between leaving his kirpan at home and leaving the public
school system, Gurbaj Singh decided to follow his religious conviction
and is now attending a private school.
- Not only is this assertion contradicted by the evidence regarding
the symbolic nature of the kirpan, it is also disrespectful to
believers in the Sikh religion and does not take into account
Canadian values based on multiculturalism
- The court also reject the school board's argument that the kirpan
was a symbol of violence and could poison the atmosphere in schools.
Palbinder Shergill, lawyer for the World Sikh Organization said:
- Requiring that kirpans be in sheaths or sewn onto garments should
not pose a problem
- Kirpan is one of five symbols of Sikhs' faith. Under no circumstances
can a kirpan be used in a violent manner, the religion states.