Serving over 22 millions NRIs worldwide
Most trusted Name in the NRI media
We never stop working for you, NRI PEOPLE- OUR NETWORK
NRI Sikhs and Turban

NRI Sikhs's battle start with Montreal Port Authority
to order truck drivers to wear hard hats

Quebec Sikhs battle Port Authority over turbans

Montreal, Feb., 06, 2006
Tarah Schwartz

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 Port Authority.

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 safety concern.

"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 Rights Tribunal.

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 and respect.

Approximately 250,000 Sikhs live in Canada.