Quebec bans Sikh daggers from capitol

February 10, 2011

TORONTO (RNS) Lawmakers in the province of Quebec voted unanimously on
Wednesday (Feb. 9) to ban the kirpan, a Sikh ceremonial dagger, from the
legislature building.


The opposition Parti Quebecois said it was acting to underscore
Quebec's neutrality in dealing with religious groups, while the
governing Liberal Party argued that the ban is needed for security
reasons.


The vote came a month after four Sikh men who were invited to
testify before lawmakers were barred from entering the building because
they were carrying kirpans.


Louise Beaudoin, a PQ member of the assembly, said she introduced
the motion because two fundamental rights were clashing -- the right to
religious freedom and the right to security.


"You have choose one of these rights, and in a secular society, you
chose to argue in favor of limiting religious rights," Beaudoin told the
Globe and Mail newspaper.


Balpreet Singh of the Ottawa-based World Sikh Organization of Canada
said in a statement Wednesday that "we're disappointed that the wearing
of the kirpan, which is a human rights issue, has been politicized."


Kirpans are permitted in Canada's federal parliament buildings, and
one Sikh member of parliament wears his daily.

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