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Sikh News Kirpan Decision - Editorial

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by Archived_Member16, Mar 8, 2006.

  1. Archived_Member16

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    SPNer Thinker

    Jan 7, 2005
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    Kirpan decision furthers schools' role to teach respect for others
    Editorial - Vancouver Sun
    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    CREDIT: Fred Chartrand, Canadian Press

    Teenager Gurbaj Singh Multani took his quest to wear his Sikh ceremonial dagger to school to the Supreme Court of Canada.Although many school boards had already decided in favour of permitting Sikh students to wear kirpans, the Supreme Court of Canada last week struck a major blow in favour of freedom of religion.

    In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the court held that schools must embrace religious tolerance and multiculturalism by letting Sikh students wear the ceremonial daggers their religion requires.

    The case arose after 17-year-old Montrealer Gurbaj Singh Multani switched to a private school after the public school board prohibited his carrying the kirpan on the grounds that it was a potentially dangerous weapon.

    Not all judges considered the Charter of Rights in resolving the case, but the five who did found the board's decision infringed Multani's Charter right to freedom of religion.

    Further, the judges concluded that the infringement could be not be justified under s. 1 of the Charter. The board's decision was motivated by a pressing and substantial objective -- to ensure a reasonable level of safety at the school -- but the court held that that objective could be achieved without maintaining an absolute prohibition on carrying the kirpan.

    Although the school board expressed concern that the dagger could be used for violent purposes, the court noted there has not been a single violent school incident involving kirpans in the 100-plus years Sikhs have been attending schools in Canada.

    The court also found that Multani had previously agreed to certain conditions -- including that the kirpan be sewn into a cloth envelope, placed in a wooden sheath and kept beneath his clothes -- that would reduce any danger the dagger might pose.

    Given these conditions and the lack of violence associated with the kirpan in schools, the court concluded that it posed less danger than other objects found in schools, such as scissors, pens and baseball bats.
    In contrast, the court noted that maintaining an absolute prohibition on the kirpan sends the damaging message that some religious practices don't merit the same protection as others. And given that the damage done to the Canadian values of religious tolerance and multiculturalism by banning the kirpan outweigh the limited benefits of maintaining the prohibition, the court held that an absolute prohibition could not be justified.

    Reaction to the judgment has been mixed, with one Montreal teacher even suggesting that someone could now bring a Kalashnikov to school in the name of religion. But this rhetoric betrays a complete lack of understanding of the importance Sikhs place on the kirpan which, as the court argued, is a religious symbol, not a weapon.

    Further, as the court also argued, schools are one of the primary places in which we inculcate respect for Canadian values in the younger generation. With the court's latest decision, schools will be expected to continue fulfilling that noble task.

    © The Vancouver Sun 2006​
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