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Canada Kirpan Kerfuffle Back In Quebec Legislature: PQ Introduces Motion For Debate


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Kirpan kerfuffle back in Quebec legislature: PQ introduces motion for debate

QUEBEC - The emotional dispute over Sikh kirpans will resurface in the Quebec legislature Wednesday, with the opposition Parti Quebecois seeking to extend a debate that erupted last month.

The PQ has proposed a motion applauding a decision to prevent Sikhs from carrying their ceremonial daggers into the national assembly building.

The motion aims to force the provincial government to take a stronger stand on the emotional issue, the PQ says.

The Charest Liberals essentially bit their tongue when four Sikhs were barred from the building because some refused to surrender their kirpans. Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil would only say, at the time, that institutions were entitled to set their own security rules.

That response was far less enthusiastic than the offerings of the opposition, which saluted the work of parliamentary security guards and declared that multiculturalism was not a Quebec value.

The PQ announced its intention Tuesday to pursue the issue.

"The security service of the national assembly made the right decision by refusing entry to the group of Sikhs carrying the kirpan," said Louise Beaudoin, the PQ critic on the subject. Beaudoin is the party's designated critic for international relations, la Francophonie, the status of women, and for secularism.

"The problem was that the absence of a reaction from minister Weil when these events occurred has allowed an unhealthy ambiguity to linger and we need to clear it up."

The PQ's sister party in Ottawa, the Bloc Quebecois, has similarly tried raising the issue in the House of Commons but has found little enthusiasm there among federal parties for its position.

The issue took on a more personal twist in Ottawa when a Liberal MP, Navdeep Bains, emerged to say he wears a kirpan and that it had never caused him any problems with colleagues. He expressed sadness that the Bloc was trying to make it an issue.

The backdrop for the kirpan discussion is a long-simmering debate about minority rights in Quebec, dubbed the "reasonable accommodations" issue; four members of the World Sikh Organization had planned to come to the legislature to testify in favour of the right of Muslim women to wear face-coverings when receiving government services.

A new provincial bill would restrict that right.

The opposition PQ, which is seeking to grab the upper hand in what is colloquially referred to as "identity" issues, has accused the government of weakness. It says the legislation should go further, and apply to religious symbols including kirpans.




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