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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
The federal government last week expressed solidarity with the Sikh community while attacking the "separatist" Quebec parties over the kirpan "non-issue".

Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturism Jason Kenney charged the incident - in which four Sikhs were barred from entering the Quebec provincial assembly for carrying the kirpan, one of the five K symbols of the Sikh faith - was calculated to inflame separatist passions in the province.

Kenney pointed out Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government had always expressed respect for the cultural and religious traditions of all Canadians, including the Sikhs' kirpan.

"We had, way back in 2006 - and with the unanimous support of all parties - supported the motion recognizing the kirpan as an important religious symbol holding deep significance for the Sikh community," he told the ethnic media.

He pointed to Canada's history of accommodation of all minorities while noting that during his 14 years on the Hill "we've welcomed thousands of Sikhs".

'Very saddened' but...

The minister added he was "very saddened" by what was now going on in the Quebec national assembly, and dubbed the ongoing row "ridiculous". But even as he reiterated it was within the federal government's jurisdiction "to ensure religious freedoms are respected" throughout Canada, he admitted there was nothing - beyond offering platitudes to the community - that it could do in the matter.

"We cannot go in and change the policies of the National Assembly of Quebec," he said.

Asked also for clarification on how his government stood on Quebec - particularly after Prime Minister Harper had contentiously declared, also in 2006, that Quebec is a nation within Canada - Kenney seemed to agree this policy of appeasement was being misconstrued within Quebec.

"Maybe that's why they're using this to inflame issues," he said.

The minister also sought to reach out across party lines when he commented, "I agree with (my Liberal colleague) Navdeep Bains that this is a non-issue."

Agrees with Quebec over niqab

On the larger issue of Quebec's proposed Bill 94 (the Niqab Bill) and the outlook for minorities in Quebec, Kenney said his government obviously recognizes the province's rights to frame its laws, but it should also follow the fundamental rights in the Charter.

"It is not the role of government to legislate how to dress in their own laws, but it should be sensitive to the legitimate liberties and constitutional rights" of all citizens, he said.

In keeping with this policy, "we recognize they should show their face when seeking government services - it is reasonable that they be asked to identify themselves, we don't object to that principle."

But in this most recent case of the kirpan, "it really is a non-issue".

Again pressed on what - if anything - his government could really do, Kenney admitted there was nothing it could do.

Nothing, that is, except for something the people could do, the minister suggested in closing.

"Defeat them in the next election."



Mar 7, 2008
I am truly curious about how many people in Canada would vote in favor of a proposition to ban the kirpan. Obviously matters like this shouldn't be put to public vote :p but I'm intrigued what the outcome would be if this hypothetical vote was carried out. They (i think mcleans magazine) did a similar hypothetical vote regarding the niqab issue and i remember reading that something like ~70 percent of canadians would vote to ban it outright. Which was a surprising number cuz canadians are usually considered "tolerant" etc. I would assume that canadians would not vote with such overwhelming support to ban the kirpan. I assume it would be lower then 50% (but not by much). If it is siginificantly lower then the niqab results—I quess I would start off by asking why? :p


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004

With folded hands, I ask you to go to the Canada section and read the background on the starter article. All is connected to a controversy occurring in Quebec.

Some of your queries will be answered. Have been answered.

Here is a teaser, the background is in electoral politics in Canada. Kirpan is no more than a convenient issue, a hook on which to hang a lot of political baggage. The more we focus on kirpan, as if it were the central issue, the more defensive we seem and the more we distract ourselves from political reality.

If you ignore the fact (no easy thing to do) they want to rip apart a pretty remarkable country for no compelling reason there has always been much to admire in the Quebec separatist movement. This has been true of both the Parti Québécois and even more of its federal sibling, the Bloc Québécois. The Bloc's platform, for example, is traditionally laden with concepts like social solidarity, social justice and concern for vulnerable peoples at home and abroad, and under the likes of René Lévesque and Gilles Duceppe (a former union leader) they indeed once lived up to admirable progressive ideals.

No more. On a series of issues both important in themselves and emblematic of the worrisome direction Canada and Quebec are taking, the Bloc and PQ have stooped to embracing retrograde positions based on flagrant opportunism.