“Multiculturalism may be a Canadian value but it’s not a Quebec one.” That was the comment by PQ MNA Louise Beaudoin, after a group of Sikhs were barred from entering the Quebec National Assembly, where they would have spoken out against a ban on the kirpan in upcoming anti-niqab legislation.
Even around campus, some students believe it could be dangerous for Sikhs to carry the ceremonial daggers in classrooms.
In 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled that a ban on kirpans in a Montreal school went against the Charter of Rights. “Religious tolerance is a very important value of Canadian society,” Justice Louise Charron stated resoundingly. Kirpans can even be worn in Parliament.
Concordia University is not all that different from Parliament: it is made up of people from different backgrounds, genders, races and places who are in constant contact with each other.
According to media relations director Chris Mota, Concordia does not have an official policy towards the carrying of kirpans, but now is as good a time as any to put rules in place that will highlight the school’s diversity and openness. Mota said Concordia has a policy barring any kind of weapons.
It is time for it to recognize that the kirpan should never fall in that category. Besides, as Justice Charron pointed out, there are many objects that can be used as weapons, like scissors, pens and pencils.
The kirpan is a dagger, yes, but above that it is a religious symbol worn by Sikh males. It’s no different than wearing a cross around your neck if you are a Christian, or a star of David if you are Jewish. The kirpan itself is blunt, and is worn sheathed and usually under clothing.
Followers of Sikhism are not few. There are over 25 million worldwide, and Canada boasts the third highest Sikh population in the world, with over 275,000 Canadians identifying themselves as Sikh, according to the 2001 census. It’s also a religion whose beginnings can be traced back to the 17th century. All this to to say that Sikhism is not a new fad with strange observances.
Concordia administration must stand with our Sikh brethren. Our very name comes from the Latin meaning of harmony. How can we live up to our name if we would potentially implement a policy of intolerance? Our policy must show our true Canadian and Quebec colours, but more importantly, the diversity of our student population.
Concordia is made up of thousands of students, each with a different ethnic backdrop with which they provide unique insight in each of our courses. Marginalizing a culture only takes away from our own. Together, by drafting a clear policy allowing kirpans and other religious symbols on campus, we can show the world that we will not let our insecurities of other cultures cloud our judgment and misguide our decisions.