A motion was passed unanimously at the April 13 CSU council meeting supporting the right of students to wear any kind of article of faith at school.
“There are so many cultures at Concordia, and they should all be represented,” said the president of Concordia’s Sikh Student Association, Mukhbir Singh, in a statement before the passing of the motion. He later said, “I felt it was important to pass a motion in support of our diversity, a mosaic of different cultures, races, religions, that function well with mutual respect for one another.
The motion comes in the aftermath of the passing of Bill 94 by the Quebec government, which demands a face in plain view for reasons of identification, security, and communication. For example, the bill allows civil servants the right to deny a woman from seeking government services while wearing the niqab.
“Because Bill 94 touches on critical issues of freedom of religion, it is of grave interest to not only the Sikh community but the entire province and country,” Singh said. “This motion is a direct response to that bill that regardless of faith, we, here at Concordia University, won’t deny access to any student on the basis of articles of faith.”
According to Concordia spokeswoman Chris Mota, the university would have a fairly lenient stance on the wearing of the niqab, particularly in the classroom.
Singh was slated to deliver his statement at last month’s CSU council meeting, but there was no time. His timing to speak at this meeting, however, could not be more relevant, given some of the comments made in Canadian politics this week. Bloc QuÃ©bÃ©cois leader Gilles Duceppe said in this week’s televised federal debate that “multiculturalism doesn’t fit in with Quebec’s future.”
To exacerbate Quebec citizens’ sentiments regarding the banning of the kirpan from the premises of the National Assembly, Parti QuÃ©bÃ©cois member Louise Beaudoin said several months ago that “multiculturalism is a Canadian value but not a Quebec one.”
Singh said that this was simply not true with respect to Concordia and Montreal.
“I had known about the case in France, where no religious symbols are accepted in public institutions, meaning no turban, hijab, cross, or kippa, etc. I felt that Quebec was potentially heading into that direction as well,” he said. “I feel it is important for the National Assembly to understand that Madame Beaudoin’s comments are not reflective of the vast majority of the QuÃ©bÃ©cois people, especially not in Concordia University.”
An earlier version of this article referred to Mukhbir Singh as president of the Interfaith Chaplaincy. The group is actually called the Interfaith Ambassador Program, and its leader is Sofia Danna. The Concordian regrets this error and any inconvenience it may have caused.