Supreme Court won’t hear ap­peal of Que­bec leg­is­la­ture’s kir­pan ban

Asian Journal - - FRONT PAGE -

Ot­tawa: The Supreme Court of Canada re­fused on Thurs­day to hear the ap­peal of a Sikh man and woman who were pro­hib­ited from en­ter­ing Que­bec’s leg­is­la­ture while wear­ing kir­pans. The re­fusal to hear the case up­held pre­vi­ous de­ci­sions from the Que­bec Su­pe­rior Court and Que­bec Court of Ap­peal that found the leg­is­la­ture had the right to es­tab­lish its own rules. As usual, the high court gave no rea­son for its re­fusal to hear the case. Both lower courts found that the right to ex­clude strangers from its premises fell un­der the scope of par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege, and that this priv­i­lege is not sub­ject to the Cana­dian Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms. The case dates back to Jan­uary 2011, when World Sikh Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Canada mem­bers Bal­preet Singh and Har­min­der Kaur did not want to part with their cer­e­mo­nial dag­gers as they headed into a leg­is­la­ture hear­ing brief.

Weeks later, the leg­is­la­ture unan­i­mously passed a mo­tion stat­ing that se­cu­rity per­son­nel to sub­mit a had the right to refuse en­try to any­one who did not want to re­move the ar­ti­cle of faith.

The pair orig­i­nally ar­gued the leg­is­la­ture’s ban was un­con­sti­tu­tional, but later changed their po­si­tion to say it was le­gal but non-bind­ing.

Su­pe­rior Court Jus­tice Pierre Jour­net re­jected their ar­gu­ments in 2015, af­firm­ing the author­ity of the leg­is­la­ture to “ex­clude kir­pans from its precincts as an as­ser­tion of par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege over the ex­clu­sion of strangers.”

Que­bec’s ap­pel­late court up­held that de­ci­sion ear­lier this year.

The Sikh or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pres­i­dent said Thurs­day he was dis­ap­pointed by the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion, not­ing that it comes as Que­bec’s newly-elected gov­ern­ment is promis­ing to ban state em­ploy­ees in po­si­tions of author­ity from wear­ing re­li­gious sym­bols. “Given the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate in Que­bec with the cur­rent gov­ern­ment threat­en­ing a ban on re­li­gious sym­bols in gen­eral, we fear that re­li­gious mi­nori­ties in Que­bec risk be­ing marginal­ized and ex­cluded even fur­ther,’’ Mukhbir Singh said in a state­ment.

“While we were hope­ful that our case would be re­vis­ited based on the new frame­work for par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege de­vel­oped by the Supreme Court of Canada in the re­cently re­leased Chagnon case, we are re­view­ing all our op­tions un­der Cana­dian and in­ter­na­tional law.” In 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada sanc­tioned the wear­ing of kir­pans in schools across the coun­try, rec­og­niz­ing the re­li­gious char­ac­ter of the ob­ject. That de­ci­sion re­versed an ear­lier judg­ment by Que­bec’s Court of Ap­peal that had al­lowed a ban on the grounds that a kir­pan could cause a safety risk.

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