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Kirpan Policy for Amritdhari Khalsa Sikhs Introduced for B.C. Courthouses


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As of Friday April 12, 2013 Amritdhari Khalsa Sikhs will be allowed to wear one of their articles of faith, a kirpan (small sheathed dagger/sword used in self-defence that symbolizes a Sikh's duty to come to the defence of those in peril and is one of the "5 K's" which also include Kesh (unshorn hair covered with a turban), Kanga (wooden comb), Kara (iron bracelet), and Kachhera (cotton breeches). ) in the public areas of BC courthouses.

This brings BC into line with many other jurisdictions and complies with Supreme Court of Canada decisions on this issue. In most public places in Canada a kirpan is allowed, although there have been some court cases involving the carrying of the object on school premises. In the 2006 Supreme Court of Canada decision of Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite‑Bourgeoys the court held that the banning of the kirpan in a school environment offended Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor could the limitation be upheld under s. 1 of the Charter.

There are restrictions on the size of the kirpan and it must be declared to courthouse security and examined to ensure the person is an Amritdhari Khalsa Sikh.

Here is the report:

B.C. Sikhs have let out a sigh of relief since the government announced they no longer have to compromise their faith when entering provincial courtrooms.

According to a Ministry of Justice release, as of Friday Amritdhara Khalsa Sikhs will be able to wear their kirpans — a small stylized sword, part of their five articles of faith — when visting public areas of a courthouse.

“It’s a relief,” said Sukhvinder Kaur Vinning, executive director of the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

“I can focus on being a good civic citizen and I don’t have to worry about compromising my faith, so that’s a huge burden that’s been lifted.”

Having to testify in court can be a stressful situation, and for Sikhs having to remove the kirpan made it worse, said Vinning.

“To take it off, that’s a painful thing to ask,” she said. “It eats away at a person.”

“[it was like] kind of being torn in two … practicing Sikhism and being a good citizen.”

The kirpan, as part of the Sikh code of conduct, is supposed to be worn — sheathed — at all times. The kirpan itself symbolizes the Sikh duty to stand against injustice.

“It’s very sacred, it’s an extension of who we are — we wear it all times,” said Vinning. “Taking it off – it’s hard.”

So the government and WSO worked together to create the new policy.

According to director of Abbotsford’s Sikh Heritage Museum, Satwinder Bains, the policy is “the next step” for Sikhs.

“But I still think there’s a lot of work to be done,” she said, adding dialogue outside the Sikh community is needed.

“The conversation about what the kirpan means to Sikhs needs to happen,” she said. “People don’t have all the information — the first thing that comes to mind is, ‘Oh my goodness, this is a sword, this is a dagger.’”

According to the union representing sheriffs, members “are not concerned with kirpans in the courtrooms, [because] these are longheld religious beliefs and our members respect them.”

“It’s something that they’ll have to monitor and just another issue that they have to deal with in the courtrooms,” said Dean Purdy, spokesman for the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union.

Similar kirpan accommodation policies already exist in the Parliament of Canada, as well as in Alberta and Toronto courthouses.

For an Amritdhari Sikh to attend a B.C. courthouse with a kirpan, the sheriff must be informed and the person must identify himself as an Amritdhari Sikh.

The sheriff will then assess potential risk factors, and has the right to refuse someone with a kirpan on a case-by-case basis.


Here is the news release from the BC Ministry of Justice:

Kirpan policy introduced for B.C. courthouses

Amritdhari Khalsa Sikhs will soon be able to wear a Kirpan, a small stylized sword, while visiting courthouse public areas following a security assessment by B.C. sheriffs.

British Columbia is making the policy change effective April 12 in keeping with other jurisdictions, as well as in response to human rights and Supreme Court of Canada decisions. Kirpan accommodation policies are already in effect in the Parliament of Canada buildings, the provincial court of Alberta, and in Toronto courthouses.

Any person wishing to enter a B.C. courthouse with a Kirpan must inform the sheriff that they are wearing one and identify themselves as an Amritdhari Sikh. There are size restrictions in place for Kirpans allowed in the courtrooms. The Kesh and the Kara must also be available for proof of the person's Khalsa Sikh status, and government-issued photo identification may also be requested.

In addition to physical evidence and identification, the sheriff will assess potential risk factors by asking questions such as the reason for the visit, the type of court proceeding they wish to attend, and the person's relation to the case. Sheriffs maintain the discretion to refuse or admit a Kirpan into the courthouse on a case-by-case basis.

The Kirpan symbolizes spiritual wisdom and the duty to stand against injustice. The Khalsa (Amritdhari) Sikh code of conduct requires the Kirpan to be worn at all times with four other articles of faith. The other articles of faith are the Kesh (unshorn hair covered with a turban), Kanga (wooden comb), Kara (iron bracelet), and Kachhera (cotton breeches).


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Dont tell us those daggers arent dangerous. Dont tell us they are only ceremonial. Dont tell us they are only used for defense. Im not buying it. About 9 years ago a friend of mine was a attending a house party in Victoria when a fight erupted with people at another house party down the street. He was attacked from behind and cut across the throat with a Kirpan dagger. He was lucky to survive thanks to the work of the ambulance crew and surgeons at the hospital where he stayed for over a month. Tendons on the side of his face had to be reattached and he has a horrendous looking 12 inch scar from his ear to his collarbone on the other side.

The man who is accused of attacking him fled the country.

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You appear to misapprehend the extent of secularism in Canada - it does not mean that exceptions are not made on religious grounds. The Charter specifically provides for freedom of religion.

Rights clash and under our system there are accommodations. And where there are not, then the courts adjudicate as with the SCOC decision of Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite‑Bourgeoys, [2006] 1 S.C.R. 256, 2006 SCC 6. There the Court struck down an order of a Quebec school authority that prohibited a Sikh child from wearing a kirpan to school as a violation of freedom of religion under section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This order could not be saved under section 1 of the Charter.


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Nothing wrong with letting them wear Kirpans, it is something that is deeply important to them. Good move by the courts to finally allow this. I had many students in my highschool/university who would wear them, yet I never saw one unsheathed, they seemed to respect it and treat it as ceremonial, I see nothing wrong with that.

The only thing I never liked is that, being a knife collector of many years, carrying a knife also has a deep meaning to me, but of course no one would ever care about that as it is not a religious belief. It seems like if you care deeply about something, and that thing happens to involve religion, then everyone must respect it, but if you care deeply about something, but you are not religious, then no one cares. In other words, those who are religious get to claim certain aspects of their lives (things of deep importance) as sacred and are given a lot of legal protections, while those who are not religious have the aspects of their lives that are deeply important treated as if they are on a lower level.

I wish our laws would reflect the fact that there are non-religious people in the country as well, and they are capable of caring just as deeply about something as a person of faith. I wish these Sikhs all the best, and am very glad they are able to now protect something important to them, one day I hope I am given the same level of respect.

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Non-Sikhs should walk in with "kirpans" when they're summoned to court in protest. If they're thrown out or get arrested as a result, it would be a great chance to raise a big public fuss and awareness of the double standard.

Exceptions = hypocrisy!

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There is no double standard. As the SCOC said in the case I cited above only the uninformed would not understand that this is not a double standard.

In human rights law it is referred to as "reasonable accommodation" and is a foundational value of democracy in Canada.

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It's not about being uninformed. It's about being consistent IN PRINCIPLE. I don't dislike Sikhs nor am trying to be mean or unwelcoming to them in any way. I just want everybody to live by the same rules.

Did the people of Canada ever get to have a vote and a say in the matter on this in any way?

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