The debate over Sikhs wearing kirpans into public buildings like legislatures has again arisen, this time prompted by a decision of security officials to deny four kirpan-wearing Sikhs entry to the Quebec National Assembly. The Bloc Québécois, ever the opportunists, have supported that decision and said last week it will ask Parliament to consider doing the same for MPs and visitors alike.
I have zero sympathy for the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to allow Sikh schoolchildren bearing ceremonial daggers onto school property, while other children are not allowed to have penknives on their person. When last I visited the House of Commons, my wife had to hand over her tiny two-inch Swiss Army Knife before she was allowed to be part of a public tour of Houses of Parliament. Yet does not, at least, one member of parliament wear a kirpan?
Where’s the equity here? Either knives are a danger or they aren’t. Our law should not extend privileges to members of a religious group and deny it to other ordinary individuals.
Finding common ground with immigrants and minorities—so called “reasonable accommodation”—is all very well and good, but should such accommodation elevate the rights of certain religious groups above the individual rights of everyone else? I don’t think it should.
Having said that, I simply cannot believe the stupidity of the decision to deny the Sikhs entry to the National Assembly building. The four Sikhs, after all, had been invited to appear before a legislative committee debating a bill that deals with the reasonable accommodation of religious minorities. Couldn’t arrangements have been made to provide an escort while the men were on the premises?
Had an escort been offered and accepted, our norms would have been preserved and the four Sikhs would have had their say.