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Tracking The Diaspora Sikhs worried as Quebec govt tables secularism bill

March 30, 2019 07:08 AM


Tracking The Diaspora
Sikhs worried as Quebec govt tables secularism bill


Sikhs living in Canada have expressed concern over the secularism bill tabled by the Quebec government, which if passed would prohibit wearing of religious symbols in public places.

Mukhbir Singh, president, World Sikh Organization of Canada, on Friday said, “We are deeply disappointed that the Coalition Avenir Québec government has introduced legislation banning the wearing of religious clothing and symbols in Quebec. The proposed legislation is a solution to a problem that does not exist as there is no evidence to suggest that individuals wearing items of religious clothing are negatively impacting anyone in society.”

Sikhs living in Canada have mainly objected on the section of bill that outlaws wearing of religious symbols by public workers.

Expressing concern, the WSO president said there were approximately 15,000 Sikhs in Quebec who would be disproportionately impacted by the ban on religious clothing and symbols. Public servants in positions of authority such as police officers, judges, prosecutors and schoolteachers will be included in the ban.

Legal counsel of WSO Balpreet Singh said the ban would have a deeply negative impact on Sikhs in Quebec. The wearing of turban and Sikh articles of faith was not optional for Sikhs and a ban on these articles of faith was, in effect, a ban on Sikhs in positions of authority. “We fear that this ban will have a trickle-down effect into the private sector and young Sikhs who are born and raised in Quebec will find it even more difficult to find jobs in the province,” he said.

Pointing at the term “religious symbols”, he said it remained undefined in the law, leaving it unclear how particular items of jewelry or clothing would be classified cultural, religious or otherwise and who will be deciding authority. He said the practiing Sikhs, both men and women, wear Sikh articles of faith such as the turban at all times as part of their daily lives as reminders of the principles of equality, service and spirituality

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