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weareallone

Wearing Kirpan Openly In Canada

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Many do indeed wear them openly. And as far as I know, none have been arrested for that, Id assume its becasuse Sikhs are more recognizable and known minority group here in Canada compared to USA.

Wearing Bana in BC will probably get you looks in the areas with low Sikh populations, but in the Maritimes I think you may face some more difficulties.

What steps can I take to reduce friction in such places where sikhs are not very well known? Would it be advisable to head straight to the mayor's office and make myself known?

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Guest Jacfsing2

What steps can I take to reduce friction in such places where sikhs are not very well known? Would it be advisable to head straight to the mayor's office and make myself known?

That is the craziest thing you could do. If your going to be this afraid it's advisable that you just stay in England. What about the people who don't like the mayor?

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That is the craziest thing you could do. If your going to be this afraid it's advisable that you just stay in England. What about the people who don't like the mayor?

Your response is entirely unreasonable and indeed downright rude.

Even in India, where Sikhs are well known, within Punjab itself I was chased by a blood thirsty knife weilding Hindu mob because no Sikh had ever entered into their village before and they thought I was some kind of terrorist or bandit. The village head defused the situation and advised me to approach influential local figures whilst travelling in remote areas in future. This advice has held well when travelling throughout the WORLD. I have had the police called to the scene, army called to the scene all over the world. I'm sorry that you are not well travelled.

Its not a question of fear, rather It is always a prudent course of action to be be prepared and take precautionary measures when heading into remote areas. Why should I brazenly walk into a remote Yukon village and put the fear of life into a little old lady who has never seen a Sikh, whilst simulatenously courting arrest and causing needless public panic?

I have asked for what would be a suitable course of action when dealing with rural and remote areas in Canada in particular.

If you have no first hand experience with this then I suggest that you do not offend others.

I am travelling to Canada by the will of God. Indeed I would prefer not to but that is the situation. I am needed and I am fully prepared to die in the cause (but that doens't mean I get myself killed).

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To all those in future who may want information on this subject, I have now received credible information on the legal position from the World Sikh Organisation (WSO) in Canada, who have been involved in negotiating Sikh rights with organisations (more on that below). The summary is below. Please PM for detailed information if you are interested.

1. Rights are limited. The Canadian constitution like many others around the world offer generic "religious" rights. The only right that is guaranteed under this is the right to profess a faith. Anything other than that is limited by law. The likes of a right to wear a kirpan or turban have to therefore be weighed up against the laws such as for public safety, health and safety, public order etc.

2. You can get by with wearing a kirpan openly on the street in big cities but be careful when headed to small provinces. WSO legal counsel has informed me that I am likely to be faced with arrest in smaller provinces. If one is detained, the kirpan will be removed. So take precaution in small towns. I suggest taking pre-emptive steps such as talking to the police chief or mayor, as they are in charge of dealing with "security threats". Calmly explain your rights, hand over literature if you can and reassure them of your peaceful motives. However just in case, be prepared to be arrested and have to explain yourself from a prison cell, kirpan removed and possibly turban removed if you are in Quebec.

3. You cannot wear kirpan openly pretty anywhere other than on the street in big cities. You cannot wear the kirpan openly on public transport, courts, public buildings, workplaces etc. You are not debarred by law or the courts, but rather the organisation WSO which has given away these rights on your behalf. The WSO believes that this is a "reasonable accomoation", whereas it is not even required by law and it just pandering to bigots (see point 3 below). If you even show the tip of your kirpan, you will be arrested. If there is a general security threat such as following a terror attach, you can be shot by police for this. This is the legal reality that you may not believe but its true. However I suggest civil disobedieince and to wear kirpan openly even if you are denied services. Remember that the law or courts does not bar your rights. This is the only way forward for Sikhs.

4. Legislation to protect rights does not exist and will not exist. The UK has similar constitutional religious rights as Canada offers but Sikhs have been successful in lobbying for specific legislation that excludes articles of faith from criminal law. E.g. kirpans are excluded from the Offensive Weapons Act and Turbans are specifically excluded from health and safety acts- so Sikhs cannot be asked to remove or conceal the kirpan in Public or made to wear a hard hat at a construction site. In Canada however, because the Sikh community has failed to obtain such protection, their bare minimum of religious rights obtained from the constitution are weighed against public safety and health and safety laws so rights become curtailed. Unfortunately the WSO, seemingly the main lobbyist group, takes a view that kirpans are not very important and that to give up these rights is a "reasonable accomodation" and they believe there is "no need for legislation". It would seem that they consider Sikhs like me who hold the kirpan with great reverance, and all the Sikhs who died for the kirpan rights under British Rule as being entirely irrelevant. They support assimilation and pander to discrimination. In comparison, in Australia, in spite of a small Sikh population and it being a very racist country, Sikhs have secured legislation protecting the kirpan. So this is a clear lack of will by Sikhs to protect rights.

To understand "reasonable accomodation" consider that in the UK the only legal circumstance under which you can be forced to conceal the kirpan is under extremely rare circumstances, e.g. surgeons (in the operating theratre), firefighters etc. If you are pressured by anyone else, this is discrimination. For the WSO what the world considers discrimination, they consider to be "reasonable accomodation". Let us compare to the black civil rights movement. Black people won rights by refusing segregation, whereas many had previously considered it to be a "reasonable accomodation". 'Don't ask don't tell' was considered to be a "reasonable accomodation" until LGBT people fought for rights. The problem with the kirpan issue is that this because of the policies agreed by the WSO, Sikhs will find it very difficult to lobby for rights in future. They will say that the "sikh community" has already accepted it as being reasonable, even if some sikhs such as myself are rendered to be second class citizens as a result. The Canadian government and courts have historically taken the view that rights of minorities once given up cannot be restored even if given up under force- look no further than the shameful genocide of the First Peoples and other indigneous peoples.

5. Sikh organisations have given away rights without a fight. The WSO has negotiated "kirpan policies" with many public and private organisations, such as Greyhound coach, Via rail, public buildings, court houses and employers. This kirpan policy requires Sikhs to strap the kirpan to their chest securely beneath clothing at all times, breach of which means that they will be denied service, arrested, fired from the job etc. The WSO calls this "reasonable accomodation" but it is far from being reasonable. For Sikhs like me for whom concealing the kirpan is akin to taking it off, we are rendered second class citizens who cannot travel, work or exercise fundamental democratic rights by being denied access to courts and other public buildings with kirpan even partially visible. They could have taken a stronger position on this to protect rights as since, with lack of exemption from legislation, there needs to be a demonstrable security threat that can compel authorities, organisatins and employers to force Sikhs to conceal the kirpan and in practice, as it is easily proven that the kirpan is not a weapon and that apprehensions are unfounded, this would be very difficult to prove.

What this means is that the WSO, acting in the name of all Sikhs have signed away your rights. This has several implications such as:

(i) Sikhs will find it very difficult to lobby for greater rights in future (explained above)

(ii) It does not help improve the Sikh profile and understanding of Sikhs. This can only happen through acclimitisation (kirpan become more visibile in public and people getting used to it and being educated about it) and public debate, but concealed kirpans actually further a negative stereotype and panders to racists and bigots and Francophone secularists who are lobbying against all articles of faith.

(iii) future generations of Canadians will grow up believing that it is normal to conceal a kirpan. Indeed the message being propagated by the WSO and other organisations is that the kirpan is always worn beneath the clothing. Most non Sikhs particularly outside of the big cities are being given this message. Police are being trained with this in mind.

So rather than the Government or the courts forcing kirpans to be concealed or taken off, the WSO, acting on behalf of sikhs have sold away our rights without a fight. Indeed if this had gone to court, it would have been difficult or impossible for these organisations to prove a security threat or if not (and Canadian courts have a long history of discrimination- just look at the plight of the natives), it would have been reasonable to reach a settlement wherein the kirpan could only be challeged if there was a demonstrable safety threat and like in Western Australia, sikhs could be asked to be respectful of local customs and the prevailing circumsntances (read little old ladies being frightened). However the WSO has SOLD AWAY YOUR RIGHTS.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” (Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1787).

6. The extent of rights offered depend entirely upon the Government of the day and prevailing public opinion. All said and done, it is considered to be entirely reasonable for the state to strip (outwardly) "religious" rights from a Canadian resident if they have grounds to do so. They can demolish a Gurdwara, snatch a kirpan and require the turban to be removed like they do in France and other countries. The European Convention on Human Rights is considerd to be quite progressive however French Sikhs have failed to gain rights as Francophone "secular" law discriminates against them. Sikhs do have rights in the UK however- so this is entirely dependent upon political will and ultimately the strength of lobbying. In Canada, Sikhs have won small concessions from the federal Government, but provinces such as Quebec, following the Francophone approach can freely discriminate against Sikhs at the provincial level. Therefore it is important that Sikhs lobby for legislation and guaranteed rights. Therefore it is important that Sikhs lobby for legislation and guaranteed rights and spread awareness.

Finally, I have challeneged the WSO on their stance:

In my dealings with the WSO (which are ongoing and if they change their position I will amend my statement), they seem to express complete disregard for the fundamental rights of Sikhs, consider assimilation as the way forward i.e. the 'modern, trendy sikh' in a business suit who capitutes to bigots. Their response was friendly and polite up until I criticized the implications of their policies on Sikhs like me, when it became blunt and administrative. As to the make-up of this organisation: Formed in 1984 in the aftermath of bloodshed in India, it is basically a PR front for the self-determination issue in India whilst promoting itself as being a human rights organisation worldwide. The balance between the two may have shifted with change of leadership however- it was until a few months ago headed by Indian-born sardars but is now headed by a Canadian born singh. Their membership and representation is limited to the four big provices only. I have no information on religious affiliation, if any. They may be doing good work elsewhere (I have no information on their activities), but on this particular issue, they have failed the Sikh community.

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Guest Jacfsing2

Your response is entirely unreasonable and indeed downright rude.

Daas is not trying to offend you; all I'm saying is that the people you should really fear, (if you do), are the tribal people of Canada; not the police officer who's just on the street, Canada is a developed country and even has some GurSikhs in political power; (something you really don't see elsewhere).

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Daas is not trying to offend you; all I'm saying is that the people you should really fear, (if you do), are the tribal people of Canada; not the police officer who's just on the street, Canada is a developed country and even has some GurSikhs in political power; (something you really don't see elsewhere).

Bit of a faux pas there my lad? I am an indigenous rights activist and tribal anthropological and health expert. Indigenous people have been the most advanced spiritually in the history of the world, but also the most persecuted. Kindly also remember that not all Sikhs are Punjabi, I certainly am not. I kindly request you not to comment further because it is taking away from the subject at hand. I am happy to discuss aboriginal rights with you offline.

If anyone can contribute to the original question or the definitive legal response provided by the WSO, they are welcome to do so.

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Generally sikhs wear the kirpan underneath as a courtesy to the locals and as a way of keeping it more fastened.. It would help if we see the local anglo persepective. We already look pretty exotic with our Dastaars and kesh/ dhaarraa to them. Openly displaying our Sri Sahib does make them very uncomfortable. Most of us consider it reasonable that we can carry on wearing our kirpans without question in everyday life. All the power to your convictions but its not something we consider an infringement. Anyhow, the pointy edge of the mian (scabbard) usually remains visible so it lets the world know we are loaded :biggrin2: .

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On 12/07/2016 at 0:38 AM, Jai Tegang! said:

Generally sikhs wear the kirpan underneath as a courtesy to the locals and as a way of keeping it more fastened.. It would help if we see the local anglo persepective. We already look pretty exotic with our Dastaars and kesh/ dhaarraa to them. Openly displaying our Sri Sahib does make them very uncomfortable. Most of us consider it reasonable that we can carry on wearing our kirpans without question in everyday life. All the power to your convictions but its not something we consider an infringement. Anyhow, the pointy edge of the mian (scabbard) usually remains visible so it lets the world know we are loaded :biggrin2: .

Sorry for the delayed response to this, I have been off the internet for many months. I disagree with your view as if you consider the situation in the UK (and now Australia), the open wearing of kirpan is not only legal, but to abuse a Sikh or ask them to hide it is a hate crime. It is entirely about educating the general public which can only come through wearing the kirpan openly and explaining when challenged that it is not a weapon.

To feel "uncomfortable" with the "other" is not acceptable- it is called racism and/or discrimination. Black people are feared and loathed for simply being black in many parts of North America. This is the same anglo perspective which you're dealing with. It can and must be challenged.

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Guest Jacfsing2
2 hours ago, weareallone said:

Sorry for the delayed response to this, I have been off the internet for many months. I disagree with your view as if you consider the situation in the UK (and now Australia), the open wearing of kirpan is not only legal, but to abuse a Sikh or ask them to hide it is a hate crime. It is entirely about educating the general public which can only come through wearing the kirpan openly and explaining when challenged that it is not a weapon.

To feel "uncomfortable" with the "other" is not acceptable- it is called racism and/or discrimination. Black people are feared and loathed for simply being black in many parts of North America. This is the same anglo perspective which you're dealing with. It can and must be challenged.

So how did wearing it openly effect you?

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