October 25, 2018 2:02 pm

Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal of Quebec National Assembly kirpan ban

Thursday's decision upholds previous decisions from the Quebec Superior Court and Quebec Court of Appeal that found the legislature had the right to establish its own rules. Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018.

Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press
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The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear the appeal of a Sikh man and woman who were prohibited from entering Quebecs legislature while wearing kirpans.

Thursday’s decision upholds previous decisions from the Quebec Superior Court and Quebec Court of Appeal that found the legislature had the right to establish its own rules.

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Balpreet Singh and Harminder Kaur did not want to part with their ceremonial daggers as they headed into a legislature hearing to submit a brief in January 2011.

The pair are members of the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) and originally argued the legislature’s ban was unconstitutional, but then changed their position to say it was legal but non-binding.

READ MORE: Quebec’s top court upholds kirpan ban at the national assembly

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.

In 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada sanctioned the wearing of kirpans in schools across the country, recognizing the religious character of the object.

In a written statement, WSO president Mukhbir Singh expressed his disappointment.

“While we appreciate that this decision is not so much about the kirpan as it is about parliamentary privilege, we believe that there continues to be a serious violation of freedom of religion by excluding Sikhs who wear the kirpan from the Quebec National Assembly,” he said.

Singh also pointed out that the kirpan is banned in only two places in Canada — prisons and the Quebec legislature.

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Singh said he found the exclusion of an entire religious community “deeply troubling’ and feared the situation could get worse under the new Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government.

“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.”

While the CAQ government had said it would table legislation to ban civil servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols at work, on Wednesday it went a step further announcing plans to ban all public employees from wearing the chador, burka and niqab.

READ MORE: Quebec to bar all civil servants from wearing Muslim chador, niqab and burka

— With files from The Canadian Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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