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Sikhs in Canada: WSO Works to Introduce Kirpan Accommodation on BC Ferries

November 15, 2018 | By

by: Balpreet Singh Boparai*

The World Sikh Organisation of Canada (WSO) has worked to implement a kirpan accommodation policy with BC Ferries after several Sikh passengers were told they could not wear their kirpans while travelling.

BC Ferries provides transportation for many BC residents who travel between the mainland and coastal and island communities.

Image used for representational purpose only

The WSO was contacted last summer by several Sikh passengers who were told that their kirpans were not permitted on BC Ferries and must be stowed in their luggage. The WSO contacted BC Ferries and provided information on the significance of the kirpan and about accommodation policies in other settings such as trains, courthouses, stadiums and buses across Canada.

After ongoing discussions, BC Ferries has introduced a kirpan accommodation policy which states:

Practicing members of the Sikh religion are permitted to carry a Kirpan provided that the following conditions are met at all times while onboard our ferries:

  • the Kirpan must be kept sheathed;
  • the Kirpan must be worn underneath clothing; and
  • the Kirpan must not be visible to other passengers.

The WSO has also helped negotiate and implement kirpan accommodation policies across Canada in courthouses, stadiums, buses, trains and Canadian embassies abroad.

WSO Vice President for British Columbia Amanpreet Singh Hundal said, “while the law is clear that the kirpan must be accommodated in Canada, we still see examples of where Sikhs are told they cannot wear their articles of faith. We were surprised that given the history and population of Sikh in British Columbia, BC Ferries did not have an official kirpan accommodation policy. This was resulting in some Sikh passengers being denied service while wearing their kirpans. We worked with BC Ferries and provided information about the kirpan and accommodation policies across Canada and we are glad that this situation was quickly resolved with the introduction of a formal kirpan accommodation policy. We are grateful to BC Ferries for having worked with us to ensure Sikhs wearing the kirpan can travel while freely practicing their faith and we also thank the individuals who were affected for having reached out to us so we could resolve this not just for them, but for the entire community.”

  • Balpreet Singh Boparai is Legal Counsel for World Sikh Organization of Canada.

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