September 24, 2013 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Quebec, Canada (September 24, 2013): “Sikhs have fought in both World Wars while wearing their turbans. 200,000 Sikhs soldiers sacrificed their lives, 90,000 died and 100,000 were injured. They fought side by side with other soldiers, while wearing their turbans,” said New Democratic Party Leader (NDP) Thomas Mulcair. NDP Leader Mulcair promised to fight against institutionalized discrimination in honour of Sikh Veterans.
The Parti Quebecois government unveiled a proposed charter of values that would ban public employees from wearing religious symbols in many public locations. This includes the Sikh Turban and Patka. This would be done by modifying Quebec’s charter of human rights and freedoms to include what would be called ‘Quebec Values’.
The Québecor Media Inc.(QMI) article states burqas, turbans, hijabs, yarmulkes, and crosses would not be permitted by employees in any public places including: offices, courts, police stations, In hospitals, government offices, public schools, large daycares, CEGEPs and universities.
In a recent petition the United Sikhs has said that it stands strong against this bill. “We have and will continue to fight for religious freedom and to maintain the Right to Turban globally” the United Sikhs’ statement reads further.
Deepinder Singh, Community Advocate for United Sikhs-Canada chapter said, “If Quebec does implement this, it will be a clear attack on the Canadian charter. We will not rest till then.”
Despite mounting criticism, the government has defended the proposition, stating the need for a unified Quebec identity and for public employees to be perceived as neutral while at work. The bill has been endorsed by Quebec’s largest public service union, which related the prohibition of overt religious symbols to the existing rules against expressing political sentiments on the job.
Recently the CBC News reported on the controversial ads sponsored by an Ontario hospital, Lakeridge Health, saying “We don’t care what’s on your head. We care what’s in it.”
In July 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee released a 52-paragraph statement, General Comment 34, concerning freedoms of opinion and expression. it would be impermissible for any such laws to discriminate in favor of or against one or certain religions or belief systems, or their adherents over another, or religious believers over non-believers. Nor would it be permissible for such prohibitions to be used to prevent or punish criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith.
A Sikh’s right to wear his articles of faith has been challenged in schools, the workplace, prisons and other public places. Sikhs suffer increased harassment because they wear the Turban. United Sikhs provides advice, counsel and legal representation to those whose legal rights are being denied by errant and mis-informed authorities and the public. A critical aspect of United Sikhs’ advocacy work is to create an awareness of the issues amongst authorities and the public.
“We encourage the Sikh community to practice their faith and report any issues in their respective areas that burden the ability to do so” the United Sikhs said in the statement.
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