Ottawa, March 2 (Reuters): Multiculturalism and religious freedom trumped safety concerns in a Canadian Supreme Court decision today that will allow orthodox Sikh students to carry concealed traditional daggers to school.
In its decision, the court noted that Sikh orthodoxy requires the wearing of the daggers, known as kirpans, even though they are banned from airplanes and some courtrooms.
“Religious tolerance is a very important value of Canadian society,” Justice Louise Charron wrote in reasons for the decision after a court case that involved 12-year-old Gurbaj Singh Multani who was prevented from carrying his kirpan at a Montreal school.
“If some students consider it unfair that Gurbaj Singh may wear his kirpan to school while they are not allowed to have knives in their possession, it is incumbent on the schools to discharge their obligation to instill in their students this value that is...at the very foundation of our democracy.”
Kirpans are already allowed in Ontario after a lower court order. Today’s ruling now opens the door to the practice, with possible restrictions, across the country.
Canada banned them on airplanes after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US. Some courts ban them as well.
Charron said aircraft were unique environments, but schools had the ability to better control different situations.