Sikhs allowed to wear kirpan at Olympic venuesOctober 16th, 2009 - 4:30 pm ICT by IANS
By Gurmukh Singh
Vancouver, Oct 16 (IANS) In a major concession to the Sikh community, Canadian authorities have decided to allow baptized Sikhs to carry their ceremonial kirpans into venues at the Winter Olympic Games here in February.
The dagger should be less than 7.5 inches in length, police officials said here Thursday.
There are more than half a million Sikhs in Canada, with most of them concentrated in the Surrey-Delta suburb of Vancouver and the Brampton suburb of Toronto.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said the relaxation was granted after consultation with the local Sikh community on the issue.
A kirpan is one of five symbols that a baptized Sikh wears.
But “because of the security measures at the venues, access would entail going through a metal detector,” said Mike Cote of the RCMP’s Integrated Security Unit.
“We thought we would be proactive and deal with this prior to the Games, and in fact we reached out to the Sikh community and sought their input to come up with some type of consensus,” he said.
The Canadian police officer said that only baptized Sikhs wearing all the five symbols of their faith will be allowed to take a kirpan into Olympic venues.
“The new guidelines provide reasonable accommodation for religious freedoms as defined by Canadian laws and values, while clearly identifying the conditions under which the kirpan may be worn,” police said.
In its landmark ruling in 2006, the Canadian Supreme Court had allowed the Sikhs to wear kirpan in public places after a Montreal school banned a Sikh student from wearing it inside the classroom.
The five Sikh symbols have also been recognized by the Canadian parliament.
(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)
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