Canadian Sikhs appeal against helmet rule

April 1st, 2008 - 10:36 pm ICT by admin  

Vancouver, April 1 (IANS) Two Canadian Sikhs have moved a rights panel against a lumber company here for asking them to replace turbans with helmets under a new policy. The new rule has come as a shock to the two men who have been working with the company for years.

In their petition to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal against International Forest Products (Interfor), Mander Sohal and Kulwant Singh Sahota have said that the new hard hat policy went against their religious tenets which insist on turban for a devout Sikh.

The Tribunal has asked the lumber company to file its reply by April 9.

While Sahota joined the company four years ago and is now on disability leave, Sohal has been at Interfor since 1988.

Sahota said he feared he might not be able to rejoin if the new rule is not waived.

The devout Sikh said the turban was sacred to him and he will not swap it for a helmet or hard hat. He wondered why the company was introducing the new policy when he and Sohal had worked for years there without a hard hat.

He said Interfor was ignoring their long services to it, and he was devastated.

According to a lawyer for the two Sikhs, the company’s insistence on hard hats for Sohal and Sahota was an insult to the huge contribution of Sikhs to the lumber industry since they started arriving in Canada in the early 19th century.

The two Sikh workers have found support from all Sikh organizations of British Columbia province where the Sikhs are the largest immigrant group after the Chinese.

Curiously, the province was the first in Canada to grant Sikhs the right to drive motorcycles without helmet in the late 1990s even as the country’s most important province - Ontario - is yet to grant them this right.

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