Alberta: Kirpan to be Accommodated at Courthouses
By A Correpsondent
The World Sikh Organization of Canada has worked with the Government of Alberta and Alberta Human Rights Commission to develop accommodation guidelines for the kirpan in Alberta courthouses.
The kirpan is an important article of faith worn by amritdhari or initiated Sikhs which represents spiritual wisdom and the duty to stand against injustice.
With the assistance of the Honourable Manmeet S. Bhullar, Minister of Service Alberta, the WSO has ensured that the Alberta accommodation follows a similar accommodation procedure that was announced last year for Toronto courthouses.
Sikhs will be permitted to wear the kirpan in public areas of Alberta courthouses, subject to an individualized risk assessment and the following guidelines:
- A person who wishes to enter a Alberta courthouse wearing a kirpan must self-identify as a Khalsa Sikh and inform the court officer that they are carrying a kirpan upon arrival;
- All articles of the Sikh faith must be worn and available for proof, if required;
- The total length of the kirpan, including the sheath, may not exceed 7.5 inches with a blade of not more than 4 inches;
- The kirpan must be worn under clothing and not be easily accessible and remain so throughout the courthouse attendance.
WSO has worked with the Alberta Sheriffs and Security Operations Branch to prepare training material for court officers on the kirpan and appropriate techniques to screen Sikh visitors to courthouses. Training has occurred and the accommodation procedure is currently in place.
The kirpan accommodation was developed as a settlement to a human rights complaint filed by Tejinder Singh Sidhu in 2008 when he was denied entry to the Calgary courthouse because he was wearing a kirpan. Sidhu had been summoned to court by subpoena to testify as a witness to a fatal car accident.
WSO legal counsel Balpreet Singh said, “the accommodation of the kirpan in Alberta courthouses is another significant step that follows the accommodation that was reached in Toronto courthouses last year. The accommodation procedure ensures courthouse security is maintained while allowing Sikhs to wear the kirpan according to the requirements of their faith. We will be working to ensure that the Sikh community is familiar with the accommodation guidelines and that the roll out of the policy proceeds smoothly.”
Tejinder Singh Sidhu said, “although it’s been a long road, I’m glad this situation has resulted in positive change for the community and that the importance of the kirpan as an article of faith has been recognized.”