Five K (Kakaar) FAQs

What are the 5 ks or five kakaars

A:

Sikhs who are initiated into the Khalsa commit to follow the rehit maryada or Sikh code of conduct. This includes a daily discipline of meditation and prayer and also wearing the five Sikh articles of faith or kakaars at all times. They are as follows:

1. kesh – unshorn hair symbolizing acceptance of God’s will; the hair must be kept covered at all times with a keski or dastaar (turban or head-covering) representing spiritual wisdom;

2. kangha – a wooden comb representing self-discipline; worn in the hair and used to keep it neat and tidy;

3. kara – an iron or steel bracelet worn on the wrist; the circle signifies the oneness and eternity of God and to use one’s hands for the benefit of humanity;

4. kachhera – cotton undergarment representing high moral character and restraint;

5. kirpan – a stylized representation of a sword, which must be worn sheathed, re strained in a cloth belt, and next to the body; the kirpan signifies the duty of a Sikh to stand up against injustice. Most kirpans range in size from 6 to 9 inches in length.

What is the significance of the 5ks?

A:

The kakaars or 5 Ks are external manifestations of Sikh identity and represent inner spiritual convictions.  The kakaars are worn at all times by initiated Sikhs and are treated like a part of the body.  

When is the appropriate age to be initiated (receive amrit)

A:

There is no age restriction or requirement for the receiving of amrit or becoming initiated.  A person who wears the Sikh articles of faith should be of a sufficient age to appreciate their significance and importance and maintain them in a respectful manner.  

What does kesh mean?

A:

-       Unshorn hair symbolizing acceptance of God’s will

-       All the hair on the body are considered to be kesh

-       The hair must be kept covered at all times with a Keski or Dastaar (turban or head-covering) representing spiritual wisdom

-       Hair is considered a gift from God, and so hair becomes a symbol of loving God and respecting everything God has given 

What does kangha mean?

A:

-       It is a wooden comb representing self discipline, hygiene and ridding oneself of impurities and what is morally undesirable

-       It is worn in the hair and used to keep hair neat and tidy 

What does the Kara mean?

A:

-       An iron or steel bracelet worn on the wrist

-       The circle signifies the oneness and eternity of God an to use one’s hands for the benefit of humanity 

What does kachhera mean?

A:

-       Cotton undergarment representing high moral character and discipline



What does Kirpan mean?

A:

The kirpan is often described as a dagger or a miniature sword, which is what it resembles, but that description is so far removed from the purpose of a kirpan as to make it misleading. The kirpan is an article of faith that plays a role in the Sikh religion that is similar to that of a Christian cross, a Jewish Star of David, or a Muslim hijab, with one crucial exception: it is not optional. As has been noted in Canadian jurisprudence,

“The kirpan as one of the five k’s is thus far more than a religious adornment.  Mandated to be worn always, it is an integral part of the Khalsa Sikh’s person and cannot be properly compared with a cross which a Christian might choose to wear.  Not wearing the kirpan at any time, day or night, constitutes a grievous transgression for a Khalsa Sikh.”

The word kirpan is a combination of the words grace and honour.  The kirpan is worn by initiated (Amritdhari) Sikhs, both men and women, and is one of five articles of faith, often called the 5Ks. Sikhs wear them as a reminder of their commitment to the tenets of their faith including justice, charity, morality, humility, and equality. These articles of faith are:

  1. kesh -- unshorn hair symbolizing respect for God’s will; covered at all times with a keski or dastar (turban)
  2. kangha -- a wooden comb representing self-discipline; worn in the hair it reminds the wearer to rid oneself of what is morally undesirable;
  3. kara – an iron or steel bracelet worn on the wrist; the circle signifies the oneness and eternity of God and to use one’s hands to benefit humanity;
  4. kachhera – cotton undergarments representing high moral character and fidelity;
  5.  kirpan – a stylized representation of a sword, which must be worn sheathed, wrapped in a cloth belt, and worn next to the body; the kirpan signifies the duty of a  Sikh to stand up against injustice.

Kirpans must be made of iron or steel and most range in size from 15 to 22 cm (6-9 inches) but sizes do vary depending of the preferences of the wearer. Some have elegant, ornate hilts and sheaths. They must be held securely in place with a fabric belt (called a gaatra).  The gaatra is worn across the torso, keeping the kirpan next to the body.

Canadian Courts have accepted that,

“[t]he Kirpan is also the symbol of sovereignty and dignity.  I suppose in a similar way…that in the Canadian parliament below the speaker’s chair we have a mace which is an undoubted weapon and a reasonably brutal one.  But this mace goes far beyond the aspect of being a weapon, but is instead a symbol of authority, a symbol of dignity, a symbol of sovereignty as it were the body that is involved.”

We all handle blades of all sorts daily, in public. Letter openers, scissors, knives in restaurants, kitchen knives, nail files, Swiss Army knives, scalpels, saws, ice skates… the list is long. It grows longer if we add forks (which are still found on airplanes) and other sharp, pointy implements. But we assume these tools will be used for their intended purpose, and we don’t assume our neighbours and coworkers are dangerous.

What prevents Sikhs using an article of faith for violence is that very faith, coupled with the same social customs that we all observe. Of all the blades used in daily life, kirpans are the least hazardous because they are sacred: they come with a philosophy that is an integral part of how Sikhs practise their faith. It’s not just a talisman or a piece of jewelry. Removing the kirpan is a serious matter for Sikhs. It is done rarely and only under extreme circumstances – Sikhs even wear the kirpan while sleeping and bathing.  

The idea of a Sikh attacking someone with a kirpan is far more frightening, horrifying, and repugnant to those of our faith than to anyone outside it.


Can I wear my turban in the workplace?

A:

 

  • The right of Sikhs to wear religious headgear, the turban, is protected under human rights legislation, subject to the tests for bona fide occupational requirements and the undue hardship standard.
  • Employers are to accommodate and individual assess health and safety risks against the undue hardship standard where an employee is requesting an exemption from a hard-hat requirement to wear a Turban.
  • Employers must avoid attempts to restrict the wearing of religious headgear based on uniform requirements or concerns about image or customer preference
  • Hard hat requirements may be bona fide occupational requirements however every attempt must be made to ensure that accommodation is provided- whether that means an alternative work placement or an exemption where the risk is de minimus and borne exclusively by the Sikh requesting accommodation.  

If I am injured at work and cannot tie my turban can I get compensation for this?

A:

Yes. WCAT-2003-01615 (RE), 2003 CanLII 73970 (BC WCAT)

  • Court found in favour of appellant, who lost his right arm due to a work injury, in being provided financial assistance for turban tying
  • Appellant was not able to tie his turban and did not want to burden any of his family members for the rest of his life in helping him tie his turban. Thus, court also provided him with financial assistance for turban tying in addition to his daily financial assistance that was provided

What are the police and Canadian Forces’s uniform regulations in relation to turbans?

A:

The accommodation of the turban for police uniforms is a legal requirement in Canada based on human rights laws.  

  • Any rank of a initiated practicing member of the Sikh religion can, in place of other headgear, where a turban of the color dark navy blue with a municipal cap badge centered on its front

-       Hair and Beard

  • Keep the hair and beard uncut provided that it is kept neat with the hair tied in a bun and concealed under the issued turban

Canadian Forces

-       Both Sikh men and women are allowed to wear turbans and the Sikh articles of faith while serving

-       Hair and beard are allowed to be kept 

Can I ride my motorcycle with my turban?

A:

Practicing Sikhs who habitually wear turbans, are exempted from motorcycle helmet requirements if they wear turbans of a size of five square metres or more in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.  

Can I play sports with my turban on?

A:

There should be no problem with wearing the turban in most sports.  

Karate

-       May wear religious mandated head-wear of type approved by the World Karate Federation

Soccer

-       A player may use equipment/clothing other than the basic equipment provided that its sole purpose is to protect him physically and it poses no danger to him or any other player

-       According to FIFA, religious headgear is not considered dangerous and are permitted.  Turbans should match uniform colours in some jurisdictions.  

Basketball

-       According to FIBA, Sikh players may wear religious headgear.  

What are the hospital regulations in relation to hair trimming, shaving or cutting for medical procedures?

A:

A Patient must be consulted and must give explicit permission prior to trimming, cutting or shaving any hair from any part of the body even for routine procedures such as taking blood.

Hair should not be removed from Sikh patients without prior informed consent by the patient, or in case of incapacity, the lawful care giver or power of attorney.  

What are the regulations in relation to personal hygiene when working in the food processing, storage, distribution and handling areas?

A:

All people entering food processing, storage, distribution and handling areas have an appropriate degree of personal cleanliness and take the appropriate precautions to prevent the contamination of food and food contact surfaces.

Employees in processing areas should wear effective hair restraints, such as hair nets.  There can be no requirement for Sikh workers to remove their turbans or be clean shaven.  Hair and beard nets will be sufficient to eliminate any risk of contamination.  

Can I wear my kangha while I play sports?

A:

A kangha can be worn so long as it is covered, secured and does not pose a threat of injury to others or the player themselves.  

What are the police and Canadian Forces’s uniform regulations in relation to the Kara?

A:

Police Uniform Regulations

-       A member of any rank who is an initiated, practicing member of the Sikh religion may wear, under the required uniform, a replica of the kirpan

Canadian Forces

-       Both Sikh men and women are allowed to wear turbans and the Sikh articles of faith while serving 

What are the police and Canadian Forces’s uniform regulations in relation to the kangha?

A:

Police Uniform Regulations

-       A member of any rank who is a initiated, practicing member of the Sikh religion may wear a kangha under the turban

Canadian Forces

-       Both Sikh men and women are allowed to wear turbans and the Sikh articles of faith while serving 

Can I wear my kara in the workplace?

A:

There is no issue with wearing the kara on the worksite.  

Where there is a safety issue with wearing jewelry, Sikh workers are permitted to wear the kara on the job, so long as the kara is worn tightly on the upper arm, restrained with an elbow support and covered by a rolled down sleeve

Can I wear my kara while I play sports?

A:

Rules vary on the wearing of the kara.  In many cases, if the kara is rolled up on the forearm and covered with an athletic band, the kara will not be a security issue.  

 

What are the hospital regulations in relation to the Sikh Articles of Faith during medical procedures?

A:

What should staff do/not do if a patient is wearing a Kirpan (sword)?

  • The Kirpan is considered by Sikhs to be a gift from their Guru (Prophet/teacher).
  • If a patient is wearing a kirpan, staff should be considerate of the patient’s feelings and love towards it.
  • If the kirpan must be removed for medical reasons please explain this to the patient/family and allow them to remove it gently. If they are unable to remove the kirpan themselves, please ensure your hands are clean and gently remove it and place it on a clean space.
  • Please also see the note below.

What if the patient has a mental health issue and has a kirpan?

  • If the patient has been identified as a risk to themselves or others, please consult with the family as alternatives may be possible.
  • Spiritual Care and Diversity Services have access to symbolic/miniature Kirpans that may be acceptable as a replacement (please consult with patient and/or family) ext 50103 or 50101.

Removal of Hair:

  • Since hair is considered a gift from God, it should not be removed from any part of a Sikh’s patient’s body without consent from the patient or a substitute decision maker.
  • In the case that a Sikh patient is in impaired capacity and their life is at high risk, medical treatment can be carried out without delay when there is no time to obtain consent. The cutting of any hair on the body should be avoided at all cost, unless life threatening medical treatment will be impaired without the removal of hair. 

Can I substitute a hat or surgical cap for the turban?

  • Please consult with the patient or family member; a surgical bouffant cap may be acceptable but a hat may not be.
  • After removing their headdress, Sikh patients may want to keep their head covered with an alternative covering such as a small turban or a scarf. The headdress should be respected, and if removed, it should be given to the family or placed with the patient's personal belongings.
  • Please do not place the headdress with shoes/footwear or on the floor.

Kara

  • It may not be possible to remove the bracelet because the hand no longer slips through. In such an instance, work with your team and the patient to determine what accommodations can be made. Examples include:
    • Surgery: the bracelet can be taped off

CT Scan: The hand with the bracelet can be moved to the side

 

Can I wear my kara when I take an MRI at the hospital?

A:

No, unfortunately it is very dangerous and unallowable to have metal objects in the MRI area/room 

What are the hospital regulations in relation to the kachhera during medical procedures?

A:

-       The Kachhera may be worn at all times, including during bathing

-       Women during childbirth may want to tie the Kachhera to one of their legs

-       Patients may request that the Kachhera be tied to one of their legs during surgery 

What are the kirpan regulations in the workplace?

A:

-       The right of Sikhs to wear the Kirpan is protected under human rights legislation and will not be found to constitute a health and safety risk amounting to undue hardship.

-       An employer should be wary about prohibiting any Sikh employee from wearing a kirpan in the workplace,

-       In most cases, any health and safety risks can be lessened by steps such as requiring it to be safely concealed 

What are the police and Canadian Forces’s uniform regulations in relation to the kirpan?

A:

Police Uniform Regulations

-       A member of any rank who is an initiated member of the Sikh religion may wear a kirpan under the required uniform

Canadian Forces

-       Both Sikh men and women are allowed to wear kirpans and the Sikh articles of faith while serving 

Can I wear my kirpan when I am taking a standardized test (LSAT, MCAT, SAT, etc.)?

A:

Yes, a kirpan is allowed to be worn in public places, schools and test centers.

Can I wear my kirpan on VIA Rail or Greyhound Buses?

A:

Yes, VIA Rail and Greyhound bus passengers are allowed to wear the kirpan on trains so long as the kirpan is worn underneath the clothing, always worn in its sheath and not visible to other passengers.  

Can I wear my kirpan at Parliament Hill, Provincial Court and other Provincial Legislatures?

A:

Yes, a kirpan is allowed to be worn at Parliament Hill and other provincial legislatures with the exception of the Quebec National Assembly.  

Can I wear my kirpan during the Olympics?

A:

Yes, according to the Olympic Kirpan Accommodation Policy:

-       Sikh guest wearing the kirpan should inform security personnel before being screened at venues

-       The kirpan must be worn under clothing and not easily accessible

-       The kirpan length cannot exceed 7.5 inches, with a maximum blade length of 4 inches.

-       The individual wearing the kirpan must be wearing all the other Sikh articles of faith

Can I wear my kirpan in Canadian NHL arenas?

A:

-       Yes, Sikh guests wearing the kirpan should inform a member of the event service team at the security gate.

-       The guest wearing the kirpan must be wearing all the other Sikh articles of faith.

-       The total maximum length of a kirpan can be 7.5 inches, with a blade of no more than 4 inches in length and it should be worn underneath the clothing. In accordance with the Sikh tradition, the kirpan should be worn in a fabric belt (gatra) and secured in its sheath.

Can I wear my kirpan while I play sports

A:

In many cases, where the kirpan is swaddled, restrained close to the body so that it cannot swing, the kirpan can be accommodated.  

Can I wear my kirpan when I have an MRI at the hospital?

A:

No, unfortunately it is very dangerous and unallowable to have metal objects in the MRI area/room 

Can I wear my kirpan to school and in public places?

A:

In short, Yes.  

The latest case on the kirpan and one that carries with it the most weight is the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Multani v Commission scolaire Marguerite‑Bourgeoys, [2006] 1 S.C.R. 256, 2006 SCC 6 In an 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that an absolute prohibition on the kirpan could not be justified.   The Supreme Court asked not what if the kirpan is used improperly but will the kirpan be misused.  The Court noted that Gurbaj Singh “does not have behavioural problems and has never resorted to violence at school.”  The fact that the kirpan had never been used as a weapon in any school was also persuasive to the court.  

 The Court further disagrees with the assertion that the kirpan is a weapon and states that an argument to that effect is “contradicted by the evidence regarding the symbolic nature of the kirpan, it is also disrespectful to believers in the Sikh religion and does not take into account Canadian values based on multiculturalism.”

The Court found that the absolute prohibition was not minimally impairing as it did not attempt any accommodation.  Although failure at minimal impairment would be enough to render the decision void, the Court proceeds with the Oakes analysis and finds that the deleterious effects of the policy far outweighed the benefits.  The kirpan restriction “would stifle the promotion of values such as multiculturalism, diversity, and the development of an educational culture respectful of the rights of others.”   

 

 

 

Are kirpans okay when flying on an airplane?

A:

CATSA allows kirpans with blades of up to 6cm to be worn on flights domestically in Canada and to all international/domestic destinations, except the USA.  If you have a transit stop over for your flight, you will have to ensure that the stop-over country also allows small kirpans.  The UK and New Zealand allow small kirpans whereas India does not.  Larger kirpans can be checked in with luggage.  

The kirpan can be worn through security and the CATSA screening officer will ask to see the kirpan and may ask that it be removed from the sheath to be measured.  

If you are requested to hand over or remove your kirpan, please request to speak with a supervisor.  


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