Toronto (May 16, 2012)– The World Sikh Organization of Canada has worked with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Toronto Police Service, Toronto Police Services Board, and the Ministry of the Attorney General to develop an accommodation policy for the kirpan in Toronto 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.
Sikhs will be permitted to wear the kirpan in public areas of Toronto courthouses, subject to an individualized risk assessment and the following conditions:
- A person who wishes to enter a Toronto courthouse wearing a kirpan must self-identify as 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 will work with the Toronto Police Service and the OHRC to prepare training material for court officers on the kirpan and appropriate techniques to screen Sikh visitors to courthouses.
WSO has previously worked with the Toronto Police to create an interactive module on the Sikh faith for all Toronto Police personnel.
The policy was developed as a settlement to two separate human rights claims, the first by a Sikh student, who was to attend a mandatory class trip to the Victim/Witness Assistance Program at the courthouse in Old City Hall but was denied entry because she would not remove her kirpan; the second by a Sikh man who was summoned for jury duty at the University Avenue courthouse and was permitted to enter with his kirpan in the morning but was denied re-entry after the lunch break.
WSO legal counsel Balpreet Singh said, “the Toronto courthouse accommodation policy for the kirpan is comprehensive and addresses the need of balancing the human rights of Sikhs and security concerns associated with courthouses. 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.”
WSO Ontario Vice President Ranjit Singh Dulay said, “the Toronto Police continue to be leaders in recognizing and accommodating the needs of the Sikh community. The accommodation provided for the kirpan in Toronto courthouses will hopefully lead to accommodation policies in courthouses across Ontario and the rest of Canada. WSO will certainly be continuing its efforts in that regard.”
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.
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