Legal

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2014

In 2014 the WSO was a leading advocate on behalf of Canadian Sikh community. We are regularly approached by members of the community facing legal issues with respect to human rights or Sikh articles of faith. Below are some of the legal advocacy victories from 2014. 

 

  • WSO was granted leave to intervene in the Loyola case at the Supreme Court of Canada

  • Through the advocacy and government relations work of the WSO, kirpans are now accommodated at Canadian Consulates and Embassies across the world.

  • The WSO worked with the multinational corporation Kuehne & Nagel to develop a kirpan accommodation policy for Sikhs at their Canadian facilities.

  • The WSO and the Royal Canadian Navy developed a precedent setting turban accommodation policy for Sikh personnel.

  • Intervened on behalf of Sikh high school students when their teacher dismissed their commemoration of 1984 as propaganda. Students received an apology and teacher was educated on appropriate response to such issues.

  • Intervened on behalf of Sikh employees at a hospital in Saskatchewan who were told that the wearing of karas would not be permitted under the jewelry policy.

  • Intervened on behalf of Muslim woman who was denied the right to wear her hijab on a license in BC. She was granted the license subsequently.

  • Intervened on behalf of Sikh parent in Brampton who was told to "go back home" by his child's school bus driver.

  • Punjab and Indian human rights advocacy through the Khalra Centre for Human Rights Defenders in New Delhi.

  • WSO writes to PM Modi calling for the immediate release of Sikh prisoners.

2013

2013 was another busy year for WSO's legal team with key victories on several different fronts. Some of our achievements and successes are noted below:

  • Accommodation of the Kirpan in Alberta & BC Courthouses

    • In 2008, Tejinder Singh Sidhu, a witness in fatal car crash case, was not permitted to enter a Calgary courthouse in order to testify because he was wearing the kirpan. The WSO took up Sidhu's case and in January 2013, in partnership with the Alberta Government and the Alberta Sheriff Service, announced a comprehensive kirpan accommodation policy for courthouses across Alberta.

    • In April 2013, WSO announced that a courthouse Kirpan accommodation policy had been negotiated in British Columbia

  • Quebec Soccer Turban Accommodation

    • The WSO worked tirelessly to ensure that the Quebec Soccer Association's ban on religious headgear would be overturned so Sikh children could join their friends on the soccer pitch again. The WSO had been working tirelessly since 2011 to address the issue and was honoured to be the voice of the Sikh community as debate raged across Canada and the world about the ban.

      WSO first spoke against restrictions on religious headdress in Quebec in 2007 when Azzy Mansour was told she couldn't play with her hijab. In 2011, WSO wrote to the QSF asking it to permit players and referees to wear the hijab and expressed concern that Sikh players were also beginning to face obstacles in wearing the turban in Quebec.

      In June 2012, Aneel Samra was told he could not wear the turban on the soccer pitch in Lasalle Quebec and the turban ban began to be enforced province-wide. WSO reached out again and attempted to initiate a dialogue with the QSF to resolve the issue.

      Throughout the dispute, WSO spokespersons were featured in every national media outlet including CBC, CTV, Global, Globe & Mail, National Post, Montreal Gazette and many others. WSO also met with elected officials of all parties in order to address this issue and regularly communicated with families affected by the ban.

      A timeline of the Quebec turban dispute is below:

      • June 2012: QSF announces that religious headgear including turbans are not allowed on the pitch

      • January 2013: WSO begins dialogue with CSA

      • April 15 2013: CSA issues memo to all referees to allow the turban

      • April 17, 2013: QSF says it will not allow the turban but will consider the issue

      • June 2, 2013: QSF announces that it has voted to uphold turban ban

      • June 3, 2013: WSO is in Ottawa and advocates against the turban ban

      • June 8, 2013: WSO meets with Sikh professionals in Montreal and offers support

      • June 10, 2013: CSA suspends QSF until it lifts turban ban

      • June 14, 2013: FIFA issues statement that turban can be worn by player

      • June 15, 2013: WSO supports "Let the Kids Play" soccer game open to all players in Quebec

      • June 15, 2013: QSF lifts ban on turban

  • Settlement of Limo Beard Accommodation Case

    • Gurmukh Singh, a limo driver with Aaroport Limo, was told by his company that he would not be allowed to drive with his flowing beard. He would either have to trim or tie it. Gurmukh Singh's union launched a human rights application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The WSO acted as an intervener in the matter. On the day of the hearing, the company agreed to settle the case and all restrictions on Sikh drivers from maintaining flowing beards were removed (Singh v. Aaroport Limousine Services, 2013 HRTO 82)

  • Other Cases WSO Helped Resolve in 2013

    • Resolution of Edmonton Airport turban complaint: A Sikh man’s patka had been improperly searched and removed at the Edmonton Airport. After a complaint, the erring security officer was sent for training, an apology issued and an assurance provided that the incident would not be repeated.

    • Rehras Sahib (prayer) Time Accommodation: Sikh employee in Peel was not being provided prayer time in the evenings to perform the Rehras Sahib prayer. The Company agreed to provide an appropriate break time after WSO's intervention.

    • Religious Accommodation for Sikhs in Custody in Peel: WSO assisted a Sikh man who was arrested and then held in custody and presented in court without a turban. The case was settled and Sikhs are now assured of being provided turbans in custody in a timely manner

    • Fast Food Beard Case: A Sikh employee at a fast food eatery in Saskatchewan was told he could not maintain an untrimmed beard. WSO advised the complainant and assisted in the reaching of a settlement.

    • Hudson’s Bay Kirpan issue: A Sikh shopper at the Bay at Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall was told not to return while wearing kirpan. The Company agreed an error had occurred and agreed to receive training session on Sikh faith which was delivered.

    • Brampton School Kirpan Accommodation: A student had been told he could not wear his kirpan in gym class as the kirpan posed a safety risk. WSO helped find an appropriate accommodation such as wrapping of the kirpan and restraining around the waist which can serve as a model for other schools.

    • Coffee Club Factory Kirpan Dispute: Coffee plant had refused to allow Sikh worker to wear kirpan. With WSO's intervention, the decision was reversed and the Sikh worker was compensated for lost time.

    • Sikh school bus driver in Peel was told she couldn't wear the kirpan on the job. WSO intervened to help resolve the situation.