Ottawa – May 25, 2010 The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) supports Alberta’s Hamish Jacobs, 19, in his bid to wear a formal kilt to his high school graduation ceremony. The WSO sent a letter of support for the young man to the Superintendent of Westwind School Division, who will be hearing Mr. Jacobs appeal of the school district’s graduation dress code on June 1.
The human rights organization wants to remind the Raymond, Alberta school board that the Canadian Charter of Rights recognizes the multicultural heritage of Canadians. All Canadians have the right to maintain their cultural identities.
“Tolerance and accommodation of diversity are what make us Canadian,” says Gian Singh Sandhu, the WSO’s policy advisor. “Forcing individuals to abandon their cultural or religious practices is not the Canadian way and it creates an atmosphere of intolerance and inequity.”
The school district has a policy on graduation attire that reflects a narrow definition of formal wear: men are required to wear dress pants. Mr. Sandhu says that Sikh Canadians can sympathize with Mr. Jacobs’ plight, as it mirrors their own struggle to wear clothing that reflects their faith, such as the turban, while in uniform. In 1990, Cst. Baltej Dhillon won the right to wear the turban while on duty as an RCMP officer. And it took years of debate, but now Sikh veterans have the right to wear turbans in Canadian Legion Halls.
WSO President Prem Singh Vinning echoed Mr. Sandhu’s view of the young Canadian’s right to honour his heritage.
“Accommodation of a kilt should be a non-issue in Canada: I cannot conceive of any hardship it would pose,” Mr. Vinning says. He adds that crucifixes, yarmulkes and turbans are all accommodated in schools across Canada, there is no reason the Scottish kilt should be treated any differently.
The World Sikh Organization (WSO) is a non-profit international organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of the Sikh Diaspora, 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.