The World Sikh Organization is pleased with VIA Rail's agreement to finally permit devout Sikh passengers to travel while keeping their articles of faith intact. The changes in policy made by VIA Rail and instituted on January 12, 2007, recognize the significance of the Sikh code of conduct mandated for all practicing Sikhs.
WSO President Gurpreet Singh Bal today expressed respect and admiration for Balpreet Singh, a 26 year old Ottawa law student who was removed from two VIA trains in 2005: "We offer Balpreet our heartiest congratulations for his perseverance to ensure that all Canadians are afforded the same protection to freely practice their faith. His calm, dignified, purposeful citizenship is an example to us all. Balpreet's success will be felt by all people of faith."
All initiated (Amritdhari) Sikhs are required, by religious mandate, to maintain five articles of faith upon their person at all times, as part of a disciplined lifestyle of devoted religious practice. The kirpan, as one of the 5 articles of faith, represents spiritual power. It reminds the wearer of her/his mortality, and the corresponding obligation to always stand up against injustice. A Sikh is prohibited from using the kirpan in any aggressive manner. "Sikhs honour a specific code of conduct because our purpose is to serve humanity. Our visibly distinctive attire is one way the public can easily identify someone who values peace, justice, and security. It is extremely important for Canadians, in today's fearful world environment, to recognize a kindred spirit when they see a Sikh," said Ajit Singh Sahota, Director of Administration .
The WSO is pleased that both VIA Rail and Balpreet Singh worked together to resolve this issue. "Perhaps this will inspire more corporations, public and private, to review their own practices, and become proactive in their approach to accommodating Canadian customers of diverse religious backgrounds. By engaging in a constructive dialogue with communities who are negatively affected by arbitrary safety and security policies, we can prevent future misunderstandings, and work cooperatively to achieve the same goals." Said Anne Lowthian, Executive Director.