Winnipeg Free Press: In it together

A great editorial on Sgt. at Arms Mr. Kevin Vickers' speech at WSO's Parliamentary Dinner

CANADIANS take great pride in the multi-cultural nature of their country.

This country’s people come from every corner of the world, from every nook and cranny where people have been able to eke out a living before they acquire the wherewith- all to come to Canada.

Mutual respect for our various backgrounds may not be universal, but it is the glue that keeps this country together.

The nation was reminded of that last week when the House of Commons sergeant-atarms — Kevin Vickers, the man in black who carried the mace into the House of Commons when the throne speech was delivered on Friday — was honoured by the World Sikh Organization at a dinner in Ottawa.

Although Canadians are an accommodating people, not all Canadians are as accommodating as others. Quebec, for example, has a more exclusionary culture than the other provinces and territories, as exhibited not just in its language laws but also in its treatment of visible minorities. The wearing of religious symbols and cultural dress remains a continuing controversy in the province and last year the government banned from the National Assembly Sikhs wearing kirpans, the ceremonial daggers that baptized Sikh males are required to carry.

That’s a controversy that continues. Fortunately, it was cut short in Ottawa when the Bloc Quebecois tried to introduce a similar restriction in the House of Commons. Mr.

Vickers, who as sergeant at arms is responsible for such requests, refused to acquiesce to that failure to accommodate Canada’s various cultures. Last week he told the World Sikh Organization that it was not a question of tolerance but a matter of rights. "I am going to tolerate you wearing a kirpan within the Parliamentary Precinct? No... I am going to accept and embrace your symbol of faith within the Parliamentary Precinct."

And that is, in the end, what being Canadian is all about.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.