WSO Convention Calls for Accommodation of the Turban at Canadian Workplaces

Kelowna (November 5, 2011):  The World Sikh Organization of Canada held its biennial convention on Saturday November 5th at Kelowna BC and adopted a resolution calling on provincial governments to exempt Sikh workers from hard hat requirements.

Marking the 27th anniversary of the organization, WSO members gathered from across Canada in Kelowna BC to discuss the organization’s future directions and policy.  Notable amongst the attendees was a significant youth delegation from BC, Ontario and Quebec. 

Recognizing the ongoing challenges faced by some Canadian Sikhs at the workplace with respect to the accommodation of the turban and the associated loss of productivity and work hours, WSO members adopted a resolution calling on provincial governments to create an exemption for turbaned Sikhs from existing helmet requirements.  WSO’s General Counsel Palbinder Kaur Shergill said, “informal arrangements at places like lumber mills and manufacturing facilities exist all across Canada but there is no uniformity or clarity with respect to the accommodation of the turban.  Rather than exhausting further government and community resources on continuously litigating this issue, it makes sense for our provincial governments to create a formal exemption.  Such an exemption already exists in British law and we’re confident a similar model can be adopted here in Canada.”

Cases of turbaned Sikhs challenging helmet requirements have been litigated at human rights tribunals and labour boards in several Canadian provinces, most recently in Ontario, where the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal found that Home Depot discriminated against Deepinder Singh Loomba, a Sikh security guard by “selectively enforcing” a hard hat rule and threatening to fire him for not removing his turban.

Other resolutions passed at the convention included a resolution supporting Canadian trade with developing states.  In keeping with its role as a respected leader in human rights, the WSO also called on Canadian federal and provincial governments to raise human rights concerns internationally. Delegates urged Canadian politicians to take a principled stance and refuse to deal with governmental officials from other states who are accused of human rights abuses.  Delegates were reminded of the 2010 Canada trade visit of Indian Minister Kamal Nath who is accused of leading a mob in November 1984 which burnt several Sikhs alive near Gurdwara Rakab Ganj. 

WSO President Prem Singh Vinning was asked by the convention to serve another two year term at the helm of the organization.  Mr. Vinning said, “I am honoured to be a part of WSO.  With the support of the membership and the ideas we have generated at this conference, I am hopeful that the next two years will be even more productive.  This organization will continue to serve as a strong voice for Canadian Sikhs.”

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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