Vancouver , Canada: The World Sikh Organization of Canada has worked with the British Columbia Ministry of Justice as well as the BC Sheriff Service to develop accommodation guidelines for the kirpan in BC courthouses. The accommodation will begin to be offered on April 12, 2013.
The kirpan is an important article of faith worn by amritdhari or initiated Sikhs which represents spiritual wisdom and the duty to stand against injustice.
The BC courthouse accommodation follows a similar accommodation procedure that was announced last year for Toronto courthouses and earlier this year for Alberta courthouses
Sikhs will be permitted to wear the kirpan in public areas of British Columbia courthouses, subject to an individualized risk assessment and the following guidelines:
A person who wishes to enter a BC courthouse wearing a kirpan must self-identify as a Khalsa Sikh and inform the court officer that they are carrying a kirpan upon arrival;
All articles of the Sikh faith must be worn and be available for proof, if required; The total length of the kirpan, including the sheath, may not exceed 7.5 inches with a blade of not more than 4 inches; The kirpan must be worn under clothing and not be easily accessible and remain so throughout the courthouse attendance.
WSO has worked with the BC Sheriff Services to provide training material for court officers on the kirpan and appropriate techniques to screen Sikh visitors to courthouses. Last month, WSO’s general legal counsel Palbinder Kaur Shergill and Executive Director Sukhvinder Kaur Vinning delivered a training seminar on the kirpan for BC Sheriffs. A training video has been developed in partnership with the Justice Institute of British Columbia.
WSO President Prem Singh Vinning said, “The accommodation of the kirpan in BC courthouses is the result of a proactive dialogue and not the result of litigation. It flowed from open and productive discussions with the BC Ministry of Justice. We are pleased that more and more jurisdictions are adopting these kirpan guidelines, and that we also are able to offer the training resources necessary for a smooth roll out.”
WSO general legal counsel Palbinder Kaur Shergill said, “In order for members of the Sikh community to access courthouses to perform their civic duty and engage with the legal system, it is essential for the kirpan to be accommodated. We are confident that the BC courthouse guidelines for the kirpan balance both security and the freedom of religion rights of the Sikh community.”
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.