Sikhs with kirpan not allowed in Que. legislature

A group of four Sikhs scheduled to make a presentation at Quebec's national assembly Tuesday morning were denied entry to the legislature because they refused to remove their kirpans.

The representatives of the World Sikh Organization were scheduled to address the legislative committee looking at Bill 94, the proposed law on the reasonable accommodation of the religious and cultural practices of minorities in the Quebec civil service and society in general.

The four, who travelled to Quebec City from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, said they called national assembly security Monday to ask if their religious ceremonial daggers would present a problem.

After receiving conflicting responses, the men said they decided to come anyway.

When they arrived, security guards offered them the option to put the kirpan in a safe place, but they refused and were denied entry.

In the Sikh religion, it is forbidden to remove the kirpan, which is kept against the skin under clothing.

One member of the group, Balpreet Singh, said he thinks it's a shame that the federal Parliament makes accommodations for Sikhs wearing the kirpan, but Quebec's national assembly does not.

Quebec Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities Kathleen Weil said the rule was established by security officials at the national assembly.

Weil said the provincial legislature building is an independent institution and can set its own rules, much like courthouses and airports.

With files from Salimah Shivji