The kirpan and Montreal’s assault case against a Sikh youth

Earlier today I stumbled on this article in the Montreal Gazette detailing the suspension, and now calls for a speedy trial, for a Sikh boy accused of assault:Kirpan

The teenager made his first appearance on the charges in Montreal Youth Court yesterday where he pleaded not guilty to three counts alleging he used a kirpan, a Sikh religious object that resembles a dagger, to threaten his schoolmates.

This case comes on the heels of another landmark Quebec case in which Canada’s Supreme Court unanimously voted to protect the right of Sikh school children to wear the kirpan (with some limitations on its use) in 2006.

But did the boy actually draw, or use, his kirpan during the argument? At first blush, it sounds like this was a schoolyard disagreement, but if the boy drew his kirpan it would be incredibly inappropriate, both under dharmic understandings and under school policy. But on reinspection, it’s unclear if this incident actually ever happened, or if this is a racist reaction against the kirpan. The boy’s lawyer, the same man who argued the Supreme Court case for accommodation of the kirpan, believes the reaction is racist:

Grey accused the Montreal police and the Marguerite Bourgeoys school board of “overreacting.” He also said a large part of Quebec society has never accepted the Supreme Court’s decision.

“I think that what we’re witnessing – it’s my opinion and the court will decide – is a deep bias against the kirpan that has never died in Quebec…”

If his lawyer is correct, then this brings up a larger issue: how do inclusion policies and values translate on the ground if a region or group is hostile to accommodation?

Legal protection of the kirpan is vitally important and relevant and worth protecting, but, if this incident did not take place, how many Sikh children will be pressured, harassed, and suspended from schools for exercising their right to practce their faith? In this case, the school board is not an advocate for the Sikh child (and in the previous kirpan case, when the school drafted an accommodation policy it was invalidated by the school board as well); if that democratic channel fails, then how can we support families in this position?


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8 Responses to “The kirpan and Montreal’s assault case against a Sikh youth”

  1. Bal says:

    I won't comment on this individual case because obviously the truth is not clear about what happened.

    I can comment though on cases I have seen with my very own eyes in which kirpans have been drawn to threaten, both in Gurudwarey disputes, and during 'protests' and at a Vaisakhi mela where an indvidual was stabbed. I think it's inevitable that at some stage a real genuine case of this will occur and it will do some damage to the community as a whole. People have to be prepared for this, and be prepared to condemn publically if it happens in the future.

  2. Yogi Bir singh Khals says:

    Whahe Guru: Guru Gobind Singh asked that all Sikhs committ to bana that would distinguish them from non-Sikhs. This action must be seen in light of the cultural context…eighteenth century India under hostile Mogal rule. Nearly three hundred years prior to that, the first Sikh Guru and the only Sikh Avatar ordained that Sikhs should compose their dress and behavior so as to blend with the population and not stand out in any way. I believe we have returned to the dynamic of the time of Guru Nanak; that it is not in the interest of the spirituality of the world to distinquish ourselves. Whahe Guru, Sat Nam.

  3. Bal says:

    I won’t comment on this individual case because obviously the truth is not clear about what happened.

    I can comment though on cases I have seen with my very own eyes in which kirpans have been drawn to threaten, both in Gurudwarey disputes, and during ‘protests’ and at a Vaisakhi mela where an indvidual was stabbed. I think it’s inevitable that at some stage a real genuine case of this will occur and it will do some damage to the community as a whole. People have to be prepared for this, and be prepared to condemn publically if it happens in the future.

  4. Yogi Bir singh Khalsa says:

    Whahe Guru: Guru Gobind Singh asked that all Sikhs committ to bana that would distinguish them from non-Sikhs. This action must be seen in light of the cultural context…eighteenth century India under hostile Mogal rule. Nearly three hundred years prior to that, the first Sikh Guru and the only Sikh Avatar ordained that Sikhs should compose their dress and behavior so as to blend with the population and not stand out in any way. I believe we have returned to the dynamic of the time of Guru Nanak; that it is not in the interest of the spirituality of the world to distinquish ourselves. Whahe Guru, Sat Nam.

  5. balmeet says:

    Yogi Bir,

    Where are you getting your information?

    The statement about Guru Nanak Dev Ji is incorrect as per Sikh history and Bani. Please take a look at "Asa Ki Vaar" for Guru Nanak's stance on blending in with the population. Also, the idea that Guru Nanak Dev Ji & Guru Gobind Singh Ji had contradictory teachings is incorrect according to Sikh theology.

    Please examine your sources of information before assigning them credibility.

    Phateh!

  6. balmeet says:

    Yogi Bir,

    Where are you getting your information?

    The statement about Guru Nanak Dev Ji is incorrect as per Sikh history and Bani. Please take a look at “Asa Ki Vaar” for Guru Nanak’s stance on blending in with the population. Also, the idea that Guru Nanak Dev Ji & Guru Gobind Singh Ji had contradictory teachings is incorrect according to Sikh theology.

    Please examine your sources of information before assigning them credibility.

    Phateh!

  7. I agree with Balmeet Ji. Yogi Bir Singh Ji, I'm sorry if I'm being presumptuous but I think you may be new to the Sikh path and may not have done due diligence in researching this Dharmic path. It is well understood that Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh were of the same light with the same ideals, there is no contradiction. This is a fundamental belief for Sikhs to believe whole heartedly in all 10 Nanaks and the 11th Guru, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, as Ek Jot (one light).

    I think what you're getting at is the fact that Guru Nanak dressed in a manner similar to the local populations at his time. This doesn't mean he didn't stand out, because actually he mixed Hindu and Muslim dress. So although it was the dress of the people, it was the dress of a divided people that he combined and thus used to stand out.

    The tenth Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh, gave us the 5 k's as gifts. These are timeless gifts which have both practical and symbolic meanings. People sometimes disagree and sometimes argue whether they should be purely symbolic or necessarily practical. I believe in both meanings strongly and wear them everyday. However, like all things Sikh, I believe it is a path to chardi kala (upliftment and ever-rising spirits), therefore I believe people need to make individual choices based on their consciousness.

    I encourage you to look deeper into the concept of Ek Jot and see that Guru Gobind Singh was a continuation of the same light, teaching nothing contradictory to the first Nanak. It is hard to be a Sikh without duality until this concept is understood and believed in whole heartedly. I've met a lot Sikhs with duality. They have a hard time merging their concepts with the Gurus concepts. A lot of Sikhs try to justify cutting their hair and doing a variety of other actions which are against the Dharmic teachings of the Guru. That is the difference between manmat and gurmat: the way of the wayward mind (manmat) or the way of the Guru (gurmat – aligning your mind and actions with the Guru). It is hard to follow Gurmat and be a Sikh in general when questioning and creating internal conflict regarding the Guru, be it Guru Nanak through Guru Granth Sahib. Unity of thought and devotion to the Guru is fundamental to being a Sikh.

    Thanks for your input.

    Sat Naam.

  8. I agree with Balmeet Ji. Yogi Bir Singh Ji, I’m sorry if I’m being presumptuous but I think you may be new to the Sikh path and may not have done due diligence in researching this Dharmic path. It is well understood that Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh were of the same light with the same ideals, there is no contradiction. This is a fundamental belief for Sikhs to believe whole heartedly in all 10 Nanaks and the 11th Guru, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, as Ek Jot (one light).
    I think what you’re getting at is the fact that Guru Nanak dressed in a manner similar to the local populations at his time. This doesn’t mean he didn’t stand out, because actually he mixed Hindu and Muslim dress. So although it was the dress of the people, it was the dress of a divided people that he combined and thus used to stand out.
    The tenth Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh, gave us the 5 k’s as gifts. These are timeless gifts which have both practical and symbolic meanings. People sometimes disagree and sometimes argue whether they should be purely symbolic or necessarily practical. I believe in both meanings strongly and wear them everyday. However, like all things Sikh, I believe it is a path to chardi kala (upliftment and ever-rising spirits), therefore I believe people need to make individual choices based on their consciousness.
    I encourage you to look deeper into the concept of Ek Jot and see that Guru Gobind Singh was a continuation of the same light, teaching nothing contradictory to the first Nanak. It is hard to be a Sikh without duality until this concept is understood and believed in whole heartedly. I’ve met a lot Sikhs with duality. They have a hard time merging their concepts with the Gurus concepts. A lot of Sikhs try to justify cutting their hair and doing a variety of other actions which are against the Dharmic teachings of the Guru. That is the difference between manmat and gurmat: the way of the wayward mind (manmat) or the way of the Guru (gurmat – aligning your mind and actions with the Guru). It is hard to follow Gurmat and be a Sikh in general when questioning and creating internal conflict regarding the Guru, be it Guru Nanak through Guru Granth Sahib. Unity of thought and devotion to the Guru is fundamental to being a Sikh.
    Thanks for your input.
    Sat Naam.