Charges In Kirpan Case Fuelled By Prejudice, Lawyer Says

February 10, 2009

Author: Les Perreaux

Source: Globe & Mail

Persistent anti-kirpan sentiment in Quebec combined with parental prejudice are at the root of criminal charges brought against a Sikh boy, his lawyer argued in a Montreal court yesterday.

The trial of the 13-year old boy, who is charged with brandishing a short, permanently sheathed, ceremonial dagger during a school scuffle in September, ended with the boy's soft-spoken testimony and heated arguments between lawyers.

Two schoolmates accused the Sikh boy of poking them with the dagger and a hair pin during a brief disagreement that quickly rose from the street to the principal's office to the courts.

The incident took place near the Cavalier-de-LaSalle high school in the Marguerite Bourgeoys school division - the same school board that fought in court against the right of a Sikh student to wear the kirpan. In 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the right of Sikhs to wear the kirpan to school.

The case was among the examples of "reasonable accommodation" that has inflamed debate in Quebec in recent years.