EDMONTON — The Alberta government has come up with a policy that allows Sikhs to wear a ceremonial religious dagger called a kirpan in provincial courthouses.
Under the policy, a person must tell security officers they have a kirpan and wear it in a sheath, under clothing. The blade of the kirpan can be no longer than 10 centimetres.
The World Sikh Organization says Alberta is the first province to bring in a provincewide policy for all of its courts.
“Alberta is the first provincewide adoption of a uniform policy with respect to the kirpan,” Balpreet Singh, spokesman for the World Sikh Organization of Canada said Monday from Toronto.
“The accommodation procedure ensures courthouse security is maintained while allowing Sikhs to wear the kirpan according to the requirements of their faith.”
Alberta’s policy is based on rules used in courthouses in Toronto that were brought in last year.
Singh said Ontario chiefs of police have since formed a committee and are working to come up with a formal kirpan policy for all of Ontario.
He said the organization is also working with the B.C. government to establish similar comprehensive rules.
The Alberta policy stems from a human rights complaint filed in 2008 by Tejinder Singh Sidhu when he wasn’t allowed inside a Calgary court because he was wearing a kirpan.
Sidhu had been called to testify as a witness to a fatal car accident
Alberta Justice spokesman Jason Maloney said sheriffs and other security staff at all courthouses have been briefed and fully trained on the rules.
“We looked into the matter and as a result came up with this policy so the human rights complaint was subsequently dropped and now this policy is in place,” Maloney said.
“Every courthouse follows this policy.”
Sidhu said he was satisfied with the Alberta government’s decision.
“Although it has been a long road, I’m glad this situation has resulted in positive change for the community,” Sidhu said in a written statement.
Rules about wearing kirpans have been evolving across Canada.
Last fall, Saskatoon’s public school board announced that Sikh children would be allowed to wear kirpans at school.
In 2011 the Quebec legislature voted unanimously to ban the kirpan from its premises.