Canada bows to its religious minorities over and over, like a dipping bird. Two days ago, we learned that Muslims in Toronto successfully demanded that girls’ swim lessons, in public pools all over the city, may not be watched by men — not even by the fathers of the girls in question. Now, from British Columbia, comes word that as of today, it’s legal for Sikhs to wear small religious swords in court.
Know of any other group that is allowed to carry deadly weapons in courtrooms?
As of Friday, Amritdhara Khalsa Sikhs will be able to wear their kirpans — small stylized swords, part of their five articles of faith — when visiting public areas of a courthouse.
“It’s a relief,” said Sukhvinder Kaur Vinning, executive director of the World Sikh Organization of Canada. “I can focus on being a good civic citizen and I don’t have to worry about compromising my faith, so that’s a huge burden that’s been lifted.”
Having to testify in court can be a stressful situation and, for Sikhs, having to remove the kirpan made it worse, said Vinning. “To take it off, that’s a painful thing to ask,” she said. “It eats away at a person.” …
Similar kirpan accommodation policies already exist in the Parliament of Canada, as well as in Alberta and Toronto courthouses.
Just so we’re clear, I have absolutely nothing against Sikhs and don’t fear them in the slightest, though it should be fair to point out that just like other groups of believers, they’ve not always been, let’s say, unfailingly kind. Just so we’re even clearer, I’m hardly a xenophobe. In fact, I’m one of the xenoi:
• a first-generation immigrant to the U.S.
• a member of a distrusted, much-maligned minority
• the father of two adopted children from Asia
• not a native speaker of English
Yet I am also one hundred percent OK with the age-old principle that in Rome, we do as the Romans do. I expect no special accommodations for my culture of origin, nor for my race or heritage, nor for my daughters’ race and their heritage, nor for our beliefs (that goes for my wife’s beliefs — Christian — and for mine — secular).
Were lawmakers to carve out special dispensations for my tribe, allowing us to do things that are forbidden to others, I would reject the gesture as unwanted pandering; and I would wonder what had happened to my adopted country’s professed dedication to equal treatment under the law.
[photo via vancouverdesi]