Calgary man denied courthouse entry for wearing kirpan

Posted by admin on Jan 17th, 2008

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 | 9:55 AM MT CBC News

A Sikh man says his religious Charter rights were violated when he was not allowed to take his ceremonial dagger into the Calgary courthouse. Tejinder Sidhu, 25, was summoned to court by subpoena to testify as a witness to a fatal car accident Monday. Sidhu was stopped at the airport-style security screening, which greets all visitors to the Calgary Courts Centre that opened last fall. An Alberta sheriff told him he would have to leave his kirpan at security or he couldn’t enter the building. ‘I don’t feel that I should be asked to remove it — especially being a witness to a case.’

Sidhu offered to be escorted in to testify if he could keep his kirpan, but that was rejected.

“I don’t feel that I should be asked to remove it — especially being a witness to a case — I’m being basically denied my civil duty or my civil right  to testify in court,” Sidhu told CBC News.

“So after basically debating for about five, 10 minutes, basically, I just left the courthouse and was unable to fulfill my civic right or my civic duty.”

Sidhu said he asked the officer to pass on to the judge that he wanted to testify but couldn’t get in because of the security requirement.

Andy Weiler, spokesman for the Alberta solicitor general’s office, which oversees courthouse security, said kirpans are on the list of items banned from Alberta courthouses.

But Weiler said the department will review the incident and examine how other jurisdictions in Canada handle the issue.

Kirpan policy varies across the country

In Canada, the debate over whether to allow Sikhs to wear kirpans in public places has been going on for more than a decade. The daggers are allowed in some public buildings such as the House of Commons but banned from airplanes and Greyhound buses.

In January, VIA Rail modified its policy to allow kirpans worn by Sikhs after a human rights complaint by a passenger.

Weiler said no one has complained about the ban on kirpans in other cities in Alberta that have security screening in their courthouses.

Sidhu said the province should overturn the policy to respect people’s rights and avoid causing any embarrassment at security.

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