Sikhs will be permitted into B.C. courthouses with small ceremonial swords known as kirpans, starting on Friday.
They must inform the sheriff that they are wearing the kirpan and be able to demonstrate they are Sikh by showing a traditional iron bracelet, known as a kara, and having unshorn hair covered with a turban, known as a kesh. The Sikh code of conduct requires these items to be worn at all times.
“This decision is incredibly important to us,” said Sukhvinder Vinning, executive director of the World Sikh Organization of Canada. “As law-abiding citizens, we go to the courthouse to fulfill our civic duties. But in order to fill that duty, we have to compromise our Sikh code of conduct by leaving our kirpan behind.
“Because we wear the kirpan all the time, it becomes an extension of who we are,” she said. “It’s painful to remove it. But now we don’t have that conflict.”
British Columbia is changing its policy in response to human rights and Supreme Court decisions. Kirpans are already accommodated in other governmental buildings across Canada, including Toronto courthouses and federal Parliament buildings.
There will be restrictions on the size of kirpans permitted into the courtroom.
Sheriffs will still have the discretion to question a person and refuse entry with a kirpan.