Sikhs want apology from convention centre over kirpan issue

Calgary Sun
05/08/2009

The World Sikh Organization of Canada is calling on Calgary Telus Convention Centre management to apologize for shutting down a concert after some ticket holders refused to remove their ceremonial daggers.

Jasbeer Singh, spokesman for the World Sikh Organization of Canada, yesterday said he's furious about the decision because the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that banning kirpans infringes on Charter guarantees of religious freedom.

Canada's top court made the unanimous ruling in 2006, stemming from the kirpan prohibition imposed on then-12-year-old Gurbaj Singh Multani at a Montreal school.

"I was shocked and surprised after we've fought all these battles right up to the Supreme Court of Canada," Singh, whose organization was involved in the Multani legal action, said about the actions of the convention centre management.

"It is absolutely inexcusable -- we want them to offer an apology."

The kirpan, a ceremonial dagger, is an article of faith that baptized Sikhs must wear at all times, he said.

Calgary Telus Convention spokeswoman Heather Lundy released a statement yesterday defending the decision to pull the plug on Sunday's concert featuring legendary Punjabi singer Gurdas Maan.

She said several ticket holders refused to comply with security measures.

"We take very seriously our responsibility to provide all our visitors with a safe and non-threatening environment," she said.

Production companies that hold concerts at the convention centre are told of security policies and they are also asked to advise of any cultural or religious matters that need to be addressed, said Lundy.

Concert promoter Nirmal Dhaliwal admitted the contract with the convention centre stated no cameras or weapons are allowed inside the building, but he argued the kirpan should not be considered a weapon.

TARINA.WHITE@SUNMEDIA.CA