Full Statement from the World Sikh Council
Ottawa (June 21, 2015): The World Sikh Organization of Canada is deeply concerned by Bill C-75, the “Oath of Citizenship Act”, introduced by the government last Friday, shortly before the closing of the parliamentary session until after the fall election. The Bill would prohibit the wearing of niqabs by Muslim women during citizenship ceremonies, requiring that all candidates be “seen and heard” reciting the oath of citizenship.
The Bill comes following a recent decision by the Federal Court of Canada that found a rule requiring all new citizens to remove the niqab while taking the oath of citizenship unlawful. The Federal Government is appealing the ruling.
Similar legislation prohibiting the niqab has been tabled in Quebec by successive governments since 2010 but has never been passed and become law.
Although the Sikh faith believes in the total equality of men and women and expressly forbids the practice of veiling for women, the WSO has consistently challenged legislation that would restrict freedom of religion and has called for a fair and principled discussion on the issue of religious accommodation.
WSO President Dr. Amritpal Singh Shergill said today, “while we can agree or disagree with the practice of wearing the niqab, the solution is not to take away the right to informed choice from these women and force them to dress in a certain way. Freedom of religion is a Canadian value and women who choose to wear the niqab must be afforded the fullest protection of the law. Religious practices, as long as they are not harmful to others must according to Canadian law be accommodated to the point of undue hardship. Simply disagreeing with a religious practice, or feeling uncomfortable about it, is not reason enough to restrict it.”
WSO Senior Vice President Kulmeet Singh Sangha said, “It is inappropriate to politicize an issue as sensitive as the wearing of the niqab because doing so has the potential of marginalizing an already vulnerable minority. Freedom of religion is a principle that defines who we are as Canadians. Questions surrounding the wearing of the niqab must be informed by principles and the law, not politics.”
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.
Canada’s Minister of State for Multiculturalism, Tim Uppal outraged Sikhs worldwide after he made comments supporting the Muslim Niqab ban during citizenship oath cermonies in Canada.
Sikhs posted the following messages on Tim Uppal’s social media accounts:
Our Sikh Guru’s also didn’t interject in the right of religious people to practice their faith and in one instance, our 9th Guru, Guru Teg Bahadar gave his life for the right of Bhrahmin Hindu Priests to practice their faith. We may have disagreements and reject certain religious followings, but that does not mean we disallow their existence or prevent them from practicing their faiths.
So, if we want to discuss leadership capacities, our Guru’s showed that by demonstrating inclusiveness and respect were paramount to ignorance and exclusion.
The World Sikh Organization has showed their concern about this ban as well:
“while we can agree or disagree with the practice of wearing the niqab, the solution is not to take away the right to informed choice from these women and force them to dress in a certain way. Freedom of religion is a Canadian value and women who choose to wear the niqab must be afforded the fullest protection of the law. Religious practices, as long as they are not harmful to others must according to Canadian law be accommodated to the point of undue hardship. Simply disagreeing with a religious practice, or feeling uncomfortable about it, is not reason enough to restrict it.”
“Sikhs have a long and proud history in our great country dating back over 100 years, and have contributed significantly over the decades to Canada’s economic prosperity and enviable pluralism.Mr.Uppal,you are absolutely right about the Sikh History and contribution in this Great country of Canada,but Let me ask you some questions,there were 280,000 skilled worker applicants were waiting in line for their application to be processed and Minister Jason Kenny shred all those applications, but you were duck taped,Your Govt. shut down family re-unification for 2 years,your mouth was shut,under your Govt.it is impossible for normal immigrants to get a Canadian Citizenship,Bill c-24 and Bill C-51 were passed by Your Govt. making hard working Immigrants a 2nd.class Citizen and anybody can be easily labelled as a terrorist by your Minister.But Your Mouth was Shut all the time,WHAT IS YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THIS SOCIETY AND TO YOUR COMMUNITY AS A BORN RAISED SIKH MP AND MINISTER.