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Kirpan controversy in the classroom

Canada has struggled with the role of religion in public schools throughout the past half-century. The debate in recent decades is complicated by the fact that Canada is now home to so many different religions. From questioning the recitation of the Lord's Prayer in class to wearing ceremonial daggers at school, the right to exercise one's religion in public school classrooms remains the subject of fierce debate in Canada.

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By the 1990s, the question of religion in public schools has expanded to include the right to wear religious symbols, such as the Sikh kirpan (a small ceremonial dagger) in the classroom. Some parents feel the kirpans are dangerous and should be considered weapons and therefore should not be allowed to be worn in class.
. The kirpan is a ceremonial sword and is one of the five sacred symbols of the Sikh faith. Sikhs who have been initiated in a ceremony called Amrit Pahul are required to carry a kirpan at all times. To Sikhs the kirpan is symbolic of their spirituality and the constant struggle of good and morality over the forces of evil and injustice, on an individual as well as social level.

. On March 2, 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a Montreal school board's ban on wearing kirpans. The decision left room for some public safety restrictions, but said that a blanket ban violated the Charter of Rights. School boards in many provinces allow students to carry the daggers, but often limit their size or require them to be sheathed and carried out of sight.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: July 6, 1990
Guest(s): Catherine Frazee, Susan Little, Harbhajan Pandori, Sukder Singh Hundal
Host: Alison Smith
Reporter: Vicki Russell
Duration: 2:54

Last updated: January 16, 2012

Page consulted on October 14, 2014

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