Ontario, Quebec differ over soccer head scarf ban
Ontario's soccer association disagrees with Quebec's soccer association— and Quebec's premier — aboutbanninghead scarves from the game.
Unlike Quebec soccer referees who ejected an 11-year-old Ottawa girl from a Laval, Que., tournament on Sunday because she was wearing a hijab, or Muslim head scarf, Ontario soccer officials allow religious headgear, said Guy Bradbury, CEO of the Ontario Soccer Association.
"It has to be secured —safely tucked in and secured," he said. "We've evaluated this particular case … and we're comfortable with our position."
Quebec Liberal Leader Jean Charest spoke out in favour of the Quebec soccer headscarf banMonday, aday after Asmahan Mansour, a player for the Nepean U12 Hotspurs, was kickedout of the Quebec tournament for wearing her head scarf.
"One of the practices of soccer is not only the sport itself on the field, but also the behaviour of the players, and how they are expected to behave towards each other, and the rules around how they are dressed," the premier said Monday while campaigning for the Quebec provincial election.
"My understanding is that the referee applied the rules of the soccer federation."
A Quebec soccer association spokesperson said the ban protects children from being strangled and pointed out that the referee is Muslim.
Charest's commentsalso came alittle more than two weeks afterhe called fora one-year provincial commission to examine what constitutes reasonable accommodation of minorities,following the adoption of controversial codes of conduct targeted at immigrants by severalQuebec communities.
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The Quebec Soccer Federation's technical co-ordinator, Valmie Ouellet, said referees were following Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)law number four when they ousted Mansour.
"There's a rule about headgear, where you're not to wear anything on your head," she said, adding a scarf could get caught on another player and choke the scarf-wearer's neck.
Some headgear allowed: referee
"The safe way to cover the head is quite clearly with a beanie type hat," he said."We allow Sikhs who normally wear turbans traditionally to cover their head, which is a requirement that their religion requires."
He addedthat Mansour would be allowed to cover her head as long as she had nothing wrapped around her neck.
Ontario's soccer association makes a special exception to that rule for headscarves.
Mansour saidher head scarf has never been an issue before. She saidshe does not think it puts her in danger and does not think much of any rule against it.
"I think it's pathetic, really, 'cause it's [the head scarf] tucked in my shirt," she said.
At least one sports leader on theeast side of the Ontario-Quebec border also didn't know what the fuss was about in his province.
"I don't see how a hijab would create a safety issue for a young lady," said Roy Shetler, spokesman for the Greater Montreal Athletic Association, whichorganizes sports for English school board students in the Montreal area.
He added that his group accommodates players ofdifferent religions from local English school boardsso long asthe requested changes to the rules are safe. For example, they allow Muslim players to wear sweat pants instead of shorts.
Mansour was barred from the tournament Sunday after being allowed to play Saturday. Her team and four others quit the tournament in protest.