Transport Canada decision to allow blades on planes incurs wrath of Quebec politicians

In a nearly unanimous vote, Quebec’s lawmakers have passed a motion asking Transport Canada to reverse its decision to allow finger-length blades onto most of the country’s airplanes.

National Assembly backs motion 'meant to attack Sikhs,' says Québec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir, who abstained

'It’s not acceptable,' François Legault, the leader of Coalition Avenir Québec, said of Transport Canada's decision to allow blades of less than 6 centimetres on flights. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

In a nearly unanimous vote, Quebec's lawmakers have passed a motion asking the federal government to review Transport Canada's decision to allow finger-length blades onto most of the country's airplanes.

The federal Transportation Department announced that, starting next Monday, knives with blades six centimetres in length or less will be allowed on Canadian flights, with the exception of those destined for the U.S.

Bloc Québécois MPs first raised the alarm, saying the decision was designed to accommodate requests from baptised Sikhs, who normally carry a kirpan, a small ceremonial dagger linked to their faith.

Quebec politicians easily passed a motion Nov. 22, calling on Ottawa to review Transport Canada's decision to allow knives with finger-length blades, such as kirpans like this one, on flights not destined for the U.S. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The Coalition Avenir Québec responded with its motion in the provincial legislature, seeking a reinstatement of the ban on all blades.

"I do not see how the federal government can accept knives in airplanes. It's not acceptable, even if it is for religious reasons," said CAQ leader François Legault.

Québec Solidaire MNAs abstain

The motion, which did not mention the kirpan directly, was adopted easily on Wednesday, supported by both the ruling Liberals and the official opposition, the Parti Québécois.

Some 110 MNA voted in favour of the motion, with only the three MNAs in the left-leaning Québec Solidaire abstaining.

"Security on airplanes, who can be against that?" Québec Solidaire MNA for Mercier, Amir Khadir, asked on Twitter. "But there is something cowardly with that CAQ motion meant to attack Sikhs without daring to openly admit it."

Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux says his party backed the motion in order to give Transport Canada a chance to explain its reasoning.

"It's got absolutely nothing to do with any religious belief. It's a legitimate question about security on our planes. Up to very recently, the policy for Transportation Canada was not to allow those kinds of knives," Coiteux said.

NDP leader Singh says Transport Canada acted 'objectively'

The federal NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, who is a practising Sikh, said Wednesday that he respects Transport Canada's objective work. 

"I think that they've made a decision based on evidence," Singh said. 

He added that he is unsure if the National Assembly conducted an evaluation based on risk and objective criteria. 

"What the National Assembly is proposing, I haven't seen any measurement of risk, I haven't seen any sort of analysis of why they're proposing that," Singh said.