Kirpan banned at Que. national assembly

Quebec's governing Liberals voted in favour of an opposition motion to ban ceremonial daggers from the provincial legislature.

Liberal government supported Opposition PQ motion

Quebec's governing Liberals voted in favour of an opposition motion to ban ceremonial daggers from the provincial legislature.

 What is a kirpan?

The Parti Québécois tabled its motion Wednesday — requesting the government prevent Sikhs from carrying their ceremonial daggers into the national assembly building — and the legislature voted unanimously in favour.

Kirpans are allowed in the House of Commons but have been banned in Quebec's national assembly. ((CBC))

The opposition motion comes a month after an incident in which four Sikhs invited to take part in a parliamentary hearing were barred from entering the legislature by the building's head of security.

Four members of the World Sikh Organization planned to testify in favour of the right of Muslim women to wear face coverings when receiving government services.

A new provincial bill would restrict that right.

PQ pressured Liberals to clarify stance on secularism

The Liberal government said little about the incident at the time, with Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil saying institutions are entitled to set their own security rules.

The Opposition PQ was more strident and applauded the building's security details, while stressing the party's view that multiculturalism is a Canadian but not a Quebec value.

Fellow Liberals applaud Mississauga-Brampton South MP Navdeep Bains, centre, in the House of Commons in 2007. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))
PQ MNA Louise Beaudoin urged Sikhs to make a "little bit of an effort" and demanded the Liberal government clarify its position on religious objects in the legislature.

The kirpan motion is the latest twist in Quebec's so-called identity debate — where the opposition has pushed the government to take a stronger stand in defence of the province's secular, francophone character.

The so-called "reasonable accommodation" issue about minority rights in Quebec has simmered in the province for years.

The Bloc Québécois has similarly tried raising the issue in the House of Commons but has found little enthusiasm there among federal parties for its position.

Kirpans are allowed in the federal chamber and at least one Liberal MP wears one on a daily basis.

The issue took on a more personal twist in Ottawa when Liberal MP Navdeep Bains emerged to say he wears a kirpan and that it had never caused any problems with colleagues. He expressed sadness that the Bloc was trying to make kirpans an issue.

With files from The Canadian Press