Quebec's top court upholds kirpan ban at National Assembly

Quebec's top court has upheld the right of the province's National Assembly to prohibit people from entering with a kirpan.

Balpreet Singh, Harminder Kaur challenged motion adopted by the province

A unanimous motion was adopted in February 2011 to ban the kirpan from the National Assembly. (Brett Purdy/CBC)

Quebec's top court has upheld the right of the province's National Assembly to prohibit people from entering with a kirpan.

Two members of the World Sikh Organization of Canada were challenging a unanimous motion adopted in February 2011.

The motion stated that security personnel had the right to refuse entry to anyone who did not want to remove the religious symbol.

A kirpan is a small ceremonial dagger that initiated Sikhs are supposed to wear at all times. 

Balpreet Singh and Harminder Kaur did not want to part with their kirpans as they headed into a legislature hearing to submit a brief in January 2011.

Originally, they argued the motion was unconstitutional but then changed their position to say it was legal but non-binding.

But Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Patrick Healy rejected their arguments in a decision Monday as he upheld a lower-court ruling that said the national assembly has the right to establish its own rules in accordance with parliamentary privilege.

Superior Court Justice Pierre Journet affirmed the authority of the legislature to "exclude kirpans from its precincts as an assertion of parliamentary privilege over the exclusion of strangers.''

In his decision, Healy referred to a Supreme Court ruling that said a provincial legislature could invoke the privilege to exclude strangers to prevent journalists from filming in the precincts of the assembly.

"The Supreme Court confirmed that these general principles formed part of Canadian constitutional law and held specifically that the privilege to exclude strangers is entrenched in the Canadian Constitution,'' Healy wrote on behalf of a three-member panel.

"I make no comment whether the assembly's exercise of the privilege to exclude the kirpan is a wise decision.

"I say only that it is a legal exercise of this category of privilege. If the appellants wish to challenge it, the proper forum is the assembly itself.''

Singh had no immediate comment.