Sikh student escorted from Via train for wearing kirpan
A Sikh man is considering taking Via Rail to the Ontario Human Rights Commission because the Crown corporation won't allow him to wear his ceremonial dagger on its trains.
On Friday, Balpreet Singh was ordered off a Via train as he was about to travel home to Toronto. Another passenger had complained about his kirpan.
"To be led off a train that's filled … [is] absolutely humiliating," said the first-year law student at the University of Ottawa.
Singh, 24, says he wears the kirpan for religious reasons. He says he is never without it, even while attending class.
"This is essentially one of the signs of the Sikh faith," said Singh. "It's absolutely required. I'm never apart from this, whether I'm sleeping or whatever. It's basically considered part of my body.
"I consider that one of my fundamental freedoms … [and my] freedom of religion is being infringed."
Via has a policy of not allowing anything that could be considered a weapon on its trains, even if that weapon is only used for ceremonial purposes.
News of Singh's situation dismayed the prime minister's parliamentary secretary, Navdeep Bains.
The Toronto-area MP and fellow Sikh says he's never had a problem wearing a kirpan in the House of Commons and has expressed his disappointment that a Crown corporation would try to ban them.
Bains plans to take the issue up with the federal transport minister and Via's board of directors.
In Canada, the debate over whether to allow Sikh's to wear kirpans in public places has been going on for more than a decade. As well as Via trains, the daggers are banned from airplanes, Greyhound buses and some schools.
Singh has no plans to stop wearing his kirpan, and is now considering whether to lodge a complaint about Via with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
He's also trying to figure out how he'll get home to visit his family in Toronto.