Via Rail allows kirpans in human rights settlement
An Ottawa student who was removed from a passenger train to Toronto in 2005 for wearing a kirpan has reached a settlement with Via Rail that includes a company policy change allowingSikhs to wear theceremonial daggers on board.
Balpreet Singh, 26, a second-year law student at the University of Ottawa, told CBC Wednesday the Canadian Human Rights Commission contacted him last week to let him know the settlement had been approved.
It includes a full refund of the $316 he paid to buy a six-pack of tickets to Toronto to visit his family in Newmarket, Ont., as well as the Via Rail policy change that went into effect in January of this year.
Singh said he's happy the issue has been put to rest, but disappointed it took so long and required him to turn to the rights commission despite the long history of Sikhs in Canada.
"I'd have been happier if they [Via Rail] had just spoken to me, tried to understand the situation and resolve it, and that would have been much faster," he told CBC.ca.
Via Rail spokeswoman Catherine Kaloutsky said Wednesday she was not aware of the details of settlement, but confirmed the company has modified its policy to respect the Sikh religion.
She said kirpans may be worn only by Sikhs, can't be visible to other passengers and must be sheathed at all times.
"Security is first and foremost in our mind," she said.
Singh was ordered off a train to Toronto in fall 2005. He was allowed on the next train after Via employees called head office.
Singh said on his next visit home, on Oct. 21, Via employees told him kirpans were not allowed on board and he was escorted from the train.
Singh contacted the Canadian Human Rights Commission about the incident in November or December of that year, he said.