Boy, 12, is switching to a private academy that accepts wearing of ceremonial dagger
The Montreal Gazette, Aug. 1, 2002
Gurbaj Singh has enrolled in an English-language private school that will allow him to wear his kirpan, a ceremonial dagger worn by baptized Sikhs.
The 12-year-old, who has been at the centre of a legal battle between the Commission Scolaire Marguerite Bourgeoys and the city’s Sikh community over the right to wear the dagger to school, will be attending Greaves Academy in Notre Dame de Grce this fall.
Gurbaj’s older brother, who also wears a kirpan, already attends the school.
The move prompted the West Island school board to suspend a motion before the court yesterday to prevent Gurbaj from wearing the kirpan to Cavelier de LaSalle high school, where he was expected to begin classes next month.
The motion has now been put on hold until Aug. 21 to assure the board that Gurbaj will not be returning to their school.
Both the board and the province will proceed with their joint appeal of a May 17 ruling by Quebec Superior Court Justice Danielle Grenier allowing the boy to wear the dagger in a wooden sheath under his clothes at his former school, Ste. Catherine Labouré in LaSalle.
François Aquin, a lawyer for the board, said it is crucial to follow through with the appeal despite yesterday’s last-minute decision to change schools.
“We can’t have a rule so important as no weapons in schools interpreted in two ways – for some, yes, for others, no,” Aquin said.
He said the principle at stake is safety, not religious intolerance.
“We have 40,000 pupils entering schools at the end of August coming from 80 countries. So we’re very tolerant,” Aquin said. “But the message is that a weapon may not be worn in school.”
Kiranpal Singh, president of the Guru Nanak Darbar temple in LaSalle, said the school board doesn’t understand the Sikh religion, but believes the controversy over Gurbaj’s kirpan has had a positive effect.
“People have learned about the kirpan, that it isn’t a weapon,” he said. “It is part of our religion.”
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