TORONTO, March 4, 2002 - Dr. Karen Mock, Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), has sent a letter to the Chair of the Marguerite Bourgeoys School Board, Mr. Jean-Marc Crote, in which she expresses her support of Guntaj Singh and his family in their fight to obtain the right to wear the kirpan, one of the central elements of the Sikh religion, at Sainte-Catherine-Labour School in Lasalle.
She is also asking the Marguerite Bourgeoys School Board to reverse its decision and to agree to reinstate Mr. Singh with the compromise accepted by the family that the kirpan be sewn to its sheath so that it will not be a safety hazard. Dr. Mock also deplores the hostile and aggressive treatment that Mr. Singh was given by some parents when he returned to class the day after the injunction issued by Judge Claude Tellier.
"It is really sad that parents expressed their opposition by insulting and harassing a 12-year-old youth who has never presented any danger whatsoever for the other students," commented Dr. Mock. "He was treated like a pariah simply for following the requirements of his religion. This clearly demonstrates that the School Board must take a proactive role and to ensure that parents are better informed about the meaning of religious symbols and initiate a dialogue to improve understanding between different cultures."
Nicole Beaudoin, Secretary-Treasurer of the CRRF Board of Directors, thinks that it is time to stop the futile struggles that maintain prejudice and ignorance. "It has already been established that wearing the kirpan is not a threat to student safety, and the compromise accepted by the family reinforces this point. Given this fact, it is far preferable for all parties involved to sit down and try to understand each other better than to resort to the legal process."
The Foundation has also sent a copy of the letter to the Principal of Sainte-Catherine-Labour School, the Quebec Minister of Education, and the spokesperson for the World Sikh Organization.