On April 19, 1985, the honorable Mr. Justice Wachowich of the Edmonton District Court delivered a historic and precedent setting judgment regarding the wearing of Kirpan by a grade 12 Sikh student in school.
In a case, Suneet Singh Tuli vs. the Board of Trustees of St. Albert School District the Board had passed a resolution forbidding the student to wear Kirpan after baptism (Amritpan), when the wearing of Kirpan at all times becomes mandatory according to the Sikh religious tenets. While granting an Interim Injunction restraining the school Board from suspending, or expelling him and from school if he wears Kirpan, his Lordship ruled:
“Surely the fact that this person would be seen to have fallen from his faith (if he doesn’t wear Kirpan) in my view is sufficient to warrant the relief that he seeks …in my view… something positive can result from this application. To allow the applicant to wear the requirements of his religion upon baptism including his Kirpan would provide those who are unfamiliar with the tenets of his faith an opportunity to be introduced to and to develop an understanding of another’s culture and heritage. In this case, that being the traditions of a very well established, respected, and old religion (the Sikh Religion) … it is in my view a positive educational tool which can far outweigh the potential danger as analyzed by the respond so long it is recognized, at least at this time, that it is a privilege, and still not a right.”
Further, the court ruled that it is a matter of being fortunate for anyone to be exposed during the formative years of youth to the benefits of another’s culture and religion so as to develop a better appreciation of the richness of one’s own heritage. “
To ensure the safety of the children in school including that of the Sikh student his Lordship made the wearing of Kirpan in school subject to the following Condit.
“It is not to be sharpened beyond its present condition as delivered to me by the applicant’s counsel; that the end is to be blunted or tipped; that at all times while in the school or on school property, it is to remain in its sheath, and tied down where it cannot be removed free by a third party; that if the conditions are breached, the resolutions of the School Board can then be invoked.”
This case will continue further with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, where the student had also filed a complaint. The Human Rights Commission’s lawyer was also present in the court on the day of this judgment besides the Sikh Community’s lawyer. The Edmonton Sikh Federation, an Umbrella organization of all local Gurdwaras and Sikh associations, pursued this matter initially with the respective School Board; failing which it hired a prominent Civil Rights Lawyer, and obtained an Interim Injunction restraining the School Board from suspending or expelling the student because of his Kirpan.
All legal costs are being taken by the Federation as a common responsibility of the entire Sikh Community. It is a victory for all Sikh students in Canadian Educational institutions because this judgment is considered to be historic and landmark decision which will stay forever as a precedent in law.
Article extracted from this publication >> June 28, 1985