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New Canadian regulations allow Sikhs to wear small ceremonial daggers on most flights. This decision was welcomed by the World Sikh Organisation and all practicing Sikh Canadians.

Transport Canada has amended its prohibited items list to allow "very small knife blades (6 cm or less) on domestic and international flights, with the exception of those terminating in the US, from November 27, 2017.

Earlier this year, WSO urged Transport Canada to adopt the international standards so that Sikhs wearing the ‘Kirpan’ could be accommodated on domestic as well as international flights.

According to the new rule, it is now possible for Sikhs to travel with a kirpan- a ceremonial blade .worn underneath clothes, as long as it is small. Razor blades and box cutters of any size are still prohibited.

While announcing the change in policy, Minister for Transport Marc Garneau has stated that, “The safety and security of Canadians, the travelling public, and the transportation system are Transport Canada’s top priorities. These changes to screening procedures will bring Canada in line with international standards and our partner countries, while continuing to keep passengers safe. The Government of Canada remains vigilant in continuously assessing security risks.

What is the KIRPAN?

A Kirpan is often described as a dagger or a miniature sword. It is an article of faith in the Sikh religion similar to a Christian cross, a Jewish Star of David, or a Muslim hijab, with one crucial exception: it is not optional. Canadian jurisprudence has noted that. A Kirpan is therefore far more than a religious adornment As one of five articles of faith known as the 5Ks, it is an integral part of the Khalsa Sikh's identity  It is a grievous transgression for a Khalsa Sikh to not wear the kirpan during any time of the day or night.

Purpose of the Kirpan

The kirpan is a combination of grace and honor. Kirpans are worn by initiated (Amritdhari) Sikhs, both men, and women, as one of five articles of faith.In genera , Kirpans are made of iron or steel, and while most are between 15 and 22 cm (6 and 9 inches) in length, there are exceptions based on the wearer's preferences. Some of the sheaths and hilts are exquisitely embellished. Using a fabric belt called a gaatra, they must be kept firmly in position. The kirpan is kept close to the body by being worn across the torso with a gaatra.

Kirpans in Canada

Balpreet Singh, legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization (WSO)said that this change is not really a change based on religious accommodation. It brings Canada in line with international standards."
Balpreet Singh is familiar with the controversy surrounding kirpans in Canada. When Singh was still a law student in 2007, he obtained a human rights settlement against Via Rail after he was kicked off a train in Ottawa for wearing his kirpan. "Every single passenger in first class gets a steak knife to eat their meal," he said. "Why would my kirpan be any more dangerous than a knife that every passenger is getting?"

The Quebec school board's ban on kirpans in the classroom was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2006. The majority of places that no longer allow weapons, such as Parliament buildings and several courthouses, now allow daggers, but they are still banned in the Quebec legislature.

Balpreet Singh says that the fight for the right to wear a kirpan is ultimately about changing hearts and attitudes, rather than rules and regulations.

For the Sikhs, the Kirpan is a reminder of their commitment to the tenets of their faith. The Sikhs never see the Kirpan as a weapon. For them, it is a  symbol of sovereignty and dignity.

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