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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/29806

Title: The 1990 Kirpan Case: Cultural Conflict and the Development of Equity Policy in the Peel District School Board
Authors: Martin, Mary S.
Advisor: Troper, Harold M.
Department: Theory and Policy Studies in Education
Keywords: kirpan
religious accommodation
Sikh
Peel District School Board
equity policy
human rights
Issue Date: 31-Aug-2011
Abstract: In 1990, a case came before the Ontario Human Rights Commission involving the collision of a religious rights policy enshrined in the Ontario Human Rights Code 1981 and a Peel Board of Education disciplinary policy prohibiting weapons including the kirpan, a dagger-like article of religious faith worn by baptized Sikhs. Harbhajan Singh Pandori claimed infringement of his religious rights as a Sikh under the Code. In a joint complaint, the Ontario Human Rights Commission alleged the Code had been violated in a Peel Board policy restricting the religious rights of Sikhs by prohibiting the kirpan. Attempts to mediate between complainant Sikhs and the Peel Board failed. The dispute went before an Ontario Human Rights Commission tribunal adjudicated by Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut who ruled that the kirpan was a religious symbol and could be worn to school subject to restrictions. The Pandori kirpan case illustrates the complexity of resolving issues of cultural and religious conflict in public institutions undergoing demographic change. Significant to the kirpan case were Canadian immigration policy changes which eliminated race and ethnicity from admission criteria. As a result, the Region of Peel witnessed significant intake of immigrants including Sikhs, some of whom insisted on their right to wear a kirpan. The extensive public debate that followed afforded valuable insight on the political process of policy-making in education and accommodating diversity in public educational institutions. The debate also set the stage for the development of the Peel Board’s equity policy documents--Manifesting Encouraging and Respectful Environments and The Future We Want launched in 2000. Despite the new equity documents, some observers have remarked that institutional change is slow unless pressure is applied by the courts or the Ontario Human Rights Commission. While the kirpan issue has been put to rest in Canada, issues of competing rights continue to challenge Canadians. The kirpan case demonstrates that balancing competing rights in a multicultural society is an ongoing struggle with no final resolution. In the twenty-first century, as Canada continues to diversify, debates concerning accommodation continue to be reflected in the public schools.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/29806
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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