In Support of Religious Freedom in Quebec Schools
йcole Sainte-Catherine-Laboure, Lasalle, Quebec, Canada and Commission Scholaire Marguerite Bourgeoys, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
supporters of freedom of choice, freedom of religion, freedom of belief and practice
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The Montreal and University of Waterloo Sikh Students Associations urge all supporters of freedom of choice, freedom of religion, and freedom of belief and practice to support the following petition:
We, the undersigned demand that Gurbaj Singh of Lasalle, Quebйc, Canada be allowed to return to school immediately. Disallowing Gurbaj Singh to attend his school, йcole Sainte-Catherine-Laboure because of his religious practices is a direct challenge to Canadian democracy and the principals of freedom enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights.
Sikhs are a peace-loving and law-abiding people who have long been and continue to be an integral and vibrant part of the Canadian multi-cultural mosaic. In over 100 years that the Sikh community has worked, lived and prospered in Canada, as Canadians, the rights of all religious minorities to practice their faith has been continuously upheld as part of our long-standing Canadian heritage and tradition. In fact, Canadian legal and political decisions throughout the years have consistently supported the right of all Sikhs to wear the kirpan as an article of faith of their religion. To expect Gurbaj Singh, or any Sikh, or any Canadian, to choose between their faith and their education is unethical to say the least. This is a choice no Canadian, no human being anywhere, should have to make.
Since November, Gurbaj has been forced to resort to home tutoring, which is a far less effective method of education considering his instruction time was limited to two hours a day. In furtherance of their discriminatory stance towards Gurbaj and his legitimate and rightful practising of faith, the school board has now taken away his home tutoring as well. Gurbaj is already segregated from other children and not allowed on school property. His fundamental right of education has been stolen from him by the very body entrusted with ensuring this right to all children regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or religion. This should not happen anywhere. The fact that it is happening in Canada is shocking.
Gurbaj Singh has not been able to attend a single class for five months now. His entire future is being compromised, his education ruined. He cannot make friends, learn from them, and teach them his own lessons; he cannot interact, grow as an individual, or educate himself. The basic civil right of education is being denied to him. This is absolutely inequitable, discriminatory and as a matter of fact, un-Canadian.
Disgracefully, the Board has now threatened to remove Gurbaj Singh from his home, claiming his parents are a detriment to his education. Is it now illegal to practice the Sikh religion in Canada? Will the next step be the removal of all Sikh children from their homes across the nation?
If the board is allowed to legally continue this act of racial discrimination, it will be illegal for any Sikh child in Quebec (through precedence) to practice her/his religion.
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."
We urge the Montreal school board to stop their discriminatory practices immediately, and to welcome Gurbaj Singh back into Sainte-Catherine-Laboure school.