THE World Sikh Organization of Canada on Monday called upon the City of Montreal and the Government of Quebec to work far harder to implement concrete measures to break down systemic barriers that make it difficult for Sikhs, and other minorities, to play their full role in Quebec society.
WSO President Mukhbir Singh said that there are over 500,000 Sikhs across Canada representing some 1.5% of the national population and that there are approximately 15,000 Sikhs in Quebec with significant populations in the Montreal borough of Lasalle and the cities of Dollard des Ormeaux, Laval, Brossard, and Vaudreuil-Dorion. He noted that many Sikhs in Quebec were born here and that young Sikhs have successfully graduated from Quebec educational institutions and are fluent in French.
“Sadly we note that there are virtually no Sikhs employees in the Montreal and provincial civil services. Moreover, the Montreal police and Surete du Quebec have yet to allow the wearing of the turban and develop hiring policies that could attract otherwise qualified Sikh candidates,” Singh said.
The WSO also noted that the Quebec National Assembly is the only legislature in Canada that bars Sikhs from wearing their kirpans. The organization believes this unreasonable barrier sends a negative message about Sikhs to the general population.
Singh said that the organization is endorsing the efforts of Montreal Councilor Marvin Rotrand who earlier this year proposed that Montreal and its police department adopt rules that would facilitate the hiring of Sikhs into the civil service including the public security agencies.
“We were pleased to receive a letter dated May 14, 2018 from the Montreal police in which the service indicated that the SPVM respects human rights, wants to promote diversity through recruitment strategies to assure the force well reflects Montreal’s population and that there would be a serious effort to advance on this important social debate. Since that time, however, we have heard no more and no one has contacted us,” pointed out Singh.
The World Sikh Organization accordingly issued four requests:
– that in the context of the upcoming Quebec election the four party leaders meet with the community leadership to establish a dialogue;
– that the SPVM and SQ meet with the community to rapidly develop policies that will permit otherwise qualified Sikh candidates who wear turbans to be recruited;
– that the City administration and the next Government of Quebec mandate the relevant officers in their civil services to develop policies that remove unreasonable barriers and aid Sikhs in applying for positions in both civil services as well as in the paramunicipal and parapublic sectors;
– that the four provincial party leaders work with the next speaker of the National Assembly to examine the policies of the other legislatures and put in place practices that would allow practicing Sikhs to attend National Assembly debates or meet with their MNAs at the legislature.
Rotrand, who urged the Montreal administration last March to recognize that today’s Montreal is a far more multicultural and multiracial milieu than in the past, promised to continue to lobby for reasonable changes that will allow religious and other minorities to contribute positively to Quebec society.
“We need to recognize that Quebec has evolved and that our policies have to prevent the exclusion of those who can contribute positively to our future success. I support the efforts of the WSO to promote dialogue. The City administration has a major role to play here and I count on the leadership of Mayor Valerie Plante,” said Rotrand.