Turbans: Five reasons why banning religious headgear is discriminatory

Much has been written about the ban on turbans, patkas and keskis, etc. Some of the best recent writing has included Celine Cooper’s piece in today’s Gazette, as well as Patrick Lagacé’s stinging critique in the Globe. I will not repeat what has already been said, but the legal issues are worth looking at more closely.

1. “People must respect the uniform”: Yes but… Basic human rights rules require accommodation, or flexibility in applying the rules in appropriate cases for minorities. This has been the law in Canada, including in Quebec, for at least two decades. That Quebec’s soccer association has chosen blatantly to ignore the law, which applies in Quebec too, should be of concern for all Canadians. The decision violates Quebec’s own Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

2. “We were here first and they should respect our rules“. Well, actually, “we”, (whoever that is) were not here first. And I am not in any event aware of any law that actually says that. Enough said.

3. “It is primarily a safety reason”. The fundamental rule in human rights law is that claims of health and safety, when used to justify a refusal to accommodate religious requirements, must be demonstrated and proved. There would have to be a track record of accidents related to head gear of this sort. To the best of my knowledge, and as others have pointed out, no such evidence exists.

4. The Canadian soccer body has no business interfering in Quebec’s federation. The Quebec soccer federation’s decision is discriminatory. Nothing that any other body does or does not do changes that. The PQ government and Madame Pauline Marois had an excellent opportunity to show that Quebec is a place of tolerance and respect for the rule of law.

5. Quebecers/the Quebec soccer federation are not racist. Discrimination is a question of effect, not of intent. The “separate but equal” doctrine in the U.S. that was used to maintain Jim Crow was upheld for many years by this sort of thinking. The Supreme Court of Canada has said over and over again that we need to look at the impacts on people.

Thinking about the human beings, the kids involved, would be a great start.

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Categories: Discrimination, Religious freedoms

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