Concept 3: Freedom of Conscience and Religion

Argument / Counter Argument

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The following arguments were presented in the case of Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite Bourgeoys to support a ban of the kirpan in schools. Read each argument and present a counter argument. When you have finished presenting your counter arguments, decide with which opinions you agree or disagree.

  1. In the 100+ years that Sikhs have been living in Canada, there has never been a violent incident involving a kirpan in schools. But that doesn't mean that a violent incident could never occur. We shouldn't have to wait for harm to happen before we take measures to prevent it.
  2. Even if it is established that Mr. Multani is himself a practicing Sikh, and based on his school history, would not likely use the kirpan to hurt anyone, we know that sometimes individuals can snap and act violently when provoked. In addition, even if we were confident that Mr. Multani would never be violent, how can we be sure that other students won't try to take the kirpan from Mr. Multani and use it as a weapon?
  3. It's not fair that Mr. Multani should be allowed to wear his kirpan in school, when public schools are not even allowed to have crucifixes on the walls. Why should he be permitted to practice his religious beliefs at school while other students who want to have those crucifixes up on the wall can't have them?
  4. The school board created a 'zero tolerance policy' in order to keep students safe. There can be no exceptions to this rule to accommodate Mr. Multani because if the school board doesn't enforce a zero tolerance policy, how will they be able to make a distinction for those other students who may also want to bring knives/weapons to school?
  5. We should not tolerate risks to student safety in schools. After all, we know that until the age of 18 in Ontario, students are legally required to be in school every day. How can we place students in a dangerous environment if they are required to be there? How could we possibly take any kind of risk with their safety?
  6. We know kirpans are dangerous because we know that they are not allowed on airplanes. Why then would we allow them in a school where teachers and principals are responsible for the safety of hundreds of young people?
  7. There are many Sikhs who do not insist on bringing kirpans of this kind to school. There are many Sikhs who choose instead to wear a symbolic kirpan made of wood or plastic, or to wear a lapel pin or necklace in the shape of a kirpan. If there are other Sikhs who are willing to make this compromise, then Mr. Multani should be willing to make the compromise as well.
  8. The Charter says that the all the rights and freedoms are subject to reasonable limits. Would it not be reasonable to limit Mr. Multani's right to wear a kirpan when the reason for doing so is as pressing and substantial as school safety?

Disclaimer - The resources presented in this learning tool, the Charter in the Classroom: Students, Teachers and Rights (CC: STAR) are included only to assist in the study of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They do not necessarily represent an endorsement of a position or issue, opinion or view of its contributors, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Inukshuk Wireless, the Ontario Justice Education Network, the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust or any of the people, organizations, or institutions affiliated with it.