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Posted at: Apr 16, 2019, 8:26 PM; last updated: Apr 16, 2019, 8:26 PM (IST)

Canadian Sikh teen to fight out Quebec’s proposed Bill-21

Bill banning donning of religious symbols by public servants to affect Sikhs, Muslims the most
Canadian Sikh teen to fight out Quebec’s proposed Bill-21
Sukhman Singh Shergill.

Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, April 16

While Quebec’s proposed Bill-21 issue has got flared up as it would affect members of minority communities, including, Sikhs based in the Canadian province, Sukhman Singh Shergill, a Montreal-based 15-year-old school boy, has resolved to oppose it.

Like thousands of others, the proposed Bill-21 will adversely affect Sukhman Singh Shergill who has been dreaming to become a police officer with the city’s police --- the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM)---and whose all dreams would be shattered if the bill came into force. The issue pertaining to banning of wearing of religious symbols by public servants has been simmering since last year when Sondos Lamrhari, who wears a ‘Hizab’ shared her plans to become a police officer.

Sukhman has the same sort of dreams now for he wanted to be the first Sikh police officer in Montreal and who claims he has been yearning to serve people in his capacity as a police officer. He has not only been fond of watching cop-related films and collecting police memorabilia, but has been telling one and all since his childhood that his only major objective in life was to don the police uniform.

Interestingly, it was his cousin Gurvinder Singh, a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer, who was the force behind the change of its uniform policy in 2016 whereby, the NYPD had allowed its Sikh officers to wear turbans instead of traditional police cap.

Sukhman’s mother Manpreet Shergill said her son has always been striving to create history in Montreal by turning the first police officer in the city to wear a turban as he has always been dreaming to do something different from others.

But the proposed Quebec government’s proposed Bill 21 has threatened to shatter all his dreams for it would ban public workers like lawyers, teachers, bus drivers, police officers from wearing any religious symbols, including turbans and ‘Hizabs’. On the other hand, Sukhman said he has resolved to fight it out for the proposed bill would not allow him to be a police officer and that his dream was facing the peril of being destroyed.

To start with, Sukhman has already created a Facebook group--- the Quebec Association of Sikhs — and has hosted his video wherein he explains how the proposed Bill would pose a threat to him and others like him. He is hoping to garner public support with the help of his Facebook group. He said he wanted the Montreal police to reflect its diversity and to know people about his religion as well.

On the other hand, the Quebec Prime Minister François Legault has said though he would consider compromising with some aspects of the proposed bill but not in case of banning of police officials wearing religious symbols.

The Montreal police (SPVM)—which has a miniscule 7.5 presence of its members coming from minority communities--- has already clarified that it was following the proposed Bill-21 and has not taken any position in case of religious symbols. At the same time, the Montreal Police Union has said it was in favour of the ban.

Interestingly, the Canadian Prime Minister has openly said he was not in favour of the proposed Québec ban on religious symbols as it compromised with freedom of people. The Montreal City Council has already passed a unanimous declaration against the proposed Bill-21.

Who are likely be affected by Bill-21

Public school teachers, school principals, vice principals, police officers, peace officers, the provincial justice minister, the Attorney General, the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP), crown prosecutors, provincial government lawyers or notaries employed by a ministry or the DPCP or the National Assembly, lawyers, the public prosecutors, members and heads of government commissions, the Speaker and Vice-Speaker of the National Assembly, Justices of Peace, clerks, sheriffs, commissioners, doctors, nurses, day care officials, bus drivers and bankruptcy registrars.

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